Bathroom Design Guide

The Bathroom Of Your Dreams

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home, design the perfect bathroom right from the start.

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Designing living rooms and bedrooms are relatively easy. It can be intuitive and inexpensive to add aesthetic flourishes that make these rooms welcoming and homely while affording visitors an insight into the resident’s personality and sense of style. 

However, spaces like the bathroom and the kitchen are somewhat more challenging. These spaces have a tricky balancing act to maintain. They must marry function and aesthetics within the logistical and budgetary constraints of the project. 

Whether you’re building a new home from scratch or renovating an existing property. The bathroom can be one of the toughest nuts to crack, but once you’ve got it just right it can be an extremely satisfying space to spend time in.

A bathroom is a place of cleanliness and personal care, but it’s also a place of relaxation. It’s where you go to prepare yourself for the day to come or to relax after a particularly gruelling day’s work. As such, many self-builders and DIYers can feel that there’s a particular pressure to get the bathroom just right. 

That’s why we’ve brought you this comprehensive guide to designing and building your dream bathroom...

Luxury bathroom suite with glass shower and white bathtubLuxury bathroom suite with glass shower and white bathtubLuxury bathroom suite with glass shower and white bathtubLuxury bathroom suite with glass shower and white bathtub

Large showers like this are an absolute dream

It Begins With A Budget

Finally, remember the rule of 10. No matter how sure you are that you’ve calculated all of your costs to the pound, it’s a good idea to build a margin of 10% into your budget

You may feel that it goes without saying, but it merits saying nonetheless. Before you make a single purchase or commit to building your bathroom, it’s vital that you have your budget worked out. Bathroom builds and remodels are one of the most common areas in which costs can spiral out of control. So it’s imperative to get your budget locked down and stick to it.

Get your priorities in order and establish your “must haves”, “would be nice ifs” and “don’t really minds”. If, for example, you’re dead set on a freestanding bathtub and have the £1,100 or more in your budget you’ll need to ameliorate the costs elsewhere in your design choices. On the other hand, if you’d be happier with a stainless steel bath for around £120 this can afford you more latitude elsewhere. 

If you’re looking for some ballpark figures on which to base your budget. Let’s take a look at the core components of your bathroom and what you can expect to pay for them;

Baths- Baths are wildly various in price which is great because no matter what your budget is there’s a good chance you can find one that suits you. If you’re on an absolute shoestring budget (and/or don’t care much about your in-bath experience) you can pick up an acrylic bath for less than £100. 

If, however, you want to splurge and treat yourself to a stone or composite bath you can expect to spend in excess of £1,000. If you’re shooting for an average, budget for around £400-500.

Showers- You can buy an electric shower which connects to your cold water main and heats it through a copper coil for as little as £50-60. This does the job fairly well and is great for, say, buy to let properties where function trumps experience. They’re cheap to run and easy to install even if you’re not an inveterate DIYer. 

If you’re after something more luxurious, you may want to consider a power shower connected to an integral pump to boost flow rate which tends to start at around £150. Or if you’re after something fancier that offers a more customisable shower experience, you can pick up a digital shower from around £250. 

Wet rooms- You may be happy to make your shower a part of your bath. However, if you’d much rather your bathroom had a wet room built in. You may find that the cheapest option is to purchase a wetroom kit and install it yourself. These will usually set you back between £500-600. 

Toilets and basins- Like baths, basins play a huge part in giving your bathroom its defining sense of character. You can pick up a pedestal, semi-pedestal or wall mounted basin for around £50-60. Other basins will sit inside a vanity unit and thereby drive up your costs. 

These will usually take up between £90 and £150 of your budget. Opting for more exotic materials like glass or stone instead of porcelain, however, can drive costs up to over £300.

Low-level toilets will occupy the bottom end of the price range and you will usually be able to get one for as little as £50-60. Alternatively, you can pay a little more for a high level or wall mounted toilet. Usually, your cistern and pipework will be concealed behind a stud wall. Again, if you’re looking for a ballpark figure you can expect to pay around £200-£300 for a mid-range toilet.

Everything else- Now we’re in the territory of fixtures and fittings, tiling, flooring. And all the other minutiae that go into creating a bathroom that is too various to accurately predict here. Fortunately, it’s so easy to shop for floor and wall coverings online. As soon as you know the dimensions of your space, it’s easy to calculate how much material you’ll need. 

Finally, remember the rule of 10. No matter how sure you are that you’ve calculated all of your costs to the pound. It’s a good idea to build a margin of 10% into your budget just in case any unexpected costs or complications should arise. 

How Much Will You DIY?

