DESIGN TALK: This is My Day, This is My Bathroom

People tend to underestimate the bathroom as a place for design. However, once you have experienced a really well-considered space, with well-chosen bathroom furniture, where the ambience is a positive balance between relaxing and cleansing, you will not be satisfied with the simple arrangement of the sink, toilet and bath or shower that you had become so familiar with. The basic elements of any bathroom seem so obvious and yet they come in a bewildering array of styles and forms and surprisingly differing approaches to function too.

These are items that you will have intimate contact with and deserve to have more than a passing decision made
when selecting them. I have an architect friend who spent two months finding the right bathroom sink – it was his
own space so he didn’t have a client to please – it was not just following the online or magazine images but the actual
interaction with the real object in a showroom that helped make his choice. The choice was made harder by finding
a manufacturer whose toilet he was happy with, to avoid slightly different shades of white or texture of porcelain.
He had already decided on the taps when specifying them for a client a couple of years previously. And these all had
to complement a custom-made walnut shower tray and matching joinery. Such are the odd ways of designers. He
also couldn’t finish his kitchen walls until he chose his fridge but that’s another story.

Our bathrooms are places of cleansing and daily rituals, typically at the beginning and end of each day. They
are intimate spaces, sometimes shared but more often individually occupied, personal spaces. We want them to
make us feel good, to allow us to look after ourselves in a comforting way. They need to be a space where everything
works well, both from a functional point of view and a practical one. There’s nothing worse than having the hot
water run out in the shower because someone specified a water heater or hot water tank that was too small, or
perhaps a tap that is difficult to adjust the temperature easily and precisely. These are things that clearly rely not
only on the fixtures themselves but also the quality of the installation and the unseen plumbing. Spending money on
good fixtures and fittings is a waste if the hidden elements are not also up to scratch. It is one of the key considerations of any refurbishment or building works that clients tend to overlook.

Bathrooms also seem to be forever compromised in one way or another. Often they are made as small as possible
rather than as comfortable as possible and given less importance than they deserve in the cycle of your daily life.
Even storage is often only minimal. Towels, toiletries, toilet rolls are often consigned to other cupboards in the house rather than closer to the place in which they are used. The humidity and water are considerations that should be dealt with thoroughly as well as proper ventilation.

The materials you use in your bathroom should take account of the water, it almost seems too obvious to have to
state but it is surprising what choices people make. Often this is less about the material itself and more about how
it has been used. Wood can work well if the right type is chosen but equally some stones are too porous and will
stain if used in the wrong situation. Any material chosen should be used appropriately both from a functional and
aesthetic point of view and be well fitted for that purpose.

Even mirrors can quickly degrade if their foil backing are too exposed to moisture. People will tend to reference bathrooms from images rather than from experience unless they are fortunate to have friends with similar views who have already redesigned their bathrooms. We may visit bathrooms in restaurants or hotels when we travel but these are very different types of places than our everyday bathroom at home. Hotel bathrooms are superficially similar to our own bathrooms and can often give us all sorts of style clues. But they are also designed to be resilient to careless guests over the years and able to be cleaned quickly in a few minutes. They will have elements that can be easily changed and more often that do not follow a standardized template so that if something is
no longer available a substitute can be used with minimal alteration.

As much as hotels want their spaces to feel personal, in reality, to replicate these in our personal lives, efficiency and costs should be considered too. In many modern bathroom showrooms you can see selections of showers and taps fitted to a water supply so you can see and test how different fittings work before purchasing them; how they feel to handle, how the water comes out or sprays, the variety of shower heads for different effects whilst you wash. We seem as with many things to have so many options and choices for such seemingly simple activities. It is still almost impossible however to sit on a toilet in a showroom to see how it fits. It is still something that feels a bit odd.

So this reminds us of another thing that designers and architects tend to do. Look for labels and brands when
they see something they like and note it down or take a photo. It may look odd to others but when you come across
something that really works for you, you need to record it because it will always become useful at some time and
it will always be hard to track it down without a name. It might be a chair, glass, light fitting or even the perfect toilet.

By Titi Ogufere

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