Top 10 essentials for your bathroom design

A bathroom and kitchen are the most sought after areas when buying or building a home.
Lighting will give the room life.
Lighting will give the room life. (Net)


It is a fact that in your lifetime, you would have spent about 92 days or more in a bathroom, this is according to a study that was done on 2500 people who spent an average of 1 hour and 42 minutes a week in a bathroom. This to me is a worthy call to design elegant and comfortable bathrooms and help clients achieve this on a desired budget. A bathroom and kitchen are the most sought after areas when buying or building a home. They can drastically elevate your asking price on a home. This leads to 10 essentials to look into when designing a bathroom.   




Instead of having many little products all over the bedroom, along with a toiletry bag and a small basket with combs and hoarded items, it is ideal to create more storage space and have a home for your items. Built in cabinets create a thought through finish and can be extended to align with your door, total height of 2100mm. This creates space to store away towels, gowns, first aid kits, toilet paper, soaps and bathroom cleaning equipment. By doing this, your bathroom appears more airy and clean.


Sit on the toilet, sit in the bathtub before purchase

You may look like a fool for those 30 seconds, or more if you wish, but the truth is, you are the first hand person who will fall victim to a poorly designed bathtub or a tiny baby potty design for an adult toilet bowl. Bad designs exist and they look like gold in a shop with good lighting. Doom arrives at your door step with a slip that says ‘Non-refundable’. Sitting in a bathtub will help you assess how your body structure responds to the tub, just because it’s big doesn’t mean it’s a good design. Your neck should feel secure at an angle and the handles should be within reach. If you have little space for a bathtub, go for an extra-deep design.


A beautiful mirror that is well positioned can give life to a bathroom. Try exploring new shapes and frames, you may look into a specific style and shop around for it. Styles can range from a rustic finish, this could be a raw timber framed mirror. It does not have to be expensive as you may find some planks around your home or scrap yard and engage in making the frame or have a carpenter do the project for you. Other styles include contemporary and industrial which would give a very expensive touch to your bathroom. 

A good mirror with warm wall mounted lights will give your bathroom a warm feel which serves a functional purpose too.


If you are in the process of building or renovating a bathroom, it is a good idea to use your given space to its maximum use. Even a small bathroom can bear maximum potential depending on how you respond to it. Walls are not just for support and dividing rooms, you can recess the wall by 80mm-150mm during the construction stages. This creates a niche that can be used to store ornaments and on the go products. When working with a small space, use a rectangular design for showers, at times we make small shower cubicles and leave a tiny random corner that does no good but store up dust, rather extend the shower from wall to wall and create a walk in shower experience. If you wish to have a bathtub and shower but have little space, rather install a bathtub and have a ceiling mounted shower head in the bathtub space, this way, two options are always available at your disposal instead of have a tiny shower and congested bathtub. A glass door or curtain can be used to divide the shower section of the bathtub in order to keep the outside area dry.


No matter how good the quality of your floor and wall finishes is, poor lighting can gloom up the space and make the finishes appear detestable. The type of lighting should complement the finishes and provide ample lighting for you to maneuver. Pendant lights can be used by the mirror depending on the ceiling height. Wall mounted lights with their own switch point allow you have a dimer effect after a stressful day, look for warm yellow lighting if you desire a calmer effect in your bathroom. Recessed LED white lights can be used for general lighting as they consume less electricity and generally brighten up the space.


This is where you usually store your 101 products yet you only use 3 in a day. Vanities can create a good focal point to the bathroom. Have minimal products on the counter space by allowing storage space underneath. A nice tap with durable handles is essential. Some taps may be beautiful but consume too much water which is a delicacy of the earth. Water saving taps are available and can be purchased online. A beautiful small pot plant can be displayed to add some greenery to the space. Uzi Blossom, made in Rwanda, provides amazing pot plant options depending on a client’s need. If you have little bathroom space, stay away from cabinets that sit on the floor, rather go for wall mounted cabinets that have space underneath them, this creates more leg room and makes the space feel bigger. Woven baskets can be used to neatly store away your essentials


My rule of thumb on materials:  ‘If you can’t maintain it, don’t buy it’. Marble is a beautiful product but many forget that you need good quality cleaning products for it. Marble, granite and other stone materials come from the earth and do not dwell well with detergents and harsh chemicals. These are durable but sensitive finishes that can last depending on how you nurture them, clearly this is a sensitive topic for me. If you saw the process of extracting them, you would join my comfort group promoting safe cleaning materials for these precious stones. On another note, it is important to note who would be using the bathroom as this determines the quality of maintenance. If you know you will not have enough time to clean your bathroom, stay away from small mosaic finishes or tiny square tiles. These may be beautiful but require upkeep. Invest in larger finishes or seamless tiles, they are easier and quicker to clean.


It is important to note who is using the bathroom in terms of age since different age groups require special needs. Functionality does not end at today’s use but extends to the future three years from now and 10 more to come for family homes. With this in mind, multifunctional ideas should emerge in design, an example: children tend to enjoy baths and can share a tub. It could be ideal to install a tub that can later accommodate a shower. Should you decide to sell or rent your home, your tenant would have both facilities.

Shower seat

A shower seat can be engraved into the wall with about 450mm sit in space, or it can protrude from the wall and have a tile finish. The shower seat can be created in the bathroom for safety reasons. This is ideal for people who can’t stand for a prolonged time due to physical needs. It is also a good safety measure for pregnant women as they may need to reach their legs for a good scrub, I can only imagine this in a seating position. Luxury reasons do call for a shower seat too. New shower models have emerged that allow a steam room effect. The seat can also be used to store your shower essentials.


A good design promotes safety in the most tranquil way. Ask the construction team to make sure that edges of finishes are rounded off to avoid sharp cuts. Showers can have rounded stainless steel caps to smooth the edges. Make sure that floor finishes have a good grip when wet, do your research before going to the shops. Sometimes I memorise a fact or two about a product, when I enter the shop and ask the salesperson, they get a bit boggled and end up calling the specialist or manager at hand, and this is usually followed by being led to an exact selection that inclines to my need. The specialist may go on dropping more terminologies thinking we are on the same page, which is fine too.  That gives me more terminologies to use in the shop next door.

These are the basic essentials to guide you. A good building team will be needed, along with some good Pinterest boards to communicate your ideas. 

The author is a qualified interior architectural designer based in Cape Town.


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