Before you begin work in earnest it’s a good idea to ascertain exactly how much of the work you will do yourself

One of the beauties of self-building is that you liberate yourself from the labour costs that can potentially leach into your budget. However, before you begin work in earnest it’s a good idea to ascertain exactly how much of the work you will do yourself. 

Many of the component parts of building a bathroom are pretty realistic for a competent DIYer. Removing and installing sanitaryware (your bath, basin, toilet etc.) can usually be done without the assistance of a professional. Painting, tiling and flooring your space can also usually be carried out on your own if you have the skill and patience to do so. 

Even installing or replacing an electric shower can be done with relative ease without the aid of a plumber or electrician. If, however, your plan needs to make fundamental changes to the electrical or plumbing infrastructure. It will likely be necessary to involve a plumber and/or an electrician (or save money by recruiting an experienced bathroom fitter who will be able to manage both). 

It will save you far more money in the long run than attempting to do it all yourself and needing to get someone to correct your work where you’ve gone wrong. Mistakes in your plumbing or electrics can become serious safety issues and cause serious damage to the property.

Part of effective planning and budgeting is being realistic with yourself about what you can do yourself. What you’ll need help with and getting appropriate quotes to factor into your budget.

White bathroom with white marble walls and floorWhite bathroom with white marble walls and floorWhite bathroom with white marble walls and floorWhite bathroom with white marble walls and floor

The use of marble tiles and the large mirror really opens up this bathroom

Know And Plan For Your Space

As well as considering the logistics of working within your space you’ll also need to consider the plumbing including the main soil stack and water pipes

It’s easy to get carried away in the design phase of building your bathroom. You can fall in love with the glossy images in bathroom supply catalogues, become entranced by images on Pinterest and in lifestyle websites. However, it’s essential that you design your bathroom knowing and planning for your physical space. Otherwise, every time you use your bathroom you’ll encounter frustration. 

Imagine banging the toilet with the door every time you want to use the wetroom. Imagine having to squeeze past your freestanding bath every time you need to brush your teeth. You may well have a bathroom wish list for the project but make sure that everything you want to do is realistic within the parameters of the space. 

As well as considering the logistics of working within your space you’ll also need to consider the plumbing including the main soil stack and water pipes. For plumbing novices, the soil stack is the most important pipe in your bathroom, connected to your basin, your bath and your toilet. 

In most properties, it connects through the exterior bathroom wall and runs down the outside of the property, upwards past the roof.

While it’s not impossible to change the position of the soil stack, it can be very difficult and laborious. Wherever possible, we’d recommend leaving the toilet where it is. You’ll also need to consider the implications any changes you make to your pipework will have on your water pressure. 

A good architect and a skilled designer will be able to talk with you about your ideas and let you know what’s possible. You should be well informed of the complexities of your chosen project, budget limitations, and any limitations due to where you are locating your self build. 

A loss of pressure can seriously impair the function of your bath and basin taps as well as your shower and toilet cistern. You’ll likely find that the easiest and cheapest option. Is to install your basin and toilet in line with the bath, to allow them to be served by the continuous water feed pipes built into your walls.

It may be a good idea to pay a visit to your local bathroom showroom for advice. Their staff will have some great ideas and input gleaned from years of having to maximise available space and working with different kinds of plumbing infrastructure.

Suite Choices

Baths are a must for a relaxing bathroom. It’s right there in the name. Can you have a great bathroom with just a shower? Sure. In fact, if limited space is a factor. Foregoing a bath can make even the dinkiest bathroom look a little more spacious but by and large, if you can install a bath, you should. 

In the early stages of planning and design, you will likely be drawn towards many different and disparate styles. However, it’s really advantageous to apply a unified aesthetic to your bathroom suite. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to buy a bath, basin and toilet from the same product line but glaring differences in materials, style and colour can be jarring especially in a small space.

If you want a look that’s more idiosyncratic your fixtures and fittings may be the best place in which to be creative. Speaking of which...

White bathroom with bath tub and white painted brick wallWhite bathroom with bath tub and white painted brick wallWhite bathroom with bath tub and white painted brick wallWhite bathroom with bath tub and white painted brick wall

Can you make use of an existing brick wall? Make sure to waterproof before painting!

Little Flourishes Can Make A Big Difference On A Budget

If your budget is somewhat limited, that doesn’t mean that you can’t build a bathroom with wow factor

If your budget is somewhat limited, that doesn’t mean that you can’t build a bathroom with wow factor. Very often the little flourishes can make a big difference.

For example, if you have your heart set on some super stylish taps which are a little above average in terms of cost. You can ameliorate this cost by adding simplicity and minimalism elsewhere in your design concept e.g. swapping out the more ostentatious tiles you had in mind with plain white tiles.

