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I thought you might like to take a little tour of an ensuite bathroom I designed recently. It was rather a pleasure, as my client wanted something with a bit of sparkle, which of course is a fun premise from which to create.

The bathroom was being newly built as part of an extension, so we had no existing plumbing layout to conform to, however there turned out to be obvious places for all the different elements in the room, once we’d allocated the shower area.

Whenever you’re thinking about a bathroom design, try and go for the largest possible shower space. It’s no fun bumping your elbows on the screen at every turn, or having to undertake extreme manoeuvres simply to apply your shampoo. The position of the doorway to this room carved out a clear area behind it for the shower to run along a side wall. After looking at a few walk-in screen options, and considering the splash potential, we decided to section off the whole thing with a flat sliding screen door.

holly ensuite shower window

Expand your showering horizons — give yourself some room

Once we had sorted out a location, we decided to line the shower area with some rather glamorous bronze-toned tiles from Walls and Floors. I don’t think this warm shade is in stock at the moment, but they’re from the Metalico range by Envy (their silver tile also looks rather glitzy, and for the dramatic, there’s a glamorous black one).

holly ensuite shower kit tiles corner

Warm tones in the walk-in shower/ Metalico Copper Tile

There is a huge range of prices for shower kits on the market. You don’t need to pay a great deal for something that looks impressive however. Keep to some simple guidelines and you can get the wow factor for less. Firstly, hidden workings can look swish, but tend to cost you more. The kits which have the workings (usually a horizontal bar) which control the thermostat on display are the most cost effective. Hidden workings need to be hidden, so often necessitate the creation of a false wall to hide them behind. And if things do go wrong further down the line, there’s a whole lot more excavation to get at them. Whereas if you need to replace your bar controls…. just swap them in for a new model. I often recommend clients to go to some of the trade-priced online stores for best deals on these. Plumbworld have often proved to offer a good selection. The one I sourced here is from Victoria Plum.

holly ensuite shower kit and tiles

Singing in the rain shower: Aria round head riser shower kit from

One of the best way to dress your windows in a shower or bathroom is with a wood-effect blind. The material is a composite plastic created to look like a wood slat but with none of the inevitable warping or mould growth. These dark wood effect blinds from 247 blinds are inexpensive and can be rotated shut for total privacy, turned to allow the light to filter through, or even drawn up completely.

holly ensuite shower tiles

Ecowood Sumatra blinds from

It’s always nice to fit in a little storage to a bathroom if you can. The space around a sink is obviously an ideal opportunity, and there are some lovely modular units out there in pretty much any colour or shade you could imagine to fit your look. We decided to go for a dark brown wood drawer unit, which looks neat against the white ceramic, and complements the copper-themed tiles. On the wall, a mirror can serve as the door to more shelf space, and this nifty cabinet also has a socket to plug in shaving equipment or toothbrushes. The lights running down each side are LED with a warm glow. Perfect for ambient lighting on those tough early mornings….

holly ensuite basin tiles and cupboard

Odessa Wenge floor standing sink unit from Victoria Plum, and a mirrored wall cabinet with LED lighting from Illuminated Mirrors

Of course, the simplest splashback for your basin would be a couple of extras from the shower, but we wanted to liven up the look of the room, and found these delightful mosaic groups at Walls and Floors. Featuring hints of copper, greys and some jaunty patterns, these characterful tiles come as a set of 30cm-square designs which are ridiculously easy to fit. Two here span the width of the 60cm-wide basin.

holly ensuite basin shower background

Moroccan Riad mosaic tiles in Copper by Envy

With the subtle glitz from the tiles, we kept the walls white and used a light grey-brown wood effect vinyl plank for the flooring. Whilst brown is the dominant colour here, the room seems cheerful and fresh. Just a little glitter can make all the difference.

Let me know — what colour schemes would you consider for a bathroom? Do you prefer cool blues or natural tones of stone or wood? Some striking colour like green or red, or maybe a haven of grey? Do you like to add a touch of glamour in your fittings, or keep things muted?

