How to make the most of your bathroom

Kya deLongchamps considers the challenge of matching up facilities to square metres in the most hardworking and necessary of spaces — the bathroom.

How to make the most of your bathroom

A smaller bathroom can be a triumph of spatial design and ergonomics — and there has never been such a wide choice of suites, storage and plumbing solutions to tailor out those millimetres.

Rush your planning, however, and it can feel as if the walls are closing in around you in what should be a private and restful room. Follow our tips, however, and you can have a space scaled to crisp, clean perfection.

Cunning and compact

A few millimetres shaved from a suite can make all the difference.

For smaller rooms, look for ranges which, though slightly compact, are in perfect proportion to each other.

The right arrangement will fool the eye without cramping your style. Even the degree to which the WC pan intrudes into the floor-plan from the wall can make an amazing difference.

* A rounder shape rather than a soft cornered triangular pan can save up to 5cm and round vanities, (brilliant as corner sinks) will save you grazing a hip. Check that front to back depth.

* Wall hung vanities let light flow and expand perceived space with their sophisticated float. That area underneath is not lost and can shelter a stool for kids and a deep basket of necessities.

* Using timber or faux panelling, it’s possible to terrace the bath and basin area together on one or two walls including plenty of storage without crowding the room. Great for a period look. Seal timber well with water based oil or acrylic paint.

* A WC around 850mm high will fit under most window ledges. Consider running a low shelf behind and over the cistern. Ensure you can depress the flush easily.

* Unless you need to stretch right out, look into shorter 1500-1600mm baths with a ‘P’, curved or square end for showering (reinforced for regular standing). Ensure any shower door is dedicated to the shape.

* Add pale matching tiles, floating wall mounted storage and the bathroom can jump from pokey to hotel chic.

* A short feature wall using tile, stone or a rich paint colour adds depth to a narrow bathroom. Direct some of the budget to recessed lighting.

* A sense of space equates not only to the square metres on the floor but the height of the room. Consider cutting into the ceiling and adding a roof window to flood the area with natural light.

Update that suite

Vanities and storage pieces are broadly offered in two divisions — traditional freestanding pieces in vintage painted styles, and (dominating the market), Italian-led highly modern block cabinets closely following what we currently love in our kitchens.

For a period look with a toe into contemporary, run your panelling boards or vintage tiling horizontally and stacked, rather than vertically and staggered.

The jewellery of any bathroom is taps, traps and the shower head. The clever decorator compromises on the bath and sink (bargains aplenty), and spends their money here.

Even in overhead Deco inspired rain-showers, match the old world look to contemporary expectations.

Buying a stand-alone shower unit? Operate the door while examining the thickness and overall performance of the glass — 8mm has a heartier feel than 6mm.

Barry Hoyne, product manager with Merlyn Showering, gave me a look at a new 8mm, frameless option.

“We have developed a Folding Shower Wall, which folds flush in to the wall for a totally streamlined look. The footprint for this shower wall is less than a bath and being able to fold the wall back creates an illusion of space just not possible with a fixed unit or bath.”

Prices for a Series 8, start at €810.45 for the 800 mm shower wall,

Contemporary bathroom furnishings vary wildly in quality, so you may find similar vanities offered from €150 to €400 in an 800mm unit. It’s all down to materials and detailing.

Soft close drawers, great laminates, internal lights and unusual sink shapes will demand a higher ticket price.

Shiny resinous wrapped finishes are all but impossible to repair but they are seductive and look utterly fabulous new.

Always visit a showroom, and see how the range is standing up to the rigours of everyday treatment. If it’s scratched, operating poorly and coming apart — walk away.

Master measurements

It’s vital to have room to move around when doing your daily round. Here are the suggested minimums and ideals to keep in mind when planning your bathroom.

If the dimensions of any part of the suite stray from the standard, mark them out on the floor to ensure a good fit and easy passage.

* Span for toilet on wall: 76cm required, 102cm recommended. Be careful not to ‘tuck’ a loo under a basin, or park it rudely right by your head when you use the bath; keep a comfortable amount of passing room around each element. Allow 76cm to get up from the loo and re-dress yourself comfortably.

* Toilet roll. A reach of at least 30cm from the centre of the loo. Thrashing around behind you? Not fun.

* Clearance in front of the bath (width). 70cm is manageable but 1000cm is ideal. If space is very tight use a curtain or fixed bath screen instead of a hinged shower door.

Add a towel rail to any bath screen. Corner showers are a great solution to limited space,especially if they open inwards or doors slide back on the frame

* Wash basin. I would recommend an 80cm wide wash basin with flat ceramic areas to stage your toiletries at each side as these offers a lot of storage below without being flabby.

100cm wide basins are currently very popular in wall hung pieces. 76cm clearance in front of the basin (you don’t have to double this distance if the loo is behind you).

* Double basins. 200cm wide with 76cm clearance to the front. 150cm units are available, but question whether a generous single would serve as well as couples will find them elbow to elbow.

* Showers. Allow 76cm in front of the shower together with the space needed to swing a door through if it’s an open out model. The same for shower screens on the bath. The smallest shower will be an 80x80cm corner shower- very, very snug.

* Leave at least 10cm, if possible, between the floor-standing pieces to facilitate floor cleaning.

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