Creating a bathroom sanctuary

 The bathroom is the neglected stepchild in many homes. Guests don’t see it, and owners occasionally view it as a room of necessity more than anything else.

However, a home renovation offers an opportunity to shake off the stale image of the bathroom and bring a much more pleasing and user friendly design to it.

The current trend is to design a bathroom to be more spa-like in feel, creating a sanctuary where one can go to relax and shrug off the cares of the day.

One of the important elements of a bathroom renovation is not to view the current layout, or even the current walls, as limiting factors when planning the room.

Opening up a bathroom can do a lot to change the atmosphere. However, even without knocking out walls, just using more glass in the bathroom can give it a more airy feel.

One of the more popular features in modern master bathrooms is to have a double vanity, allowing two people to use the bathroom when preparing for work in the morning, which can be a definite time saver.

The vanities have also changed.

According to Philip Ebanks, owner and manager of Cabinets & Furnishings custom cabinets, European style units are becoming more popular with consumers.

“These are generally of a dark wooden look, more boxy, but with straight lines, no crown moulding; often having full glass (opaque) doors hinged upwards instead of outwards as with traditional designs, exposed glass or ceramic sinks and fountain type faucets,” he says.

Another factor that has to be considered in the bathroom is the vanity counter tops.

“Vanity countertops may be tiled or made from granite, other natural stones, man-made hard surface materials such as Corian and other brands, various other composite materials or laminate,” Ebanks says.

As with kitchens, the durability, appearance and price of the countertops should all be considered before making a decision. However, as bathrooms use much smaller countertops than kitchens, the impact of price differences will be considerably less.

“One of the popular cost saving trend in the residential market is to purchase a composite vanity with built in sink, thereby saving on the added cost of purchasing a separate sink,” Ebanks says.

However, utilising this option makes it much harder to create a unique look in a bathroom, so it might not be ideal for those who want something more exclusive.

Freestanding soaker tubs are also increasingly popular, bringing a modern interpretation of old world charm. The lack of a tub surround lends a greater sense of airiness to the bathroom, with the tub appearing sculptural in nature while still being fully functional. These have overtaken jetted tubs as the ‘must have’ in a bathroom, but require a more spacious bathroom to give the tub the maximum impact.

Wherever possible, showers are getting bigger. In some cases, baths are being removed to make room for bigger showers, while more open shower enclosures are also popular in order to give a greater sense of space. Rainshower shower heads are also a popular update as these provide a different showering experience to standard shower heads.

Let the light in
Where possible, increasing the amount of natural light available in the bathroom can make a big difference to the atmosphere. However, especially in condos, not all bathrooms have windows. In these cases, creative lighting solutions can help bring sufficient amounts of light into the room to make it feel rather less closed in.

Going green
A major bathroom renovation is also the perfect opportunity to go green. Dual flush water saving toilets give users the option of flushing with less water should that be sufficient, thus bringing about considerable water savings. Water saving showerheads can also make a substantial difference to the water consumption of a shower.

Replacing a standard tank-type water heater with a tankless, on-demand system can lead to reduced electricity usage, as the water is not kept warm throughout the day but only heated when it is required. This can have quite an impact on a home’s overall electricity usage.

When renovating a bathroom, it is important to keep in mind that some changes may require a building permit. According to Emerson Piercy, chief building control officer with the Planning Department, a bathroom renovation in which fixtures are replaced but current plumbing connections are left in place will not require a permit. However, should the redesign require the repositioning of plumbing connections, a permit will be required for the project.

When renovating it is also important to keep in mind the amount of moisture a bathroom is exposed to and select surfaces accordingly. Floor to ceiling tiles are easy to wipe down and the institutional look can be avoided easily through using some more creative patterns or accent tiles. When painting a bathroom, keep in mind that matt paints do no stand up well to the beating a bathroom can dish out, with semi-gloss or gloss handling the moisture much better.

With careful planning, a bathroom renovation can add a lot of appeal to a home. Although not as instantly apparent to visitors as changes elsewhere in the home, few spaces can do as much to ease the strain of a long day at the office.