What To Consider Before Renovating Your Bathroom

It may be the “smallest room in the house” but the bathroom is also the most important room in the house.

Today’s modern bathroom serves many purposes. It needs to be functional for all family members, (both the adults and the little folk). There should be adequate storage for towels, toiletries etc. It should be well ventilated, have good lighting for shaving/applying make up etc and maybe a haven where you can soak in a hot bath after a long and weary day.

For the smallest room in the house, we certainly demand a lot from it!

Before starting on a bathroom renovation, carefully consider your functional requirements as well as the design aesthetics.

Who will use the space?

Will the bathroom be used by both adults and children? If so are all required appliances accessible to everyone and just as importantly are all appliances safe and out of harms way for smaller occupants.

Heated towel rails for example are a great multi functional option. However while they won’t necessarily burn little hands (or bottoms for that matter), they may cause discomfort if touched accidentally. Would underfloor heating be a better option if little folk are regular visitors?

How do you use your bathroom?

At the risk of getting too personal, how you use your bathroom is another important consideration. Are you a shower or bath person? Do you want to relax and soak in a hot bath with soft candlelight or perhaps you prefer a quick shower and a shave first thing in the morning. Do you need/want or even have space for both options?

How many people will simultaneously use the bathroom, do you need dual sinks or a vanity area for applying make up etc?

Will the bathroom house towels and linen, how much storage is needed?

Bathroom Layout

Think about your current bathroom layout in respect of what works and what doesn’t…… space, layout, ventilation, light etc.

If you’re renovating, pay special attention to where the existing water pipes are located, and are they connected via the floor or the wall? Of course anything is possible, but “anything” comes at a price and relocating pipework may eat unnecessarily into your resources.

Water pressure is another important factor to take into consideration. Is your pressurised system adequate for a high pressure shower or does your existing hot water tank have the capacity to fill that large double bath you yearn for?

And then of course there is how much floor space you actually have. There is not much point lusting after the stand alone claw foot bath if you haven’t got the room for it. Look realistically at your bathrooms dimensions and ensure there is sufficient space available.

While small bathrooms can create a challenge, clever use of lighting and reflective surfaces can enhance and stop the space feeling pokey. Also consider multi function items, for example placing a countertop above a recessed wc and sink will provide a worktop for applying makeup, or displaying toiletries or even a vase of fresh flowers.

If space is a minimum, there are some techniques you can use to increase the feeling of space.

  • Tiling floor to ceiling will draw the eye upwards.
  • Use large mirrors, glass shower enclosures and reflective surfaces to bounce light.
  • Off the floor or “floating” WC and sink will give the illusion of a greater floor area.

When planning your layout, think about the line of sight from the bathroom door. If possible don’t position the toilet directly in front of the door and in full view if the door is left open.

Sanitary Ware

When choosing your sanitary ware bear in mind that the bathroom is the one room where you want to design it and forget it. What’s in trend today may not be true of tomorrow.  

1970's avocado bathroom

Avocado may have been all the rage in the 70’s but it’s not such a good look today 😛

Choose your sanitary ware carefully and it will need to stand the test of time.

Stick with neutral colours  (if I had my way all bathroom suites would be white by law 🙂 and develop your colour scheme with the flooring and wall finishes.  Introducing pops of colour with towels and accessories is a cheap and easy way to give some punch to your design and can be changed on a whim.

Lighting and Electrics

Generally speaking a combination of both wall and ceiling lighting works well with down-lighters being a better alternative to a single central light fitting. Wall lights either above or beside the mirror provide ample light for applying make up, shaving etc but beware of overhead lighting casting shadows.

When considering your electrics think beyond task lighting and include ambient and accent lighting features to give the desired effect. Up or down lighters in alcoves, backlit shelves, even LED lit bathtubs can all create impact.

Apart from a shaving plug, there are no sockets in bathrooms so if you want to introduce some music or even a television, you’ll need to consider wiring from the onset.

Another nifty addition may be a heated de-mister option on your mirror, which is a mat that’s wired into the lighting system to prevent the mirror from steaming up.

Floor Coverings

Tiles have long since been the firm favourite when it comes to bathroom floors. They’re water-resistant, easily maintained and slip resistant options are available if required.  

In regard to slip resistance, you should be aware that not all tiles are. Porcelain for example is not anti-slip certified but still proves very popular in residential use. It’s up to you whether you choose a certified product or not, but if you do require anti-slip, confirm with your supplier that the tile has a minimum R9 Rating.

Emerald Interior Design - shower alcove

Bathroom designed by Emerald Interior Design

Tiles come in a huge variety of finishes and design styles to suit all decor, from ceramic, natural stone, wood effect, mosaic, the choice is endless.

However they can be cold underfoot so underfloor heating is a good investment as none of us wants the feel of bare feet on cold tiles first thing on a January morning 🙂

Vinyl flooring

Beautiful vinyl floor tiles from Harvey Maria

While still a budget friendly option, Vinyl flooring has come a long way from the 70’s and now comes in a vast range of colours, patterns, and styles, including stone and wood effects. Vinyl is also much warmer underfoot than tiling and is also less noisy because of the foam backing.

Wood, laminate, cork and bamboo are also popular choices in bathroom flooring. In my opinion, the only no no when it comes is carpet.  Never ever carpet!  It’s unhygienic, retains water and is susceptible to mould.

Window Treatments

In terms of window treatments, you need to think about both privacy and light. Ideally your window treatments should let natural light filter in yet maintaining privacy, particularly if you are overlooked.

Emerald Interior Design - bathroom roman blind

Roman blinds tend to work better than drapes as they can sit inside the recess so make sure you choose a suitable moisture resistant fabric.

Bathroom installation by The Factory Tile Outlet

Slat blinds or shutters also work well in bathroom areas as they obscure the view but let in light when open and can be closed up for complete privacy.


When it comes to bathroom storage less is definitely not more. Bathrooms are busy places and it’s one area where you can never have enough storage.

Optimise as much space as possible and keep necessary but unsightly items out of sight with under sink storage or vanity units and use decorative shelving or alcoves to display pretty toiletries, accessories or towels.

Emerald Interior Design - tiled bathroom

Bathroom designed by Emerald Interior Design

Make use of walls for towel rails, hanging hooks etc and consider alcoves in the shower area for holding shampoo and shower gel.

bathroom storage[bctt tweet=”Think creatively about bathroom storage. Utilise wasted space at the end of the bath for towels, toiletries etc.” via=”no”]

Update your existing scheme

If splashing out on a new bathroom design is not in your budget, there are still some ways you can update a tired and dated bathroom.

  • Replace the taps, shower head or hardware.  A contemporary towel rail and toilet roll holder can do wonders for uplifting a dated scheme.
  • Splurge on some luxury towels to bring texture and colour to your space.  Add in accessories in complimentary colours to create a visual impact.
  • Cleaning or re-grouting tiles can do wonders for restoring grubby tiles to their former glory.

This article appeared in Winter 2016 edition of Selfbuild & Improve Your Home Magazine 

About Karen

My name is Karen Hughes and I'm an Interior Designer from Dublin, Ireland. I’m passionate about design and I started this blog as a way to connect with others just as passionate as myself. I tend to ramble on about all sorts of things, projects I’m working on, people, places and things that inspire me (and some that don’t). So put the kettle on, get comfy and settle in. I hope you enjoy your visit and don't forget to say hello. Visit my website to find out more about my services and view my work.

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