This can help your little design flourishes make more of a statement while also preventing them from eating up your budget.

If you’re planning a very low budget remodel. It’s recommended that you try addressing the little flourishes first as these are the easiest to install and the most cost-effective way to transform your space. 

Never underestimate the difference a lick of paint on the walls (and/or tiles), new taps and fittings like soap dishes and towel rails and replacing your mouldy old shower curtain with a sleek glass screen can make.

The Light Fantastic

Natural light has a way of making, everything look that little bit fresher and cleaner while artificial light can cast a yellowish pall

Lighting can also make a colossal difference. As a rule, you’ll want to make the most of whatever natural light enters your bathroom. Natural light has a way of making, everything looks that little bit fresher and cleaner. While artificial light can cast a yellowish pall that can make even the most pristine white bathroom suite look a little grubby. 

For the optimum effect, we recommend using a combination of different lighting types and sources. Your downlighting, for example, provides general background lighting and everything from your choice in bulbs to your shades and diffusers can alter the brightness and quality of your ambient lighting. 

You might also want to use uplights or accent lights to draw attention to certain features in your bathroom which lend it its idiosyncratic charm. Task lighting can be applied to make it easier to see what you’re doing. The most common example of this is installing lighting in your bathroom mirror.

And, of course, don’t be afraid to use candles should your bath time require lighting with a little more ambience. 

White bathroom with bath tub and white painted brick wallStone tiled bathroom suite with handbasin and white bathStone tiled bathroom suite with handbasin and white bathStone tiled bathroom suite with handbasin and white bath

Who couldn’t relax in this bath? Dim the lights and stretch out

Finding The Perfect Flooring

An increasingly popular solution in bathrooms with a more contemporary feel is micro cement coating

Bathroom design is all about marrying the creative with the practical. And nowhere is this more apparent than in your choice of flooring. There are many, many different kinds of bathroom flooring all with their inherent advantages and disadvantages. 

Whichever you choose you’ll need to consider;

  • How waterproof is your choice of flooring?

  • How does your flooring or floor covering mitigate the risk of slips?

  • How easy is it to keep clean and well maintained?

  • How does it feel underfoot?

Hardwood flooring is a popular choice in bathroom flooring but it’s essential that you choose the right kind of hardwood. Solid hardwood, for example, is porous and is not recommended for bathrooms or any rooms that are exposed to water and humidity on a regular basis. Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is specially formulated to be more water resistant.

If you want the look and feel of hardwood without the practical constraints you may want to consider wood effect vinyl flooring. This can be highly cost-effective while providing a pleasant underfoot feel and adequate slip resistance. Plus, you’ll never need to worry about getting a splinter in the bath! 

If you’re on a limited budget, laminate flooring is available in a wide range of styles and finishes which provide great slip resistance and outstanding waterproofing. Be wary, however, as laminate flooring can be relatively easy to damage and tear. 

An increasingly popular solution in bathrooms with a more contemporary feel is micro-cement coating. This gives the bathroom a polished concrete look and feel and can be applied to virtually any floor surface.

It can be applied to an existing screed with an underfloor heating system without impeding its function. It has no joins or seams making it easy to fit any space. It can even be used on walls either to create a unified aesthetic or an easy wet room.

For many, however, floor tiles are the gold standard. These can provide a really luxurious look and feel although they can get mighty cold in winter if you don’t lay down a heating infrastructure. When laying tiles, whether ceramic or stone, it’s vital that you ensure that they are on a flat, even surface. If your tiles crack, replacing them can be difficult and expensive. 

You may wish to apply some additional noggins to your floor joists to distribute the weight of the tiles more evenly. While adding an anti-fracture matting underneath your tiles can reduce the risk of cracking even further. 

Walls That Wow

The key to creating a beautiful bathroom is careful planning

Finally, it’s important to consider how you will finish your walls to make the rest of your bathroom aesthetic pop.

Painted walls can really open up space and call attention to your suite. What’s more, the sheer range of colours and finishes available makes it easy to create a bathroom that speaks to your personality. Be sure to use bathroom paint as this will be specially formulated to withstand the heat and moisture of the bathroom. 

Wallpaper can give a bathroom a more cosy look. But over time the humidity of the room may cause it to peel, even if you’ve used vinyl finish bathroom wallpaper.

PVC wall panels are easy to install and provide superior waterproofing and can provide a smooth, seamless, contemporary look but this option is not suited to all tastes.

Tiling offers the best quality finish but is much more expensive than either of the above options. You can expect to pay an average of £20 per square metre and it takes considerably more skill and patience to apply. 

The key to creating a beautiful bathroom is careful planning. The more care and attention you give to the design phase, the fewer unpleasant surprises you can expect later!