Designing A Bathroom

A sybaritic bathroom, complete with sunken bath, marble surrounds and lounging area, is neither within the means nor to the taste of most people. On the other hand, a coldly cramped bathroom with minimum facilities can cause mounting tension over the years, especially where there is a growing family or elderly grandparents as well as young children. Its disadvantages will become acutely apparent when guests stay overnight or for some days.

Planning factors

Even in a small house, where the bathroom and toilet are combined, a second toilet and washbasin are almost essential. Less essential, but desirable, is a shower unit, perhaps cubicled in a bedroom, separate from the main bathroom. The separate shower will be frequently appreciated, for instance when one parent is bathing the children in the bathroom and the other returns home hot and sticky from a hard game of tennis. In short, the principle to follow is to provide maximum separate washing and lavatory facilities. Only this will overcome the common early morning dilemma: adults due to leave for work and children due to leave for school impatiently awaiting their turn to use one small bathroom.

2 The bathroom and toilet are private places and should if possible be sited out of earshot of the main living area Heavy. Well-fitted doors to the bathroom and toilet will help. Since hard surfaces ieg the bath and washbasin) in the bathroom will not absorb sound, you might consider fitting acoustic tiles to the ceiling. A toilet pan with a siphonic trap is less noisy than the washdown type. Although more expensive.

3 There are several safety factors to observe. First of all, of course, water and electricity are dangerous companions The bathroom must not contain power points. Wall-heaters should be out of reach Standing lamps are unsafe in any bathroom. Lighting fitments -should be totally enclosed for safety and lamp holders shrouded. The flooring of the bathroom must be non-slip. Avoid shelves or fitments that obtrude on the actual bathing. Washing or towelling areas of the room — so avoiding bumped heads or jarred elbows. The bath should have one or more hand-grips, particularly if there are elderly or physically handicapped people in the household. The grips should be placed so as to give a reclining bather adequate hand leverage. If the medicine cabinet is in the bathroom. It should be lockable or well out of children’s reach.

4 Anti-condensation measures are vital. There are ways to make the walls of the bathroom virtually impervious to damp and steam. Even so, window ventilation is necessary and is best supplemented by a duct or grating or possibly an extractor fan.

5 In planning or improving the bathroom, try to adapt it to individual needs of the family: hair-washing: the washing and drying perhaps of small garments (fit a retractable over-the-bath clothes line): shaving (provide an electric socket); beauty care (try to make space for a lipped shelf or small cupboard for cosmetics); weight-watching (scales need take no more space than about 1 ft by 1 ft (say 30 by 30 cm) of floor space). For young children you can install, subject to the Local Authority’s acceptance, miniature washbasins on ladder frames that allow the basin to be stepped up as the child grows taller. This may seem a luxury and, in any case, the bathroom may be too small for such an extra. A simple alternative is to make a sturdy box-stool on which the child can stand to reach the ordinary basin.

6 Completely re-siting or adding a bathroom or toilet in the house can be a costly exercise with drainage problems if the new plumbing run is extensive (e.g. has to be run to a room at the front of the house when the existing bathroom, toilet and kitchen are on the rear elevation). The exercise may prove worthwhile if you are moving into a house that requires substantial conversion anyway.


However large or small the bathroom area, and whatever your budget, you need at least a bath or shower (or both), a washbasin, a toilet, a mirror, storage facilities, something to sit upon and a place to hang towels. Space permitting, install a bidet in the bathroom: its hygienic value more than compensates for the area it takes up.

In recent years, the design of the larger items of bathroom equipment has broken out of the standard mould and there is an ever-widening choice of bathroom suites that can be accommodated in bathrooms of average dimensions. The bath. Baths are usually made of enamelled cast-iron, enamelled steel or moulded plastics. Plastic baths are lightweight and warm to the touch but do not take kindly, for example, to stubbed out cigarettes (a surprising number of people smoke as well as read in the bath).

Baths are now available not only in different sizes but in various shapes tailored to safety and comfort and with wider rims than hitherto. Mixer taps enable you to set the right water temperature as soon as you run the bath, thus avoiding the wasteful expedient of drawing too much hot water and counteracting it with cold water. In some cases, taps are fitted to the side, rather than to one end, of the bath. The advantages are that, if you top up the water while in the bath, it is distributed more evenly more quickly — but beware of scalding yourself — and side taps facilitate rinsing and cleaning the bath. Some taps have a swirling or spraying action instead of a straight-flow action.

The shower.

Showers consume less water per user than a bath, are quicker to use and save floor space. A shower unit installed perhaps in a bedroom and independent of the main bathroom I a useful supplement, even if the bathroom is large enough to accommodate a shower cubicle. But note that in a bedroom the shower must be a properly constructed self-contained shower cubicle; otherwise there will be damp problems from water seepage. If a separate shower with its own drainage is impracticable, a sprinkler over the bath itself is a compromise.

Various types of shower cubicle are manufactured and supplied complete with spray, mixer controls, lighting fitment, soap dish, foot mat, curtain rail and plastic curtain. Subject to adequate ventilation, such a unit can be fitted into the corner of a small bedroom, taking up no more space than about 3ft 6 in. (1 m) depth and width. However, plumbing in the unit especially if it is sited some way away from the main plumbing of the house, may be costly and an adequate head of water (the vertical distance between the cold water supply tank and the unit) must be assured.

The washbasin.

