Should you squeeze a bath into a tiny bathroom or try statement sanitaryware? What should you splurge and skimp on?
We asked the experts for their tips on getting the best value out of a bathroom renovation.
Do avoid dark colours
There’s a reason white sanitaryware has remained popular for so long — it looks clean and it goes with everything.
“Stick to white,” says interior designer Simone Suss. “If you do decide to go for black and you live in a hard water area, you will see white water marks everywhere!”
If you want to add some colour, do it on your walls — just don’t go too bold.
“Whilst dark colours might look dramatic and create impact, they can limit the practicality of the bathroom,” says designer Charlie Avara.
“Dark colours by their nature absorb light, making everyday activities such as using the mirror more difficult.”
Don’t follow trends
TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram are inundated with quirky and statement bathrooms but, while they might get you "likes", they don’t have staying power and will be divisive if you sell.
“Don’t get trapped down the Pinterest hole of trends,” says interior designer Jojo Bradley.
“Mosaic tiles look lovely but the practicality of keeping all the grout clean is not so appealing. Busy small print tiles can be fun but again maybe a trend you tire of so try to make choices that have longevity.”
Do think about storage
Our experts all agreed storage was important in the design of a bathroom.
“Simple things like an added alcove in the shower to place shampoo and soap on keep bathrooms looking neat and tidy,” says designer Lucy Breton.
“Planning for built-in storage is always important; loo roll shoved behind a cistern is never a great look.”
Storage is especially useful in a family bathroom when you want “to hide the multicoloured plethora of bath toys,” says Bradley. “A raised vanity can [also] hide a child’s step for reaching the basin underneath.”
Don’t forget the lighting
It’s easy to leave the electrics to the end of a bathroom fitting but this needs to be considered at the beginning.
“Think about where you need electricity before planning your fixtures and furnishings. Planning your bathroom design should start with electrics and plumbing considerations first,’ says interior designer Sanel Konyar.
“Consider spotlight positioning and choose lighting that can be adapted to suit your mood; for example, a relaxing bath in the evening would not include a floodlight, but trying to shave or put make-up on in a poorly lit bathroom is equally bad news too.”
It's not just where you put the lights in the bathroom that matters but how you place them.
“Bathroom lights either side of a mirror immediately make a bathroom feel luxurious; lighting a mirror from the side is always more forgiving than overhead lighting which shadows one’s face in the wrong places,” says designer Charlotte Haigh.
You should “always remember to buy IP44 lights in a bathroom”, Haigh recommends.
Do prioritise heating and ventilation
You need to imagine what your bathroom will be like at 6am at different times of the year and consider how it’s heated and ventilated.
“A heated towel rail will make winter mornings that tiny bit more bearable,” says Breton.
Alternatively, if budget isn’t an issue, install underfloor heating to get nice warm tiles every morning.
Ventilation will come to the fore in the summer months, especially if your bathroom doesn’t have a window.
“Install extractor fans that are automatically linked to the main lighting circuit as this will prevent dampness in the bathroom,” suggests Avara.
In fact, many of our experts suggested that a good extractor fan was an item to splurge on when fitting a new bathroom.
Don’t think you have to have a bath
Bathrooms without baths have previously been seen as deficient, but changes in modern life and a shower’s greener credentials mean this is no longer the case — especially for smaller bathrooms.
“Trying to squeeze in too many fixtures and fittings can lead to a cramped, busy feeling in the room. Instead, I try to encourage clients to opt for a large walk-in shower as this will give a spacious feeling and a sense of luxury,” says Avara.
That said, if you’re lucky enough to have the space, free-standing baths sell a bathroom and are worth a splurge.
Do invest in the basics
You can update a bathroom on a budget but there are some items where spending that bit more will have a long-term benefit.
“Always price for good quality sanitaryware and taps,” says Bradley. “Small parts that may be overlooked such as concealed shower valves should be quality, as these are the parts that can often fail first.”
Haigh, meanwhile, believes you should “spend on things that are used regularly and are a pain to change, such as toilet cisterns and flushes”.
Don’t leave flooring as an afterthought
There have been numerous mistakes when it comes to bathroom flooring trends over the years; carpets get mildew and wooden floors rot.
“Tiles can be a great choice, that is until you need to crack those expensive tiles to access pipes for vital plumbing and maintenance work,” says flooring expert Michael Barnes.
He suggests SPC Vinyl if you want something practical and affordable. “SPC vinyl flooring is both durable and waterproof and is available in wood-style planks or square tiles designed to imitate stone.”
Whatever flooring you choose, it “should have some grip, be easy to clean and maintain, and be suitable for bathroom use”, according to Konyar.
Do know it’s OK to skimp on these things
If you have a limited budget, there are plenty of ways to save money.
Saving on tiling can be a good choice — only tile where is likely to get wet and paint the rest of the room with a waterproof bathroom paint that’s designed so it can be wiped.
“If you love marble tiles don’t feel you have to splurge on the real thing, you can get equally beautiful porcelain-effect tiles at a much cheaper price point,” says Bradley.
Similarly, while nifty storage solutions enhance a bathroom, they come at a price.
“If your budget doesn't allow for integrated storage, storing rolled towels in woven wicker baskets and bathroom products in freestanding units, offer easy access, yet keep the bathroom free from messy clutter,” says Avara.
Do you actually need a new bathroom at all?
Before you start a bathroom renovation project, it’s worth thinking about whether it definitely needs to be done or do you actually just fancy a bit of a change.
“Rather than re-designing the entire bathroom, you can update the look by changing the colour of the grout or replacing the taps and shower heads,” says Suss.
If the bathroom is big enough, could you add some interesting furniture? “Don’t be afraid to use eBay for vintage pieces which will make a simple bathroom look so much more interesting, match it with a beautiful fabric on a blind,” says Haigh.
“Bathrooms don't have to be soulless — just like the rest of your home, they should reflect your personality,” says Konyar.