Interiors: Tap into the latest bathroom trends
From wet rooms to rainwater showers, bathe in pure comfort.
I recently stayed in a hotel with a shower jet so strong it felt like I was being flayed alive. Trouble was, the hotelier had installed an aerator system that mixed air with the water to such a degree that there wasn't enough water in that jet to drown a mouse! In the end, I gave up and ran a nice deep bath.
Now, with Irish Water tearing up the pavement outside my house, I'm wondering if that hotelier had the right idea. Should we all be fitting our bathrooms with water-saving devices? An aerator showerhead will increase the perceived volume of water without emptying the tank.
You can also retro-fit aerators on to some existing showerheads and taps, depending on the brand, often for just a couple of euro.
"I've had quite a few people take them off again too," says Tony Murphy of Tile Style (www.tilestyle.ie). "They say their shower's the only luxury of their day and they'll make the saving elsewhere."
If you're looking to save water, he suggests that you start by fixing dripping taps, which can leak an amazing amount of water.
When installing a shower, you also have to think about size. Showering in a cramped space is no fun at all. Install too small a cubicle and you could spend the next ten years bumping your elbows and struggling to pick the soap up off the floor.
Because it can be difficult to visualise a physical space from a list of measurements, Murphy suggests a test drive. "Come into the showroom and stand in one of the showers. If it was a bed or a car you'd try it before you bought it."
Level access showers are generally safer for small children and older people, but they are more expensive than contained showers as the whole room needs to be waterproofed. You'll be paying for tanking, a waterproof membrane that runs beneath the tiling. "It's almost like buying the emperor's clothes," says Murphy, "You're paying for something that you can't actually see."
That's partly why getting a wet room installed is an expensive business. You might not see much change from €4,000, but it's not an area where corner cutting is recommended. Leakage has serious consequences.
Wet room technology has improved a lot in the past ten years, as have the skills of Irish bathroom fitters, but there are many cautionary tales about the leaky wet rooms of the Celtic Tiger years. The fitter should have appropriate insurance and you should always check their references.
It is a rare household that will choose to have a bath instead of a shower, but those with the space and the money are often inclined to install a separate bathroom with a free standing bath. Almost all of these are double sided, with the taps in the middle, and range hugely in price.
A basic oval tub from Tilestyle will cost between €1,200 and €1,500, but you can pay up to €8,000 for a beaten copper bath, lovingly handmade by artisans. Taps too can be expensive, ranging from €500 to €1,000.
"The thing that shocks everyone is the brassware," says Murphy. "But it's important to buy branded showers and taps so that you can get the spare parts ten years from now."
Rain showers, which allow water to fall from a two-foot wide rose mounted in the ceiling, first came to Ireland via the posh hotels. Now they're beginning to be used in homes, although they are still regarded as being a luxury product.
"You can get showers where you can adjust the colour of the light," says Aurora Aleson, an interior designer (www.auroraaleson.com). This isn't just a gimmick, they claim: blue spectrum light wakes you up and gives you energy and red spectrum light relaxes you. But it's not light on the pocket - expect to pay around €4,000 for the thrill of dripping the light fantastic.
For a less expensive bathroom treat, you might consider installing electric under-floor heating. This starts around €250 for a square metre, but since the main cost is the thermostat, a larger area will only be slightly more expensive. "It's not the cheapest to run but it's very effective," Aleson explains. "You can have it on a timer so the floor is warm when you get up in the morning." Nice.
For bathroom storage, Aleson recommends Ikea, where the Godmorgem mirrored cabinet costs €250. "It's the only place where I've been able to buy mirrored storage with a three foot drop," she says. "The extra length makes all the difference."
She also suggests you can avoid waking the household every time you turn on the bathroom light by installing the extractor fan on a separate switch.
In terms of decoration, the trend is for very large tiles or tiles that are made to resemble planks of wood. These combine well with white walls and a clear glass partition. If you want something more expressive, you can create a mural from a fabric-backed photograph enlarged and coated with PVC. Or you can send a photograph to a company who will use it to create a mosaic. "I had a couple in with me recently who wanted to get their wedding photo made into a bathroom mural," says Murphy. "I suggested mosaic and pointed out that they could get it taken apart if they split up."
Unfortunately, the couple didn't appreciate the joke.