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8 Bathroom Choices Guaranteed to Divide Opinion

Don’t fret about domestic discord over key design details in your new bathroom. Here’s how to find a third way

Are you in and out of the bathroom in five minutes or is an hour-long soak in the bath your idea of a relaxing evening? Do you want somewhere that livens you up before you leave for work, or a place where you can wind down after a busy day? Everyone has different needs when it comes to bathroom design, and then, of course, there’s the little matter of taste. These eight décor ideas are guaranteed to divide opinion, but rather than going one way and leaving half of your household with a warm glow and the other half wanting to take a cold shower, discover some smart ideas for compromise.

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1. Double basins
His ’n’ hers/his ’n’ his/hers ’n’ hers – however your household rolls, it’s going to feel grander with a bathroom basin each. How could it not? The sense of luxury you get from having enough space to double up with abandon is grand enough, but then there’s also the aesthetically pleasing repetition, not to mention no more frustration at having to wait your turn to clean your teeth and the potential ease on the morning rush as a result. Or is the idea of watching your partner floss while you pluck your eyebrows too far from the romantic idyll you dreamed of?

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What’s the compromise?
Of course, it’s all down to personal preference, but if the need for privacy outweighs the need for speed, one sink (and maybe an agreed time limit to put a stop to basin hogging) might be a better bet. To replicate that sense of luxury you get with two basins, go for a luxuriously large single design. Or, if you’ve got a decent-sized bathroom and one of you has their heart set on doubling up, go for it but to ease the other’s concerns ensure you leave plenty of elbow room between the two sinks. You could even add a small tiled partition to increase the privacy element.

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2. Ditching the bath
In small bathrooms like this one, many homeowners are now dispensing entirely with the bath and opting for a bigger stand-alone shower cubicle instead. And if you have ever enjoyed a good stand-alone shower, you’ll know how luxurious these can feel. But if you’re concerned that this option might not be child-friendly or future-proof, or you simply love a long soak once in a while, should you stick with the bath?

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What’s the compromise?
Over-bath showers have come a long way in the style stakes and there’s no need to feel you’re settling for less by taking this ‘best of both worlds’ option if you’re pushed for space. The key is to invest wisely in the details: first, the shower itself – a sleek concealed pipework design with a large fixed showerhead and a frameless glass screen can work beautifully in a contemporary bathroom. And Victorian-style exposed showers with a classy shower curtain can help to ramp up the heritage of a period house. If you fancy a freestanding bath, you can even get tubs that attach to the wall at one end, giving you even more aesthetic options.

15 ways to make your over-bath shower look beautiful

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…Or think outside the box – as the owners of this compact but multi-functional bathroom have – and you might yet find room for a shower and separate bath. Look closely and you’ll see the shower turns the far end of the bathroom into a wet room, with a screen separating it from the rest of the room. Clever.

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3. Patterned tiles
Simple schemes designed to be calm and restful have dominated bathroom design in recent years, but what if you’re tempted to break free from plain-tile tyranny? People often opt for boldness in spaces in their homes that are less ‘on-show’ and a bathroom is a good place to make a strong style statement, as demonstrated in this striking space in a Victorian home. But what if your cohabitee doesn’t get it? Or perhaps you’re nervous of making a big investment (good tiling involves a lot of skill and doesn’t come cheap) and then tiring of the pattern.

Look around the rest of this home

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What’s the compromise?
You could stick to plain tiles but simply arrange them in such a way as to create a pattern, using a contrasting coloured grout. If you ever get bored with the effect, switching grout colour to one that blends in will mute the effect in an instant*.

*Note, however, that switching from dark to light grout is likely to require regrouting the entire area; when doing it the other way around and switching from light to dark there are specialist colourant products that should make the whole job a swifter, simpler one.

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4. Wet room
Striding straight into the shower, with no pesky glass door to contend with (or to keep clean), feels ultra modern and super convenient and it’s ideal in a contemporary bathroom. It can also be a great space-saver. It may not be practical in your bathroom, however, to have a wet room – or maybe you just like the feeling of being somewhat enclosed while showering.

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What’s the compromise?
Incorporating a recessed shower area into the bathroom design is a good alternative, as there is still no door to contend with, but the space retains more of an enclosed, cubicle-like feel.

