The best bathroom

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Pure and simple or luxuriously ornate, your bathroom can be a haven that is both practical and indulgent.

The saying ‘form follows function’ is often the case with interior design, and never more so than when planning a bathroom. Practicalities must come first (though prettiness is a close second). With careful thought, and maybe some inspiration from books, magazines and websites, you can create a room that reflects your style as well as being warm and welcoming, clean and calm.

Initially, think about who will use the room, how often and at what times of day, and consider what fittings, in an ideal world, you would like to include. Then sketch the room to scale on squared paper, indicating the positions of windows, doors, radiators and pipes, and allowing generous activity space for knees, elbows, drying and so on. Avoid moving pipes unless absolutely necessary, as this will increase installation costs considerably. It is also a good idea to plan out the electrics, marking the position of light fittings (ensure anything you buy is rated for wet areas) and perhaps a shaver socket/toothbrush charger. Sometimes it makes sense to build shallow false walls within which to hide cables and pipework, whilst installing underfloor heating allows you to remove a radiator, thus freeing up some wall space for a statement towel warmer, as well as providing cosy, constant heat.

Finally, having taken everything into consideration, work out what is possible given your budget and the space available, if necessary considering specially designed, space-saving fittings, such as a corner WC or a P-shaped shower/bath.

Bathroom fittings are available in a multitude of styles and prices, but simplicity is often the best option. If you are on a tight budget invest most in moving parts, such as shower doors and taps. Don’t forget to plan in plenty of storage, whether free-standing or built in. When choosing baths, showers, basins and loos, cast your inhibitions aside: in the showroom, stand in the shower, climb into the bath and sit on the loo. Since you will be using them on a daily basis for years to come, it is worth ensuring that they are comfortable and feel well made. In addition, ask your retailer how products have been tested, whether they conform to British or European standards and what guarantee is on offer.

Baths: The more you pay for a bath, the more variety there is in size, shape and material. While the standard bath is a 1700x700mm rectangle, you can also find double-ended, corner and free-standing baths, and a variety of shapes. Acrylic is most common but, if money were no object, you could choose a bath made from stone, wood, copper or glass.

Showers: Look for three key features: flow control, thermostatic control and easy cleaning. More features are available on the more costly models, including constant temperature control, a hot water safety limiter, cool housing, water-saving, adjustable sprays and easy-clean functions.

Basins: As well as the traditional pedestal style made from ceramic, choose from other options such as winged, semi-pedestal, counter-top or wall-hung. You can tell a good quality basin by its weight and clean, straight lines.

WCs: Basic loos are of the pan and cistern variety, but if you pay a little more you could go for a close-coupled style (the pan and cistern are in one seamless unit), a back-to-wall WC where the cistern is hidden behind either a false wall or furniture, or a contemporary, wall-hung type

Wet rooms: If you enjoy an indulgent shower then a wet room is a great option. It is simply a waterproof, walk-in shower area (more or less any shape or size you like), with a drain in the floor, a drenching shower head and – sometimes but not always – a glass screen. Spacious and stylish, wet rooms are often seen as the last word in luxury, but they can have pitfalls, especially if not on the ground floor. Their walls and floors must be made completely watertight by covering with sheeting or sealant, or you could have disastrous leaks. You will also need a suitable drainage slope (or a pre-formed tray), high water pressure and – to prevent condensation and mould – excellent ventilation.

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