Renovating your bathroom?
Award-winning Sydney interior designer Shirley Gavin shares her top tips for a successful bathroom remodel
A bathroom renovation can be an expensive process, so you want to get it right. With design, fixtures and finishes all having an incredible impact on your day-to-day experience of such an intimate room, it’s always a good idea to call in the experts for advice.
We spoke to award-winning interior designer and draftsman Shirley Gavin from Nepean Inner Designs to pick her brain about the top things you need to consider to prevent your renovation from, quite literally, going down the drain.
1. Design for the present and for the future
It’s easy to get trapped thinking purely about what you need right now, but if you’re planning on staying in the home for a while, it’s essential that you also think about what your lifestyle may bring you in the future.
“Consider keeping it an open plan,” recommends Shirley. “You never know what the future will bring, and this will ensure that your bathroom will be suitable no matter what. Whether you need wheelchair access, assistance or (touch wood) have to use crutches for a period, you’ll have a bathroom space that supports your needs. Also consider keeping taps within reach so that you don’t have to climb into or onto anything to turn on the water”.
This includes being minimalist with design – while there was once a fashion to put steps to get into bathtubs, the slimline design of modern baths means that this is no longer required. And speaking of fashion – no matter how appealing those gorgeous glossy tiles look on display, always use non-slip tiling for the floor. Your body will thank you for it.
2. Don’t scrimp on room in the shower
A bathroom renovation is the perfect opportunity to update the size of your shower space. While the old standard for the size of a shower area used to be 900 x 900, Shirley believes that the size of your shower should be at least 1m x 1m as the old dimensions just didn’t give enough room to comfortably move your arms and wash your hair.
It’s also important to think about how you use your shower. While remodelling TV shows like The Block and Renovation Rumble have often showcased two shower heads at opposite ends of a horizontal design, Shirley advises that you are better to invest in one large rain water head and a hand-held attachment.
“If you want to shower together, then you want to shower together, if you know what I mean!
You need to also bear in mind that running two showers at the same time will decrease the pressure from one head. A larger shower head that provides a more expansive spray will not only look great, but serve you well.”
3. Think bathroom functionality as well as style
When renovating, consider remodelling your bathroom to maximise the illusion of space. This is as simple as using wall-mounted (or off-the-floor) vanities, and maximising your storage behind items such as mirrors. Wall and shower recesses are another great option. The less clutter, the more open the bathroom will seem.
In that same vein, think about functionality. After Shirley asks clients “How do you use the bathroom?” she then drills deeper to learn the nitty gritty of their routine.
For example, many women don’t wash their hair every day, and so a dual showerhead is ideal. The days you do wash your hair, the roof-mounted showerhead is perfect. On the days you don’t, then the second (often hand-held) mount makes showering without messing up your style a breeze.
Functionality is vital when considering the layout of your bathroom. Does the toilet area allow for privacy? Is there natural light and ventilation? How much counter space will you need? Where will you store your cleaning accessories and extra toilet paper? For the girls, will there be wall-mounted lights at the mirror to prevent those pesky shadows that complicate your makeup application?
And of course, style and function must go hand-in-hand, and so for this reason you need to think about the ‘not-so-stylish’ elements of a bathroom.
“We don’t like thinking about what happens with our plumbing,” laughs Shirley, “and so bathroom plumbing is like creating a magical illusion. A lot of modern bathroom designs completely hide the plumbing, so it’s important to think about fixtures and all of the stuff that‘s connected to them as you lay out the plumbing, as well as the electrical and framing. This will help you avoid mistakes and do tighter work.
“You can certainly choose to leave plumbing supply lines exposed – it works well with industrial styling – but renovating an old space gives you a chance to hide them and create a more sleek, modern and uncluttered look.”
4. Wet rooms are all the rage in Sydney, and for good reason
Wet rooms are now far more popular in both bathroom renovations and remodelling, as well as new homes designs.
Not only are they easier to maintain than a traditional shower set-up, but they also offer privacy and a touch of class.
“I love the look and the functionality of a wall and a wet room,” says Shirley. “I’ll always design a bathroom so that the shower is at one end of the room, and instead of a glass shower screen we use a wall.
“This means you can walk into the bathroom and have only the vanity and mirror visible, with the shower private and the toilet inconspicuous.”
5. Choose the right tiling for your bathroom
Bathroom tiling that’s functional and doesn’t ruin your design
Shirley believes that one of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced bathroom renovators make is being swayed by what looks great in the tiling display shop without thinking about their structure.
“I prefer a smaller tile on the floor – around 300×300 – as it allows for the fall to the drains a lot easier. You can use larger tiles on the floors, but depending on your structure you may not get the sleek look you’re after around the drainage points.
“A long linear drain can work with a bigger floor tile, but really think about the big picture. Large tiles on the wall will be the eye-catcher – a plain 300 x 600 tile laid horizontally will always be a winner,” she says.
And feature tiles?
“Feature tiles aren’t used in bathroom renovations as much as they used to be across Sydney. When they are used, they aren’t as part of a pattern – instead, they’re used to frame an entire feature wall.
While patterned tiles are being used more widely on the floor, Shirley advocates sticking to plain colours. This means you are designing for longevity.
“I am always a big fan of using a plain base and building on it with towels, linen and accessories. This means you can move seamlessly from fad to fad, keeping your look fresh and modern without breaking the bank.
Your design doesn’t date, and you don’t get bored!”
Sydney bathroom renovations – do your research
A bathroom renovation can be a costly exercise if you don’t get it right. From the outset, do your research and really think long and hard about how you use your bathroom now, as well as how you may use it in the future.
Look at a variety of designs. Collect styles and accessories that you like, and piece together a mood board of ideas. Bounce your ideas off a designer. They’ll work with your builder, plumber and electrician to ensure that your concepts work with the space, meet your budget and, of course, add value and finesse to your day-today routine.
As Shirley pointed out, every little thing needs to be well considered to ensure your bathroom renovation delivers both usability and style.
“It really is the little things that make the biggest impressions.”
Over to you
Have you renovated your bathroom? We’d love to know your plans or experiences!