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Plan your dream bathroom

In the past, bathrooms were white, clinical spaces. Today, with so many styles and colours, it’s hard to know where to start when planning your dream bathroom.

Prioritise your needs

First, be clear about your aims. Do you want to create a luxury bathroom – a place to escape, relax and indulge? Or a family bathroom able to withstand heavy traffic? This will help you figure out what should be in it – and even the décor. For example, a rolltop bath, walk-in shower or twin basins? Open shelving for attractive toiletries and scented candles or hidden storage for toothbrushes and towels, or a mixture of both? Once you have a list of needs, you can start to prioritise – which dream items are the “must-haves” to be splashed out on? Being clear about your aims will also help you set a budget for the project.  

Planning your dream bathroom
Photo supplied by Graham & Brown Wallpaper

Measure up

Measuring the space available should be one of the first things you do - before shopping for bathroom suites. Are you creating extra space by knocking through walls? Perhaps you are converting a small bedroom into a master suite or sectioning off part of a large bedroom to create an en suite?  Or is your existing bathroom big enough already and just needs a facelift? Draw a simple diagram of the space you have available to work with which notes wall lengths and heights as well as positions of windows, doors, pipes and waste outlets. Remember to always measure in millimetres – and double check your measurements are correct.

Plan the layout

Now it’s time to start planning the perfect bathroom. Consider the minimum space you need for items in your bathroom. For example, standard rectangular baths measure L170 x W70cm – plus space for you to easily get in and out.  Meanwhile a shower tray is around L80 x W70cm.  Shower doors need to be able to open without obstruction. Avoid the common mistake of trying to squeeze too much into your bathroom as you could end up with a cramped, uncomfortable space.

If space is at a premium, choose products that have dual functionality, such as an over-bath shower. L or P-shaped baths with a wider end and glass shower screen can be a great option. A sink with built-in shelving, cupboards and drawers will provide valuable storage for day-to-day bits and pieces. A mirrored cabinet will also help make the most of every inch of space.

When planning the layout for a refit, bear in mind moving pipes and drains is expensive. If your budget is limited, try and keep sanitaryware, such as toilet and bath, in the same place to keep down costs. Remember to consider sightlines too. Nobody wants to stand at the front door and see a toilet.

Surface solutions

Bathroom flooring needs to be impervious to water and walls (and ceilings) must be able to stand up to moisture too – as well as looking good. Thankfully, there are plenty of options ranging from ceramic tiles to luxury vinyl and engineered wood flooring. Porcelain tiles are a popular choice, thanks to their durability and style as well as being waterproof. They come in a variety of designs from marble to metallics and coloured glass. Bathroom wall panels are a budget-friendly alternative and easy to install. Panels come in a large range of finishes from wood-effect to white quartz. Sleek surfaces can add luxe touches to even the tiniest bathroom.

Engage the right pros

It’s possible to tackle some work yourself, such as tilling, to save money, but it’s always best to call in the experts when it comes to plumbing, electrics and more complex jobs. You can either co-ordinate the different trades yourself along with product delivery or opt for a design and installation package from a specialist company – the latter can be pricey but should save you time and stress. Whichever option you choose, always get several itemised quotations to compare and take up references. You will also need to check that all work meets building regulations and can be certified by your local council when finished.


Plan your bathroom lighting to meet all your needs – from task lighting (for cleaning teeth, make-up etc) to softer general lighting for bath time relaxing. Task lighting includes recessed downlights, spotlights, cabinet and mirror lights. Ambient lighting, meanwhile, includes ceiling lights and wall lights – some with dimmers.  When planning a bathroom refit, it’s a good idea to select your lighting before work begins, so any necessary electrical and fitting work can be done before tiling.

All electrical work should be carried out by a suitably qualified (Part P compliant) electrician. Bathroom lighting needs to have a minimum ingress protection (IP) to prevent water getting in, so you need to plan the exact positioning in relation to the bath, shower and sink.


A single heated towel rail will often provide enough heat to keep your towels warm and heat the bathroom in winter. Bigger bathrooms may also need a radiator or two. If you want to add a touch of luxury and your budget allows, underfloor heating is ideal for bathrooms. Underfloor heating can either be electric or water-based pipes. Electric is cheaper to install but is more expensive to run, so better suited to small bathrooms. Water-based require more installation work (pipe laying) and will raise the floor level but is more economic to run.

Fixtures and fittings

Perhaps your dream is to start the day invigorated by a rainfall effect shower with massage jets? If your bathroom refit includes a new shower, check it’s compatible with your water system. In some cases, it may be necessary to add pressure pumps or update your boiler or water tank.  A plumber or bathroom specialist can advise you on any changes that may be necessary. Remember water is precious. Look for showers and taps with water-saving features. Don’t forget to invest in a high-quality extractor fan as bathrooms get hot and steamy.

 It’s always a good idea to see and touch products in a showroom before purchasing, if possible.  For example, you may find a plastic bath feels too flimsy underfoot and you prefer a high-quality steel one. Steel baths allow your water to stay warmer for longer too! Make sure to order fixtures and fittings so they are delivered to your home about six weeks before you are planning to have them installed. This gives time to check if any products are missing or damaged and need replacing.  

When it comes to planning your dream bathroom, there’s a lot more to think about than choosing showers and shelves. Get it right and you will have a fabulous and functional space. Get it wrong and you could end up with a beautiful but impractical bathroom beset by minor niggles or worse - one that needs to be completely refitted.