Scott Bagnell | 18 Jul 22 | 8 mins

Expert Tips for Designing your Dream Bathroom

Scott Bagnell | 18 Jul 22 | 8 mins

Expert Tips for Designing your Dream Bathroom

A new bathroom - excited or daunted?  If this isn’t your first rodeo, you’ll know that wrangling the moving parts to a new bathroom is not for the faint hearted. In fact, you may be hoping a fairy godmother comes along and auto-magically makes all the hard decisions for you! While our guest author this month is no fairy godmother, Interior Designer Scott Bagnell is a wizard at turning wishes into reality. We’ve asked him to take us through his top tips for getting the bathroom of your dreams. If you’re in the process of doing a new bathroom (or even just thinking about it) he offers some great actionable tips you can apply right now. So settle in, and enjoy this wonderful guest post from Scott all about the world of bathroom design.

How to Design a Bathroom You Never Want to Leave

Picture this, you have just designed your dream bathroom. Spent hours labouring over what seems to be a Mount Everest of decisions. You’ve selected your tiles, taps, bath, shower accessories and even bought a new pretty dove blue toothbrush holder to complete the look. The building works are done, the dust has settled. You walk into your dream bathroom and turn on the light. Only, that's the one original downlight that you didn’t bother changing in the ceiling. Immediately you’re in a bright, cool-white ‘light-mare’ that suddenly makes everything look not-so-glamorous. Definitely not like the magazine picture you had in your head when you started.

If you only take one thing away from this blog – I hope that it is the importance of good lighting! But it doesn’t end there. I’m sure I can shed some light (pun intended) on lots of other great tips and tricks to jazz up your next reno! But naturally, my first piece of advice is all about…you guessed it…lighting!

Lighting is everything

Lighting is one of the most important decisions you need to make when thinking about any interior design project. It will take your design from ordinary to extraordinary and create the hotel-luxe fantasy bathroom you have in your head. For lighting to be successful you need a combination of lighting styles that contribute to an overall lightscape for your project. Use a mix of task lighting, general lighting and most importantly – ambient lighting.

Ambient lighting is soft, subtle and quite often the lighting you don’t see. Is it the gentle wash of lighting that bathes the floor under the vanity cabinet. And the only lighting you need to turn on when you get up in the middle of the night for a bathroom visit. It is the soft lighting that might wash down the wall from a recess in the ceiling, or wash up onto the ceiling as reflected light above a vanity cabinet. Here are my key takeaways with lighting:

  • Use a mix of task lighting, general lighting and ambient lighting.
  • Use soft, ambient lighting to create a sense of calm and luxury that transforms your space into a sanctuary for relaxation and rejuvenation.
  • Plan early to allow lighting to be integrated effectively into your renovation. It may need to be recessed into the ceiling or wall, wired into cabinetry or joinery or cabled by an electrician before the tiles are added to the walls. 
  • A mix of overhead lighting and front lighting (either from a mirror or pendant lights either side of a mirror) is a great way of achieving task lighting above a vanity.
  • Lighting within showers and around baths needs to be waterproof and at least IP44 or sometimes IP65 – check with your electrician. 

Villeroy & Boch Embrace Pure Showers & O.Novo Style Shower Mixers in Brushed Nickel,
Argent Freestanding Bath Spout in Brushed Nickel

Consider layout and function

A well designed layout needs to consider the style of your house, the shape of the room and should fit with the design concept you’d like to achieve. There is no real one-size-fits-all approach. What’s important to mention here, is that sometimes you need to make compromises. I often see this in small bathroom renovations. If you have a four square-metre bathroom, perhaps forego that free-standing claw-foot bath and create a larger shower with a stunning rain-head instead. I always recommend prioritising what you will use most often and focusing on making that more spacious and luxe rather than trying to cram everything in. Also consider practicality. You use your bathroom everyday, so it is important to make sure it is functional, has sufficient storage and is easy to clean.

Some of my top tips for achieving the best layout and functionality for your next project:

  • Always try to position your vanity and mirror on the wall that is directly in front of you when you enter the room. Walking into the room and seeing the reflection of the room in the mirror will immediately make your bathroom feel twice as big. The vanity area also happens to be the part of the bathroom that you can have the most fun with finishes, lighting and accessories.
  • Balance form and function – both are equally important.
  • Stick with one feature to hero and keep everything else simple. This might be a bold pattern tile behind a bath or shower, a high contrast vanity, basin or accessories, or maybe an amazing floor tile that wraps up one wall. Having too many ideas and features will make your bathroom look very busy and cramped.
  • It is really important to think about storage in a bathroom. There can be a lot of things to store, like cosmetics, and quite often you don’t really want them on display.
  • Ensure storage is easy to access and utilises dead space. Be creative with where you might hide storage solutions like behind the vanity mirror or a shower recess in the wall of a shower.
  • Integrating the toilet into the bathroom quite often will allow a larger space for the overall bathroom and give the illusion of more space. However, if you include the toilet in the bathroom, try and tuck it away and make sure it is not the focal point of the bathroom.

Be strategic about tiles

There are probably more opinions out there on the most suitably sized tiles for a bathroom and how to lay them, than there are tile options! (And there are a lot of tile options out there). When it comes to tile selection, each home is unique and every space is different.