I would say that generally there’s a rule about bathrooms, which is that should someone move to a new home, and find within it a bathroom suite that is not white, the introductory tour to friends would go something like this:

“And here’s the bathroom! Of course, we’re going to get rid of that avocado suite as soon as possible!”

And if I was asked to advise on updating bathrooms in that situation, I’d assume that the home owner was in the right.

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers' dilemma

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers’ avocado-based dilemma posed in “Good Questions,” 2009

So I was initially surprised by a recent design job where my client wanted to Keep The Suite. The shade was one called Pampas, and actually, when I started to consider it, would fit in unobtrusively amongst the Farrow and Ball ‘Greens’ collection.

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

It’s pale, and reminiscent with its sage tones of a lot of the upcycled furniture that populates eBay.

This cabinet is painted in vert de terre from F&B -- one of many reconditioned items to be found for sale

This cabinet is painted in ‘vert de terre’ from F&B — one of many reconditioned items to be found for auction online

With this in mind, creating a design around the suite was actually quite satisfying. These pale greens look too stark set against a brilliant white, they fit in more snugly with cream or natural woods. Any paintwork we do will be cream, and the overall effect we’re aiming for will be restful and calm.

The floor was the first thing I felt we had to pin down, and I was looking for a light, yellow-based wood effect. We found a wonderful vinyl by Amtico called Bamboo:

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

The next challenge was the wall tiles. Lynne likes limestone with nice geological markings, so we set out to find a match for the floor and Pampas colour.

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK...

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK…

It was surprisingly hard to get a complementary shade: too dark and the room would have looked murky; some tile colours looked great with the Pampas but terrible with the floor; others were too busy, or too grey, or too pink. Finally we found a lovely stone effect tile called Legend Marfil which had just the right amount of detail, a pale colour and even at a good price (around £15 a square metre).

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

The Seventies-design taps needed updating from the ubiquitous squat and dated basics…



… to some classy crossheads:

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose/ Coniston bath taps by Victoria Plumb

And at the windows a natural wood effect slatted blind will be fixed, to filter the light.

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Another important issue was the bath side, which back in its heyday would have doubtless sported a creaky plastic Pampas panel. We intend to bring it gently up to date with wooden cladding instead: so much more solid.

Like this, but just the bath side - so much more solid than a bath panel

Like this, but just the bath side/ photo from bighouseholidays: The Lookout House, Thorpeness

If there is room for storage (we’re going to have to wait and see after everything has been installed), we did find a fantastic range from Victoria Plumb called “Camberley.” It has cabinets in what seems like a matching shade:

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage from Victoria Plumb

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage tall cabinet from Victoria Plumb

Whether it is or not remains to be seen. If we’re feeling lucky we’ll order one up and check. Otherwise there are handy options in other stores, such as this bamboo and chrome wall shelf…

Tesco's bamboo wall shelf

Tesco’s bamboo wall shelf

… this cool locker cabinet…

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

… or this ladder storage:

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

If the Camberley range works for us, we can opt for their mirror and wall cabinet:

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Camberley mirror

Camberley mirror

Otherwise a wood-framed mirror and possibly a cream-coloured cabinet would work ok. We’re also toying with the idea of paint colour-matching the Pampas shade, buying a cheap wooden cabinet, and simply painting it.

Work is already in progress, it shouldn’t be long before I can show you the room in all its peaceful perfection.

In the meantime, since starting this job, I have been mulling about daring interior design – where you leap for what you love and see where that takes you – and the contrasting blandification of houses which don’t scare estate agents but equally don’t give anything away about the character of the people who live there.

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in designer Luke Mortimer's home/ house tour by Design Sponge, 2012

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in Australian designer Luke Mortimer’s home. House tour by Design Sponge, 2012

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

I know which side I lean on. How about you?

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