Washbasins are made in vitreous china, enamelled sheet steel, enamelled cast-iron and plastics. Some are on a pedestal; others can be fixed to the wall. An area about 3 ft 3 in. by 2 ft 3 in. (99 by 68 cm) should be left free in front of the basin. Hair-rinsing, when you bend low with elbows extended, takes up the most space. If you fit storage above the basin, make sure you can bend over the basin without bumping your head on a protruding cabinet or shelf.

A Vanitory unit housing the basin and with storage space underneath or alongside in the form of cupboards or shelves can effectively double as a dressing table. Fitting a simple Vanitory unit around an existing washbasin is a project you could undertake yourself. Alternatively, you could convert a suitable chest of drawers for the purpose. Remove the back of the chest. Make an opening in its top into which the washbasin can be fitted. Remove the top drawer or tier of drawers — and if necessary the drawer or tier below — to accommodate the depth of the basin. You can re-fit the drawer fronts to disguise the base of the basin. You may have to cut into one or both side panels of the chest to take plumbing pipes. You can cover the top of the unit on either side of the washbasin with laminate or plastic tiles and also use one or other of these materials to make a splashback for the unit.

The toilet.

Low-level toilet pans are said to be more comfortable and healthier to use than the traditional type.

A large bathroom enables the toilet to be screened from the rest of the bathroom. This can be done with a ceiling to floor partition or a part partition. Glass tiles fitted into a wooden frame provide a divider giving both privacy and light. If you happen to have a stock of empty wine bottles, a feasible and economical alternative would be to cut off the bottoms of the bottles with a glass-cutter and glue them to sheets of clear plastic. Venetian blinds work well as dividers and so do Japanese bamboo blinds.


Your bathroom may have to store a variety of household items — from stocks of soap, toilet rolls and cleaning materials to towels and bed linen. If the bathroom cupboard contains the hot water tank, it will serve as an airing cupboard and you can build shelves above and around the insulated tank to take everything from spare blankets to newly laundered linen.

An ancillary cupboard of some kind or shelves are needed to take such things as bath salts, cosmetics and bath-cleaning materials. The window sill and bath ledges are perilous and inconvenient perches for such items.


  • A constantly warm bathroom will prevent excessive condensation. A good-sized heated towel rail usually suffices. Alternatively or in addition, you can install a small radiator fed from the central heating system or an oil-filled wall-
  • mounted radiator with, for safety, the operating switch outside the bathroom and a towel rail fitted over it.
  • Safety. Never have power points in a bathroom other than a shaver point. Any electric heaters must be out of reach, with the exception of the shaver unit. Ban standing lamps. Ensure that lighting fitments are totally enclosed and lamp-holders shrouded.


The floor surface in the bathroom should be non-slip, warm to the feet and hard-wearing. Vinyl-sealed cork — cork tiles with a thin vinyl overlay — meets these criteria. If you choose to fit carpeting, select a synthetic fibre like nylon with a rubber backing to prevent rotting in bathroom conditions.


Bathroom suites are available in many attractive colours but a coloured bath with matching washbasin and toilet is more expensive than plain white. If you choose a coloured suite, it will largely dictate the colour scheme of the bathroom. If, on the other hand, the bathroom suite is plain white, a surrounding colour scheme with both a strong colour and white in it will effectively offset the hard whiteness of the suite. Example: a wallpaper combining green and white and a pale green floor-covering looks charming. Towels will add colour contrast. In a large mixed-age family, a single two-bar towel rail may become cluttered. You can hang towels separately from decorative towel rings, available in glass and in silver- or gold-finished metal.

Given the space, you can embellish the bathroom with a collection of china or sparkling glass ornaments or with semi-tropical plants that flourish in a moist atmosphere. But such displays must be safely recessed or shelved.

Nowadays, a degree of idiosyncrasy in the bathroom — jokey junk, old posters, framed cartoons — is to some people’s taste. This may seem fun to first-time guests but pall on the family. So it is perhaps wise not to over-play it.

The walls.

  • You can greatly improve the looks of a bathroom even if the bathroom suite betrays its age. However, there is a cardinal point to observe: the walls and other surfaces must withstand moisture. For the walls you can use an emulsion paint, vinyl wall-coverings (there are designs simulating tiles), water-resistant wallpapers, ceramic tiles or glass mosaic among other materials.
  • Washable water-resistant wallpaper can, if you wish, be taken across the bath room door and up across the ceiling; even line the outside of the bath. To ordinary wallpaper you can apply a special substance that makes it impervious to steam and damp. Mirror tiles, made of plastic film with a reflective backing, can be fitted to almost any surface.
  • If you wish to retain the existing wall-tiling but to change its colour, you can repaint it with ship paint. Or you can use a ceramic paint to apply your own design to the original plain tiles.


  • Small chips and cracks in porcelain basins can be filled with a mixture of epoxy adhesive and kaolin powder. Mix the adhesive, blend in the powder and work the mixture with a palette knife until it resembles putty. To match coloured porcelain, blend in some artist’s oil colour. Fill the chip or crack and smooth off the surface. Leave the surface to dry. Then give it a final smoothing with wet and dry paper.
  • Chips on enamelled baths can be filled with layers of modeller’s enamel paint, applied with a fine brush. Scratches on plastic baths can be disguised by rubbing them down with metal polish.
  • Bad stains on glazed baths and basins can be removed with spirits of salts. But remember this is an acid. Wear gloves while applying it and rinse the acid off the surface as soon as the treatment has taken effect.
  • Repainting an old bath could make it look almost new. Use polyurethane enamel.

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