Or, if it’s a wet floor that concerns you, look into electric underfloor heating, which is fairly simple to install and can be set to a timer so it goes on after your shower.

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5. Wallpaper
Recently, wallpaper has enjoyed a resurgence – even in the bathroom. Using a decorative paper like this in a wash space marks a shift away from more utilitarian bathroom schemes towards a more playful, adventurous approach, usually seen in other rooms in a house. But do you have small children capable of ruining your statement wallcovering? Are you committed to all-over pattern? Is it practical?

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What’s the compromise?
Rather than going floor-to-ceiling wallpaper, consider papering above a wall of white tiles or tongue-and-groove panelling. Here, the white tiles provide contrast against the dark wallpaper, and also protect the bottom half of the walls. This approach will also make the papered area easier to change if you want to retreat back to the safety of plain walls.

And don’t forget to use Decorators Varnish over your paper – this matt finish will protect it from water damage.

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6. Bath in the bedroom
Wafting from the bed to the bath, enjoying a glass of wine and a chat while you soak, revelling in the feeling of space – for these reasons and more, a bath in the bedroom tops many people’s wish lists of indulgent home features.

But do you worry that you might not use it enough to justify the luxury of installing it? Are you weighing up whether you need the space for a wardrobe instead? Are you sure you’ll like bathing in company? Do you really need something more practical?

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What’s the compromise?
In this bathroom, a folding louvred door is a great addition, meaning the bath can be closed off when a little more privacy is required. Or you could try a half-height wall or a narrow partition to achieve a similar effect.

If you have the space, you could also partition off a private loo and install a basin – ideal for those who’d like to switch between a functional en suite and boutique hotel decadence.

See more bathrooms that are not just wash spaces

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7. Shower curtains
Glass screens are now the first choice in many modern bathrooms as they look crisp and contemporary. But they also work in Victorian-style bathrooms since – being transparent – they’re barely there, adding but a space-boosting reflection rather than a style statement.

However, you may have a freestanding bath, making a shower screen tricky. Or perhaps you live in rented accommodation, where curtains are already in situ? You might simply love the vintage look that a shower curtain can bring. But do you worry – or live with someone worried – about the practicalities?

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What’s the compromise?
A bright shower curtain can provide an easy way to inject instant character into a bathroom, while plain, heavy white designs work wonderfully in heritage-style spaces, especially with a roll-top bath as seen in the previous photo.

The key to keeping naysayers happy is to ensure your rail is hung so that the person showering doesn’t feel hemmed in, with the curtain constantly clinging to wet skin because it’s too close. Waterproof liners are key, too – ensure yours hangs inside the bath while the decorative outer curtain can do its job of looking pretty on the outside. Sewn-in weights in the hem are a luxury touch, too.

Keep your curtain looking its best by closing it after showering, so it has the chance to dry unhindered, and also by running it – especially the liner – through the washing machine regularly, with a dash of bicarbonate of soda along with your normal detergent.

And invest in really good curtain rings, too. It’s a small touch that can make a big difference – for example, oiled bronze would be a nice vintage-style addition, and choosing a design that glides smoothly will make a bigger difference than you might imagine.

Shower curtains vs shower screens is a hot topic in our Advice section. Join the debate!

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8. Non-white basins
Coloured sanitaryware is having a bit of a comeback – colourful concrete basins were on show at the design fairs last year and natural stone, copper and stainless steel are also alternatives to the classic white basin.

Black is one hue that’s gaining ground, with inky sinks popping up in kitchens for some time now. So how about giving a black basin a whirl in the bathroom? Keeping on top of the toothpaste stains will require dedication, but when teamed with a cool monochrome washstand and a classic wall of metro tiles, as seen here, the look offers plenty to smile about. But deviating from white could feel like quite a bold choice for all but the very style confident…

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What’s the compromise?
If you can’t commit to some niche-toned sanitaryware – or can’t get your household on board with the idea – yet still hanker after something a bit unusual, keep it white! Instead, opt for a non-conventional colour on the walls. This elegant monochrome bathroom shows one way of nailing the look with panache. And, of course, it’s easier to switch if you fancy a change.

Have you debated a key design detail in your renovation? Tell us all about it – and what you went for – in the Comments section.
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