The bathroom – form and function

Villa bathroom.

Interior designer Yvette Jay discusses the most intimate and personal space in a house.

Bathrooms have outgrown their purely functional role. They are now a space for retreat where we connect with one of life’s most vital and essential elements — water. The role of bathroom design is to enhance this connection by creating a sanctuary for body and soul. How we live is becoming more fluid. Technology will soon enable us to watch movies or TV, listen to music and communicate using surfaces around our home, including the bathroom. This supports our desire to feel connected and in touch with our lives. Similarly we want more freedom in how we use our living spaces. This means the traditional divides between sleeping and bathing spaces are dissolving. To maintain this flexibility, consider avoiding fixed walls that separate. Instead, think about movable glass or timber screens that allow inter-mixing of materials and spaces. Another option is to bring nature and the outdoors closer with a Japanese tsuboniwa or small, enclosed garden.

Small spaces that flow

Smaller, more confined areas suit pared-back designs with simple materials. These create compact, functional spaces where the ritual of bathing is completed efficiently and modestly. To generate a greater sense of space, think about hung vanities and toilets along with recessed wall cabinets. Wet areas that do not separate baths and showers add even more freedom.

Compact bathroom floor plan.

Compact bathroom floor plan.

Think about the touch points

Materials on the floor, walls and horizontal surfaces in your bathroom are experienced in a very tactile way. Tiles, mosaics, stone, glass and timber are all popular for their luxurious feel. Each will contribute differently to the mood of the bathing space. However, their palette must still reflect materials chosen throughout the rest of your home. After all, every room is part of a greater experience.

Fitting touches

Porcelain bath with freestanding tap.As well as their functionality, consider how the shape, form and composition of fittings can support the aesthetic. The first step is to whittle down the vast array of choices. From sculptural faucets to computerised shower systems that can be set to your preferred heat and water pressure settings. To pick well, you need a critical eye and an educated guess as to where style is heading over the next ten years or so. Do your homework with plenty of showroom visits. Test-drive everything for comfort and size. Remember that you get what you pay for. Nobody ever regretted buying quality and durability.

Technical pointers

Water may be the great provider of life, but it can also be the destroyer of bathrooms. Thorough waterproofing and proper directing of run-off is vital in your design. No-one enjoys a cold bathroom. Under-floor heating is an easy way of warming the space. Heated towel rails and mirrors also improve the overall experience. Installing a timer will help minimise the impact on energy consumption. An effective ventilation system is a standard requirement under the New Zealand Building Code, therefore your design will need to include an extractor fan.

Creating a personal space

Many homes have more than one bathroom. Each should have its own purpose and style. Where possible, freestanding baths and crafted taps will occupy centre stage and suggest a more sculptural focus. To personalise the space even more, add a beautiful piece of furniture to lift the room beyond the functional into a personal space that reflects your taste.

Shed some light

Villa bathroom renovationAlmost nothing contributes as much to a room’s ambience and tone as lighting. Think about these three areas and how lighting can add character: 1. General lighting — what is required to illuminate the room to make it usable and able to be appreciated? 2. Task lighting — what sort of lighting is needed for activities such as applying make-up or shaving? Remember that it’s important to light the face as naturally as possible, without shadow. 3. Ambient light — choose gentle and low key so as to create a special mood. Think how dimmers and sensors can play a role creating exactly the mood you desire throughout the day and night. Written by Yvette Jay of Yvette Jay Interior Design Project – Bathroom fit-out, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand Photos: Mark Scowan