Tiles offer a wonderful opportunity to bring pattern and texture into a space. But selecting the tiles for your bathroom can be very overwhelming. There are different materials such as ceramics and porcelain, different finishes like gloss and honed, and lots of different laying patterns. Here are my tips for choosing the right tiles for the job.

  • For small bathrooms, small or medium sized floor tiles can make the room feel bigger. Smaller tiles on the floor in a small bathroom can give the illusion of more space and make it easier to achieve falls to your floor waste.
  • Having the same floor tile on the floor and continuing up one wall of the bathroom can help make the room feel bigger as it blends the boundary of where the floor stops and the wall starts.
  • For large bathrooms, large format tiles help reduce the amount of grout lines and pattern and achieve a more premium look.
  • Choose a grout colour that matches your tiles so that the grout pattern doesn’t distract from your beautiful tile – unless you really want to emphasise the shape or pattern of the tiles.
  • Where possible, continue the wall tiles up to the ceiling. This finishes the walls off nicely, makes the space feel bigger, and gives a more premium look to the bathroom.
  • Large porcelain sheets are very popular at the moment. These are large format tiles. Some tiles are as large as 1.2 m x 2.4 m and can fill an entire wall in one piece - reducing grouting and clutter dramatically.
  • Play with texture by keeping the colour palette simple and introducing different textures and sizes in the same colour to create interest and pattern.
  • The shape of the tile and the way you lay the tile on your walls will also help to create the illusion of extra space. Horizontally-laid tiles will make a small bathroom feel wider, vertically-laid tiles will make the space feel taller – especially if you have a low ceiling.

Villeroy & Boch Embrace Pure Showers & Vita Shower Mixers in Brushed Gold

Don’t be afraid of colour

There is a general misconception that small spaces need to be light and bright to help them feel bigger, However, this isn’t necessarily the case. I find that reducing clutter and minimising the number of finishes in a small space is just as effective. So dark tiles that are the same on the floor and walls can equally make a space feel larger, especially if the fixtures and vanity unit are lighter in colour. Dark finishes are always more dramatic and add a touch of luxury and glamour. Pair this with a Brushed Gold finish for your basin mixers and accessories and that feeling of luxury and glamour is elevated even further.

Here are my tips for choosing the perfect colour palette.

  • Create a mood board for your design that is a collection of images of other bathrooms you like from magazines or the internet. Include finishes, textures, taps, basins, sanitaryware, accessories and details that you love. Arrange these elements to test whether everything is working together. Play with proportions to work out what will be the dominant feature.  
  • For a Scandinavian-inspired design, use different patterns and textures of white tiles paired with stone and timber. Brushed Gun Metal taps and accessories work perfectly with this scheme.
  • For a nature-inspired design, blues and greens are very popular right now. These colours provide a sense of calm and a great opportunity to bring nature in. Brushed Nickel works really well with a natural scheme.
  • It is really important when choosing colours and finishes to look at them in different lights. Time of the day and natural versus artificial lighting can dramatically affect how your colours look.
  • Sometimes, keeping a design neutral and classic allows you to update and change the look regularly with accessories, rugs, towels and decorations.

Choose wisely from quality fixtures

Choosing the right fixtures for your bathroom is really important. These need to be installed by a licenced plumber and are difficult to change once they are installed - so it’s important to get right.  Here are my top tips for selecting the right fixtures:

  • You use your bathroom a lot – so don’t compromise on the quality of your fixtures. These can be expensive to replace and can cause a lot of heartache if they fail. I’m obviously biassed, but the quality of Villeroy & Boch is a standout here, holding a high standard for material and aesthetics. Perks like scratch-resistant ceramics and a 15-year warranty on tapware will ensure the life of your bathroom.
  • Get the best possible shower you can afford! A great shower is so important for a great bathroom experience.
  • Make sure your basin mixer and basin work together. Is your mixer the right height? Does the tap project far enough in relation to the basin design? Placement is really important for ease of use.
  • If you have a small bathroom, keep the scale of basins and tapware small – this will help make the space feel larger.
  • Allow space in your design for things like towel rails and accessories. Having enough wall space and not overcrowding the space is important for a professional finish.

Professional services are invaluable

If you are able to, I’d always recommend seeking help to wrangle the different finishes, trades, fixtures, fittings and accessories required to make the ultimate bathroom.

Professional advice from a qualified interior designer will make a huge difference. They will have loads of experience in knowing what the best solution is for your specific bathroom. This will help you navigate all the difficult decisions with ease. A designer is going to save you hours of time in researching solutions, as well as save you money in costly mistakes. They are also experts in interpreting your ideas and transforming them into a well-designed space that balances form, function and creativity.

The bathroom is also not the place I’d recommend trying your hand at DIY. There are many skilled trades required in a bathroom renovation, so it is definitely best to leave it to an expert to build the bathroom of your dreams.

I hope these ideas have helped inspire your next bathroom project. In thinking a little differently about your options, and the space you’re working with, you can create a fantastically functional area in your home. While at the same time, have it be the oasis of luxury and tranquillity you long for. 


Scott is a Brand Ambassador to Villeroy & Boch. He has almost 20 years of interior design experience, as Principal of Techniche Design. A self-confessed food nerd, you may also recognise Scott from Season 13 of Masterchef (2021) where he placed in the top 10.

Get in touch with us to find your nearest Villeroy & Boch retailer.

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