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The bathroom – the most intimate of sanctuaries

Bathrooms have outgrown their purely functional role. They are now an intimate space for retreat and self- indulgence where we connect with one of life’s most vital and essential elements — water. The role of bathroom design is to enhance this connection by creating a sanctuary for body and soul. 

Designs reflect our changing lifestyles
How we live is becoming more fluid. Technology will soon enable us to watch movies or tv, listen to music and communicate using surfaces around our home, including the bathroom. This supports our desire to feel connected and in touch with our lives.

Similarly we want more freedom in how we use our living spaces. This means the traditional divides between sleeping and bathing spaces are dissolving. To maintain this flexibility, consider avoiding fixed walls that separate. Instead, think about movable glass or timber screens that allow inter-mixing of materials and spaces. Another effective touch is to bring nature and the outdoors closer with a Japanese tsuboniwa or small, enclosed garden. 

Creating an intensely personal space 
Many homes have more than one bathroom. Each should have its own purpose and style. Where possible, freestanding baths and crafted taps will occupy centre stage and suggest a more sculptural focus. To personalise the space even more, add a beautiful piece of furniture — a sleek chaise lounge or a handsome set of antique drawers. These lift the room beyond the functional into an intensely personal space that reflects your taste. 

Small spaces that flow 
Smaller, more confined areas suit pared-back designs with simple materials. These create com- pact, functional spaces where the ritual of bathing is completed efficiently and modestly. To generate a greater sense of space, think about hung vanities and toilets along with recessed wall cabinets. Wet areas that do not separate baths and showers add even more freedom. 

Shed some light 
Almost nothing contributes as much to a room’s ambience and tone as lighting. Think about these three areas and how lighting can add to your desired effect: 

1. General — what is required to illuminate the room to make it usable and able to be appreciated? 
2. Task lighting — what sort of lighting is needed for activities such as applying make-up or shaving? Remember that it’s important to light the face as naturally as possible, without shadow. 
3. Ambient light — choose gentle and low key so as to create a special mood. Think how dimmers and sensors can play a role creating exactly the mood you desire throughout the day and night. 

Fitting touches 
As well as their functionality, consider how the shape, form and composition of fittings can add a level of tactile delight and surprise. 

The first step is to whittle down the vast array of choices. From sculptural faucets to computerised shower systems that can be set to your own exclusive heat and water pressure settings. 

To pick well, you need a critical eye and an educated guess as to where style is heading over the next ten years or so. Do your homework with plenty of showroom visits. Test-drive everything for comfort and size. Remember that you get what you pay for. Nobody ever regretted buying quality and durability.

Make it a sensual experience 
Materials on the floor, walls and horizontal surfaces in your bathroom are experienced in a very tactile, sentient way. Tiles, mosaics, stone, glass and timber are all popular for their luxurious feel. Each will contribute differently to the mood of the bathing space. However their palette must still reflect materials chosen throughout the rest of your home. After all, every room is part of a greater experience.

Many thanks to the Design Guide for providing this article, written by Interior Designer Yvette Jay, with photography by Simon Devitt