How to Design a Bathroom

How to Design a Bathroom

WORDS Michaela Stehr PORTRAITS Jan Ras


A bathroom is a crucially important part of the home; somewhere to relax and unwind, or simply a hardworking space that needs to function smoothly – and in an ideal world, both.

Different types of bathrooms, however, require different approaches to perform at an optimal level. We chat to three designers about how to create a bathroom with the perfect balance of aesthetic appeal and technical prowess.

Anlo Neethling

Designer Anlo Neethling of ONE Design and Development’s grasp of contemporary design and bold finishes make him an obvious choice when it comes to advising on how to approach a dramatic, wet room-style bathroom – a challenging space because of its open-plan layout, but when done right, a serious X-factor feature.

bathroom design

For this particular space, the client had requested a modern, minimalist and Japanese-inspired wet room-style bathroom with a masculine feel. By placing two showerheads (a his- and-hers setup) on one side and the bath on the left-hand side of the bathroom, a seamless wet area has been created, as well as a sense of Zen-like symmetry.

The use of the same tiles for the floor and the walls additionally creates a clean and minimalist spa feel. By breaking away from the traditional use of white so often seen in spas and bathrooms, and using a dark grey/black tile, the room instantly feels bold and masculine, and more modern as well as cocooning. The sparing use of timber throughout – with the incorporation of a side table from Woltemade, a timber riempie chair by James Mudge

Furniture Studio and a custom-made ash floating vanity – injects warmth and texture. Moving away from the traditional method of “bringing the outdoors inside” with plants, Anlo opted to use the shadows of the exterior landscaped garden to create a natural, calming and ever- changing backdrop.

Tips and Tricks

  • Keep the material and colour palette minimal, and choose finishes wisely. Select a hero colour or finish, and repeat a second finish selectively throughout.
  • Focus on symmetry to create a tranquil space according to Japanese design principles.
  • Where possible, house all clutter in concealed storage – here, a walk-in storage unit on the right-hand side of the bathroom allows for a calm and clutter-free interior.
  • Bring elements of the outdoors in.
  • A wet room needs a consistent floor level between the shower/bath and the rest of the bathroom.
  • The sanitaryware (mixer, showerhead and shower traps) should blend into the space, rather than stand out.

READ MORE: 5 Bathroom Design Trends to Look Out for in 2022

Christiaan van Aswegen and Annemie van der Heever

Directors at Hours Clear Architects, Christiaan and Annemie specialise in bespoke residential and commercial designs. Here, they give us the lowdown on how to maximise impact in an open-plan en suite bathroom.

bathroom design

When designing an open-plan en suite bathroom, we believe that reducing the number of finishes, creating long expansive lines, maintaining a consistent colour palette and using as many natural materials as possible are key to creating cohesion.

Ideally, bathrooms should be treated as an extension of the overall interior scheme executed in the bedroom and living spaces. A seamless flow of floor finish and consistent wall colour across the space is also helpful in creating a spacious and calm result. In this space at The Aven boutique hotel in Camps Bay, for example, these elements in harmony create a toned-down, relaxed effect, enhancing the feeling of space and lightness.

Tips and Tricks

  • Paint has come a long way, and it is now possible to find matte finishes that are suitable to use in rooms that are typically humid
  • Natural stone is hard-wearing and easy to maintain, and adds a natural finish and timeless elegance. Our approach is to use it as monolithic sculptural objects (a bathtub, vanity, etc) within the space, rather than covering every possible wall and floor surface in tile.
  • We attempt to keep detailing as simple as possible – concealed fittings and seamless joints help reduce visual clutter.
  • Ventilation is vital to keep the space fresh and airy, and cross- ventilation is recommended where possible.
  • Maximising natural light should always be the goal, and artificial lighting must be carefully considered: diffused, evenly distributed light is the objective. For best results, we recommend opting for non-directional wall fixtures with opalescent diffusers integrated into the vanity mirror. These fittings should emit warm white light and be dimmable.

Kim Williams

Kim is a full-service Cape Town-based interior designer, known for her unique approach, which blends creative, behavioural and design strategies. Here, she walks us through a successful guest bathroom.

bathroom design

Given its size, a guest bathroom is the perfect place to do something bolder, more striking. This space was designed to complement a contemporary coastal home. The banana- leaf wallpaper from Papini connects not just to the style

of the home, but to the external landscaping too. Breaking the busyness of the paper by tiling behind the toilet with a combination of flat and 3D aged subway tiles from Studio Masson creates a layered effect – a subtle feature wall.

Custom gold accessories and glam lighting from Lights by Linea add a sense of luxury, while accents such as the gold bathroom handle from Levers & Locks – which is entirely different from the other handles in the house – signal that this room is a unique feature in its own right. The design is completed with original artworks purchased in Knysna.

Tips and Tricks

  • Wallpaper in a guest bathroom always works, so don’t be afraid to paper the entire space.
  • A large or unusually shaped mirror makes the room feel bigger.
  • Combining functional and ambient lighting ticks both practical and aesthetic boxes.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix metals – but remember to bring them together in either an artwork or a feature.

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