The best bathrooms combine two very different functions: briskly functional to get you started in the mornings, and a luxurious haven in which to relax and recharge. An out-of-date bathroom, however, will be neither practical nor beautiful. Replacing the whole bathroom is a radical step, and costly, too, but it may well be possible to update some aspects without going to a great deal of trouble or expense. Here are eight suggestions.
On the walls
Tiled walls can be cleaned up by scraping old grout from between the tiles (there’s an inexpensive small tool specifically for this) and regrouting. Instant freshness! In some cases it may even be possible to change the tiles entirely – either by removing them, replastering any damage done to the wall behind, and starting again, or simply by tiling on top of what’s there. This isn’t the cheapest or quickest option, of course, but it will be the most effective. Where walls are not covered with tiles, it should be easily possible to cover them with a fresh coat of paint, ensuring that you choose a type suitable for humid environments. And don’t forget wallpaper: a great way to introduce colour and pattern without going to the trouble of tiling. Provided it’s not too near a watery zone, you may be able to use splashproof or wipeable wallpaper as a fabulous focal point.
Choose beautiful new lights to go in the same positions as your existing fittings and, with a quick visit from an electrician, your lighting will be fabulous rather than frumpy. While you have a tradesman there, consider swapping the light switch for a dimmer, so that you can create a relaxing ambience in the room whenever you wish. And one last thing: if you don’t already have low-energy LED bulbs bear in mind that changing them will save money in the long run.
Changing the window treatment is a great way to give the entire room a whole new look. Roller blinds are inexpensive and very practical, but if you wanted to push the boat out you could also consider a Roman or Venetian blind, or even custom-made shutters.
Storage, storage and more storage
Literally no one has ever complained of having too much storage, and this goes for bathrooms just as much as any other room in the house. If your bathroom is overflowing with bottles or other bits and pieces, first of all have a clear-out, and then consider whether anything can be stored elsewhere – perhaps in a small chest of drawers on a landing, for example. For the bathroom itself, look for storage options that are either wall-mounted or tall and thin, taking up hardly any floor space while holding lots of stuff. For small items, choose a coordinated selection of woven baskets, acrylic and wooden boxes, ceramic pots and so on, adding texture as well as lots of useful nooks to hide things away.
Mirror on the wall
A large mirror is not only useful but also helps to increase the feeling of light and space. For the ultimate in luxury, swap a conventional mirror for a heated one with a backlight and perhaps a shaver/toothbrush charger socket – and even a Bluetooth speaker. All you need is an electrical connection, so if you already have a light above a plain mirror you can easily ask an electrician to convert the setup.
Replacing the taps is a great way to change the look of the room. It’s an easy job for a plumber to turn off the water and remove the old ones, pop the new ones in and connect them. Just make sure you choose like for like – a mixer tap where there is only one hole, and a pair of taps where there are two. Sometimes overlooked, old shower heads and hoses, too, benefit from an upgrade every now and then.
Provided you have enough light in your bathroom, adding a selection of pot plants is a wonderful way to bring a calming sense of wellness, as well as colour and interesting textures and shapes. Remember to choose plants that enjoy heat and humidity (cacti and succulents won’t be happy, but ferns and bromeliads will).
The finishing touches
Why put up with fraying, old towels? A new set of coordinating towels will make your day every time you use them. For softness and absorbency, 100% cotton is best, and look for closely stitched edges and a weight of at least 500 grams per square metre. If you enjoy a spa-like feeling, try ribbed, waffle or honeycomb towels, while lightweight linen gets softer as it ages and is lovely for hand towels – provided you enjoy the natural, rumpled look.
By Katherine Sorrell
1 A selection of new bathroom products from Matalan.
2 Black bamboo bath rack, £10, Dunelm.
3 Roller blind made in Prestigious Textiles Sandbank Seafoam 5107-723 fabric, £19 per metre, TM Interiors.