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It rained, and it rained, and it rained . . .

Never in all his life had Piglet seen so much water, and he was goodness knows how old – 3 was it or 4? I am of course quoting from my favourite book of all, Winnie the Pooh. However, as Piglet is certainly not alone in never having seen so much water for the last goodness knows how long, I thought that this month I’d talk about bathrooms.

Just as the kitchen is no longer simply a functional place in which to prepare food, the bathroom is now looked on as much more than a room in which merely to get clean. The bathroom has become a haven, a place into which to retreat, away from the busy life we all tend to lead, and more often than not the only place in the house where you can get a little “You” time.

The well designed bathroom will have a sense of calm style, inviting you to languish there and soak away the cares of the day. So how do we achieve this? Well, and I know I constantly bang on about this but I make no apology whatsoever, by careful planning and more than a little creative thought before action. For instance, don’t just accept that your new bathroom will be more or less the same as the old one in layout. Go back to basics and try to add a little extra space to give you more flexibility. Do you have a separate toilet that would benefit from being incorporated into the one room? If so, there is often a redundant piece of the landing that could also be included.  Is your current configuration the best, or would it be better to lose that old bidet you probably never use and put in a larger shower or bath? A word of caution here: don’t forget that substantially moving the location of a toilet may involve moving the soil pipe, which could be quite costly.

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk a little about the showers versus baths debate. I may be wrong but it seems to me that the ladies love to luxuriate in a deep, hot and aromatic foamy bath, whereas us gents like to get the job done in a shower that has jets coming from more or less every conceivable angle, and with enough power to take the skin off the average rhinoceros. Now this is of course a sweeping generalisation, but the point I’m making is that when planning your new bathroom everyone’s preferences should be taken into account, and the room should end up with a balanced feel. I recall going into one bathroom where the bath user (and please notice I’m not blaming any particular gender here) had obviously won the argument, as there was a splendid freestanding double bath in the middle of the room and a minute self-contained shower cubicle stuck awkwardly in a tight corner. Not only did this arrangement ruin all sense of proportion and flow in the room, but the prospective occupant of the shower would have had to wear skateboarder type elbow and knee pads so as not to end up in the local A & E department every time he or she washed their hair ! In this case it would have been better not to have a shower at all.

If you have the space, and two of you are going to be using the bathroom at the same time, consider a second basin – it could make for more peace and harmony in the mornings! I stress if, because there is nothing worse than an over-full and cramped bathroom. As I’ve already said, you may desire an extra-long shower or a wide free standing bath, but if your room isn’t big enough to comfortably accommodate these features and still look spacious you will lose any traces of calm ambience before you even get started. One way of increasing the feeling of space in a small bathroom is to use a wall mounted toilet and basin. The clever use of mirrors can also help to create a spacious feel. I’ve even seen a whole wall of mirrored glass used to great effect in a small bathroom, giving the illusion of doubling its size.

Simplicity is still the trend in bathroom design, often just utilising simple tiled walls and toughened glass screens as a shower enclosure. Mind you, having said that, when I asked James Harrison the resident bathroom expert at Cambabest what the latest trends were in bathrooms he told me that there is a move back towards the more traditional look. He did however then add that this is apparently more of a national trend than one he has noticed in the midlands. These days the overall look of your bathroom will depend more on the peripheries than the actual bath and sanitary wear you select, with the emphasis falling largely on tiles and lighting.
The majority of bathrooms today are fully tiled, both on the walls and the floor. This in itself gives a feeling of space and tranquillity, especially with a thoughtful choice of tile. Here, the trend is still towards larger tiles, which again enhances the calm uncluttered ambience of the room. The ubiquitous 15 x 15cm bumpy white tiles that looked so good and worked so well in the 90s are now seldom found, giving way to tiles 60 x 30cm and even bigger. Be careful though, if the tile really is too big for the size of the room all balance will be lost, leaving it looking like a little girl wearing her mother’s shoes. My preference is to keep the look relatively light, using texture more than pattern, perhaps making use of an impactful area of tiles within the shower. Polished porcelain is both striking and space enhancing, and is extremely hard, making it wonderfully resilient.

Before I finish, I just have to share one little golden nugget with you. James also mentioned that people were becoming interested in those toilets that wash you after you’ve . . . er, finished. Apparently this is an innovation originating from Japan, so it’s got at least a fifty percent chance of being totally bonkers. Anyway, I duly followed the link he’d sent me to the relevant Geberit product, and to say that my gob was firmly smacked would be a gross understatement. Firstly I was informed that the Aquaclean “washes you clean with a pleasant, warm water spray”. So far so good if that’s what floats your boat. It went on to tell me that “The product range offers the perfect model for any requirement and any home – from a stylishly designed complete solution to an enhancement solution which is easy to install onto existing toilets.” Perfectly reasonable I thought. It went on “In addition to the pleasant water spray, there are also various extra pampering functions available depending on the model.” Beginning to sound a bit dodgy, but by now I couldn’t stop myself. And then to the big finish “These include the oscillating spray setting, the pulsating massage function, the gentle lady wash, automatic odour extraction and the beneficial warm-air dryer.”

Well, that’s it then, in the interests of pushing the boundaries, I can feel some detailed market research coming on !!!

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - February 2014