The ultimate bathroom design guide – based on real experience

The ultimate bathroom design guide – based on real experience

I started a bathroom refurbishment project recently.  It’s a townhouse in Flemington, Melbourne and the bathroom was last updated in the 1990s.  My clients are in Sydney and want me to complete the project before they move in. They don’t want to change the layout, which makes things a little easier. This project is the inspiration for this ultimate bathroom design guide.

We had our first meeting over the phone so I could go through my brief questions. I broke down the different aspects of a bathroom refurb to make it easier for my clients to answer my questions.

By the end of the brief stage, I need to be clear as possible about my client’s goals and vision. I thought this approach presented a good bathroom design guide I wanted to share with you.

Bathrom refurb, before, Flemington, Grace Interior Designs

Interior Style Goal & Colour Scheme

My client had shared their Pinterest pics with lots of Moroccan styled bathrooms.  Both really traditional and more modern interpretations. Interior design is fundamentally a visual communication tool and although this Pinterest board was useful, I needed to dig a littler deeper to understand my client’s specific style goal.

I need to understand, what was it about Moroccan style that appealed to her? Was it the traditional shapes? Textures or colours?  Did she have a personal connection to this style? Did it remind her of a holiday memory, for example.

Understanding why clients choose a particular style is an important part of the brief process. It helps me immensely in the design and concept stage.

When we talked about colour I asked if she was more interested in greens or blues?  What accent colour she wanted in her hardware? As with all my projects defining a design strategy, comprising of a style goal and colour scheme from the outset was important and for this project we landed on a colour scheme of turquoise, white and walnut.

Bathroom refurb, colour scheme

Type of Bath

As the layout of the bathroom wasn’t changing, my next step was simply to address each key aspect of the bathroom. Such as the bath, vanity, shower, toilet and so on. Firstly, I wanted to know how my client used the bath.

Initially, I thought that my clients, as a couple, might prefer a double basin vanity. But I was wrong, they preferred a bath.  My clients bathe a lot and want the bathroom to be a sanctuary. So, I couldn’t suggest a smaller bath to accommodate a larger vanity.

I then asked how my client takes her bath? Does she fill the bath to the rim? Does she bend her knees or straightens her legs? How long does she spend in the bath?

As function is the fundamental basis of any interior design project, I need to know specifically and in detail how she used the bath. My next question was does she want a free standing bath?

All this information means that I have to get the biggest, deepest bath I could find to the fit the space.

Vanity, wall hung or floor hung

We then discussed the vanity, an important part of a bathroom design project because it’s usually the first thing you see. I asked if my client if they wanted a wall hung or floor hung vanity? The existing vanity is floor hung and it has, like most vanities, pipes within it, that impact the actual amount of usable storage space.

But because we’re not changing the layout and therefore the plumbing, a wall hung vanity would not conceal a section of the pipes below the vanity. So, if she wanted a wall hung vanity then did she want some kind of basket underneath to hide the pipes? Did she need the storage?

In my client’s Pinterest board she had pinned a few bathroom inspo pics with a timber or timber look vanity. I asked her if she did indeed want a timber or timber look vanity. She replied that she pinned those pics for other reasons such as the tiles. But, when I shared my initial vision for a stunning feature turquoise wall with a black vanity and brass hardware. She said no, she wanted a timber look vanity.

I love how these types of insights are revealed in the brief stage of the process and why it’s important to be very specific so earlier on. We also landed on a mirrored cabinet, rather than just a mirror, not sure yet if it’s back lit or we have wall sconces on either side.

Type of Shower

Next big decision to make for a bathroom design project is the type of shower.  There is a trend in bathroom design for a simple glass screen, but as you may know I don’t like trends. Still, I need to be certain of what my client wants and deliver this.

Bearing in mind the layout isn’t changing and the current shower screen is in a diagonal shape, I have to assume the diagonal shape shower screen was used in this space because of the direction the door opens and the distance between the open door and the shower door.

Could we change the direction of the door opening from left to right? Could we use a rectangular shower screen? Did my client mind if the toilet was more visible if we change the direction of the door opening?

Even though my client didn’t want to change the layout, some small changes could make all the difference to making the space work better. And I need to know if my client’s budget allowed for these changes or if they wanted or cared about these issues?

My goal is to install a rectangular shower screen. There’s room to do this and if we have to change the direction of the door, we can make that decision later, providing my client is happy for the toilet to be more visible, we’ll see.

Feature wall or floor

The vision I have for this project is for a stunning feature wall in a beautiful ceramic, possibly hand made, tile. But I need to confirm whether my client wanted a feature wall or a feature floor.

There is a common theory in interior design that if you want the floor to feature then the wall needs to be more simple and vice versa. Of course, this rule can be broken with great success but still in a bathroom, or any space you need to be careful when attempting multiple patterns.

My client agreed with my vision for a single feature wall and wants to spend more money on this tile feature than the floor tile. For a Moroccan styled bathroom this makes sense.

Bathroom hardware

With bathroom hardware, I think there are three main choices, black, silver, or gold/brass.  Then there are brushed or satin/gloss/shiny varieties.  Which you go for, always comes back to your style goal and colour scheme.  Some colours suit some styles more than others.  For example, in my client’s Moroccan’s style bathroom, brushed brass is the perfect choice.


When I design a space, although I’m focused on one space, I am considering the whole house at the same time.  This is true, especially for storage options. 

Knowing what clients want to store in their bathroom, from towels to toiletries, and how much space there is for storage in the bathroom and adjacent spaces is really important for me when designing a space.

It could mean the difference between a mirrored cabinet instead of just a mirror. Floating shelves, or a shelving niche. There are many options to consider but knowing what you want to store in the bathroom and what you can store elsewhere is good to know.

I think planning is key to any interior design project.  With bathroom design I think this is also true. It’s my job to consider everything, how everything in the space is going to work in the space and with the other pieces or selections. Good bathroom design is considered, functional, beautiful and personal to you and your functional needs.

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