Luxury for less

With increasing focus on creating bathrooms as design-led, luxurious spaces, Sophie Schofield of Ribble Valley Bathrooms gives tips on how to create a spa-like retreat without blowing the budget

After the events of the past 12 months, the way we view and use our bathrooms has taken a step in a new direction. People want this room in particular to bring them joy and enhance their wellbeing – as much as their kitchen, garden and living areas do, if not more. It’s clear that this trend is here to stay, so if you’re in the process of planning or designing a bathroom it really is worth thinking about how you can elevate the bathroom into something spectacular.

One of the crucial things is getting the design and layout right before building work begins. Not only will this ensure that all pipework and drainage is positioned correctly, but it will also mean that you won’t have to compromise on any design features at the fit out stage. It could also save you a huge amount of time and money that could be incurred making retrospective changes.

At this early stage really stop and think about what you want from the finished space – are you planning on installing a statement designer bath? Or do you want to create a high-tech wet room? What lighting do you need to create the ambience that you are looking for? Do you want to zone your space? How can you maximise a smaller bathroom without compromising on design? Focusing on this level of detail at the design stage will mean that when you come to install your bathroom you won’t have to compromise or increase spend.

Once you’re confident in your layout and you know what you want from the finished design, it is time to source the sanitaryware, tiles and fixtures and fittings that will bring the room to life.

Bathrooms can be a big investment and it’s a space that you want to stand the test of time. With that in mind, I would always recommend investing in the highest quality sanitaryware that your budget will allow. Not only will higher- spec bathroom furniture last longer and look good for years to come, but this is where you can start to introduce some designer touches.

Statement baths are here to stay for the long haul – from a classic Victorian roll top, to the smooth, curvaceous lines of more modern bath designs, a carefully chosen bath can be the perfect centrepiece. Think about the materials that you are choosing too. Polished ceramic is making way for a range of designer finishes that can really elevate your space – matte white, wood, glass, concrete, pressurised surfaces and mineral cast basins – there are a plethora of choices well worth investing in to give your bathroom the wow factor.

To make the most of your basin or freestanding bath, it’s essential to position it where it will be noticed. If you have invested in key bathroom pieces, you won’t want the toilet to take the focus when you open the door. It is also crucial to allow space surrounding fittings, you may require wall space above or either side for storage, a mirror or tiling to complete the scheme.

It’s no secret that tiling can send your bathroom budget into the stratosphere, but there are ways that you can save without impacting the finished look of your room. Tile effect vinyl is a popular choice for homebuilders on a budget and can create a slick finish without breaking the bank. Wallpaper in bathrooms is also becoming hugely popular, and this is a great way of introducing a bold design centrepiece or statement wall without the cost of intricate tiling. There are a raft of companies now bringing out waterproof wallpaper designed specifically for bathrooms – which of course have lots of moisture and humidity. Plus, never underestimate how a lick of paint can transform a scheme.

When you’re looking at the bigger picture, it can be easy to overlook the finishing touches such as brassware, drawer handles, flush plates, light pulls and mirrors than can really add something special to a finished scheme. My advice is not to scrimp on the things that you can’t easily change. You need things like taps, showerheads and flush plates to stand up to wear and tear. Cheap brassware and chrome plating can tarnish and flake – quickly looking unsightly. Buy the best that you can afford, and pay attention to how a statement tap or cutting edge shower head could really add that final designer touch to the room.

When you are faced with so many choices when it comes to bathroom design, it can be overwhelming and all too easy to opt for a safe neutral space – or go too far in the other direction and try and cram too many design features into one room. While there are a huge amount of online retailers with webbased design tools and advice, never underestimate the importance of the personal touch.

Visiting your local designer bathroom showroom could put a whole different perspective on your finished scheme. Many will offer a free design service and can work with you to design a space that will suit your specific needs, as well as sourcing products and arranging delivery in line with your build timings. This higher level of service can really help to make the install of your bathroom as smooth as possible – something that money can’t buy.

Sophie Schofield is head of design at Ribble Valley Bathrooms