By: TERESA AZEVEDO COUTINHO
Teresa Azevedo Coutinho runs her own interior design consultancy in Lisbon and found her niche in designing holiday homes for UK and Irish clients. Her company is expanding with the undertaking of international projects and the opening of a new office in Lagos.
IN THE past, the lavatory, powder room, water closet or the loo has been used just as a necessity, a strictly utilitarian space.
These days, savvy homeowners are taking another look at the bathroom and bringing quality of life into the home. The buzzword is ‘wellness’, as consumers increasingly look for feel-good spaces to nourish body and soul. These days, bathroom design blends form and function to create a space where you can relax in your very own spa.
Crucially, there should be continuity and flow between the bathroom and the rest of the house.
Today’s bathrooms are resort-inspired, stone-clad spaces, boasting heated floors, state-of-the-art plumbing fixtures and cavernous walk-in showers and they are getting bigger all the time. Many come complete with furniture and entertainment systems.
Recliners, chairs, decorative armoires and even TVs are among the added features. A special waterproof television can now be inserted into ceramic tiles to look like a normal mirror. When you turn it on, you see the TV screen and once turned off its back to being a mirror. Perfect for over wash basins, relaxing in the bath and watching TV or even in the shower.
Manufacturers are also starting to create bathroom fixtures that mimic the look and feel of furniture, such as two-person bath tubs encased in wooden frames.
The latest trend in upscale bathroom renovations is to divide the bath tub and shower by installing an open whirlpool bath and separate glass-enclosed luxury massage or steam shower.
Double sinks are a popular addition for bathrooms and toilets are being physically separated from the rest of the bathroom, either hidden behind a wall divider or away behind a door.
In place of standard porcelain, non-traditional materials such as glass, rock, wood, chrome and china are leading the way in fixtures and design. Glass tiles in blue or grey-green tints are a popular way to create a soothing, natural ambience.
Spa resort trends such as ‘chromatherapy’, aromatherapy and music therapy can be successfully applied into the design of the contemporary domestic bathroom.
Iridescent and reflective materials like pearlized glass tiles and mirrors are proving popular.
Stainless steel is making inroads with renovators who use it for medicine chests, bathtubs and shower walls and offset it with natural stone to temper the metal’s clinical feel.
Thankfully, we learnt our lesson years ago with the folly of coloured bathrooms. Leave the avocado in the kitchen where it belongs and don’t even mention gold taps!
A tranquil palette of monochromatic natural tones is not only in vogue for modern bath design; it is also the perfect trick to create a visual sense of space in a tight room.
Soft shades of sand and ocean blue-greens will work well and update your room with style. They also visually recede, making your room appear larger.
Warm earth tones are also being used to replace bathroom white, as are relaxing chocolates and creams with dark wood cabinetry featuring dark, chocolate and espresso colours.
Indulge in luxuries
Don’t get this wrong: luxurious doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Something can be inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort. It’s clear from some of my projects I’ve undertaken that people now want a more luxurious experience at home, especially if it is their holiday home.
Some clients are into yoga or Feng Shui and are requesting that we integrate those elements. Clients like to have floor heating which comes equipped with a timer that can be set to heat the tiles in the early morning and late evening, when your bare feet are most likely to hit the bathroom floor.
Whirlpool spas and mood lighting with dimmers, towel warmers, as well as installed music systems, are also being incorporated. High-end products contribute to the feeling of luxurious relaxation.
When designing the layout, remember to include furniture: it’s remarkable how much we need to store in a bathroom.
If you want to incorporate bolder colour, limit it to splash backs of coloured glass mosaics or back painted glass wall panels, which are increasingly replacing conventional ceramic tiles and can be changed easily when you are fed up of them.
The trend for the simple look means people are using wall-mounted sinks, pedestal sinks and vessel sinks as opposed to vanities with cabinets. Vessel bowls that actually sit on the countertop add artful interest but take up no more space than their unimaginative counterparts. Stylish faucets have been designed to protrude from the wall above the sink. It’s a great look and frees up precious countertop space.
A growing trend is to build shallow towers or piers of cabinets that flank the sink area. This adds valuable storage in a convenient location. Also consider the new base cabinets that do not fully extend to the floor. The illusion of these ‘floating’ cabinets is perfect for opening up limited floor space and allows the eye to reach to the full perimeter of a room.
One renovation project I worked on had a master bathroom at first glance that was a crowded, dated nightmare. A tub occupied more than half of the room making the rest of the room shallow, and inefficient countertop space was supported by old fashioned cabinetry. The shower, bath and toilet, while functional, were basic, boring and bland, and there was no flow in the room.
To remedy this we vaulted the ceiling to create a more open and light feeling which we emphasized with a skylight. We radically altered the design by creating a clear path from the entrance past the shower, cabinetry and tub and freed up the space, which gave it a relaxed feeling.
We designed ‘his and hers’ sink areas with more storage and relied on neutral, classic colours and a variety of textures to infuse the room with a sense of subtle sophistication.
The bottom line is that the once humble bathroom can transport you to your own private Zen-like retreat far from the day’s stress and strains. It is not an impossible task and when you don’t have the courage, experience, ideas or time, an interior designer will have all the answers.
For more information, please contact Teresa Azevedo Coutinho on 262 909 822, email [email protected]