How to Design a Bathroom: Create a Relaxing and Functional Sanctuary

September 25, 2023

Reading time: 7 minutes

Bathrooms are one of the most frequently used spaces in any home. So, thorough planning is essential when considering how to design a bathroom.

How should you design the layout? How do you make a bathroom look bigger? How do you make a bathroom warmer in colder months? The answers need to get the desired result.

Whether renovating an existing bathroom or starting with a blank canvas, careful consideration and creativity can give you a balance of function and aesthetics.

But first things first…

Create a realistic budget

Tempting as it is to leap into designing your new bathroom, start by putting together a budget for all the costs. This typically includes a new suite, tiling, flooring, lighting, structural work, repairs, and labour.
It may not be the most glamorous task, but a thorough budget helps you control where your money is being spent. Best of all, you may even spot areas to save money – or splash out on a few added luxuries!
With number crunching out of the way, move on to the more glamorous part…

Analyse your needs and space

Start by noting who’ll use the bathroom most – is it a family bathroom, an ensuite for the main bedroom or the guest room? The answer will help determine design elements and layout.
Measure the room’s dimensions and jot down any structural constraints that impact your layout options, like doors and windows.

If you plan to expand the bathroom’s square footage, you’ll need to factor that in, as it’ll affect your budget and options later in the planning stage.
Now for the nitty-gritty bits…

Fine-tune your bathroom layout

Convenience and practicality are happy consequences of a well-considered layout. Efficient design allows for easy movement and access to crucial fixtures. These include things like the:

  • basin
  • toilet
  • bath
  • shower
  • storage
  • shaving and toothbrush charging
  • door clearance

This will determine where the plumbing needs to be concentrated, which can present design limitations – and creative solutions!

Speaking of which…

Make the bathroom look bigger

Many bathrooms are small, especially for the typical number of fixtures and fittings installed. Fortunately, you can craft the illusion of space with clever design trickery.

Light is significant in determining how big or small your bathroom appears, especially since not all bathrooms benefit from natural window light.

Choosing lighter colours, like shades of white or pastels, can make the room feel airy and open. So can large mirrors, since they reflect light and create the illusion of depth. They’re also practical, especially if you hang several.

And for those windowless spaces and nighttime bathers…

Enhance your bathroom lighting

Good lighting = more inviting. Add a mix of layered lighting sources to achieve the perfect balance of ambience and functionality. Ceiling lights are a natural choice for full-room illumination – but let’s face it, their top-down angle isn’t particularly flattering.
For more favourable, softer shadows, use dimmable ‘task’ lighting to give you a smoother light palette and control over the intensity and mood. A few well-placed wall sconces beside your mirrors will make getting ready, applying makeup, shaving, and snapping those pre-special occasion selfies far more gratifying.
Prefer to bathe in scented candlelight? Recessed shelving is great for housing your candles and keeping naked flames out of your way. Just make sure to add enough shelf height to account for candle length and flame!
If you like your candles – and other bits – hidden away when not in use…

Install smart storage solutions

Clutter can make your bathroom sanctuary feel disorganised and cramped. Adding clever storage makes maintaining a calming, tidy and functional space easier. Especially if it’s for family use or you have children’s bath toys.
Smaller bathrooms benefit especially by making the best use of vertical space with wall-mounted cabinets or shelves. And again – if structurally and practically workable – recessed wall shelves in the shower or around the bath make toiletries easy to reach without getting in your way.
If you have enough space, a vanity with drawers can be a tremendous dual-purpose solution that adds charm and ample storage.
Tidiness isn’t the only thing that supports relaxation…

Consider warmth and comfort

There’s nothing quite like entering a cold bathroom first thing in the morning. And we don’t mean that as a compliment. Unless that’s ‘your thing’.
But for those who’d rather avoid the chill, opt for underfloor heating, a heated towel rail, or both. Set on a timer or controlled using a thermostat, they’re a luxurious – if more expensive – way to help keep the bathroom at an even temperate all year round.
Sound insulation and windows (if you have them) also help to lock in warmth.
But steam and heat need to go somewhere, so…

Pay attention to ventilation

Decent ventilation prevents mould build-up, supports cleaner air, and protects your health. Accessible windows you can open are ideal for promoting naturally refreshing air circulation.
If you don’t have a window and adding one isn’t practical, installing a quality extract fan will remove moisture from the room and help eliminate damp odours.
And since dampness is common in bathrooms…

Choose the right materials

Frequent water use and condensation mean aesthetically pleasing materials must also be durable and water-resistant.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles for flooring and walls are versatile and offer plenty of style and colour options. If your budget allows, and you like the look, natural stone such as marble imbues a touch of elegance (though it might require more maintenance). Quartz is also durable, attractive, and easy to clean.
Love the natural feel of wood? Good news – the Scandi look isn’t off-limits! Just ensure the wood you choose is treated to avoid warping or splitting. Among the best bathroom woods are pine, plywood, cherry, red oak, mahogany, and teak.
When you’ve ticked off the above, it’s time to add a little of ‘you’…

Make it personal

Add touches of your personality for a bathroom that always feels like home. Artwork, plants, and scented candles add warmth and character. Just make sure they’re suitable for a bathroom environment.
Let’s not forget – add colour! Subtle or bold, a colour scheme and style tie everything together with the rest of the home, creating an inviting atmosphere.
Free resources like Pinterest and Google Images are great for discovering tips and ideas and creating digital mood boards.
And a final thing to remember…

Plan for hidden sins

It can be difficult to know the work required until stripping the existing bathroom back to bare walls. So, it’s smart to plan ahead in case of damp or water damage, which may lead to replacement insulation, re-plastering, or certified electrical works.
The best way to get ahead of any potential issues is to create alternative budgets. Doing so will mean you’re financially prepared for different scenarios (e.g. Budget A for a smooth build, Budget B for factoring in unexpected works).
(Please contact our helpful team if you need help factoring these costs.)
Now, with all that figured out…

See your vision before work starts

With a plan in place, a professional bathroom designer can bring your vision to life by creating a 3D model.
We can work with you to visualise your dream bathroom, guiding you to help refine your layout and design ideas before work begins.
Designing a bathroom involves carefully balancing functionality, aesthetics, and personal preferences – and, approached thoughtfully, plenty of fun!

Get guidance from bathroom design experts

Speak to us today to see how we can help you design and build your perfect bathroom oasis from start to finish.