Expert bathroom renovation advice

When selling or upgrading your home, a bathroom renovation should be at the top of your design list. A contemporary bathroom adds significant value and a renovation can be less costly than you think.

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Using a beautiful, functional bathroom can be a little like taking a holiday: luxurious and relaxing. Considering the amount of time you spend in the humble water closet, prioritising the renovation of your bathroom makes sense. And aside from improving your day-to-day life, a new or updated bathroom will increase your home’s value and saleability.

To help you tackle the design and renovation of your bathroom, here are some tips from architecturally trained interior designer Andrew Waller, of Mr. Waller, for his expert advice on tackling a bathroom refresh.

Allocating your budget

According to Andrew Waller, you can achieve a high-end result and add equity to your home even if you have a restricted budget. It means spending wisely and knowing which renovation work to invest in.

“Allocate some of your budget to quality fittings and materials,” says Waller. “Even if you have a relatively low budget, make sure you don’t ‘blanket’ the space with cheap materials and fittings.

“Choose a couple of areas where you spend. For example, use a luxury material like natural stone. It doesn’t have to be a large area; it could just be a narrow shelf or vanity top.”

Waller chose to use marble tiles on just one wall in the Sydney-based Balmain home pictured. The remaining tiles are a lower-cost ceramic variety. As well as reducing expenditure, the plainer ceramic tiles work to highlight the marble’s natural features.

Andrew Waller Design- Balmain 08 Marble wall - bathroom renovation

Fixtures are another key feature Waller recommends investing in. “Spend money on quality tap ware. These are areas you touch the most and will have a big impact on your experience. Many taps look the same but they feel very different. It’s like closing the door on a luxury car – you can feel the quality,” he says.

Waller strongly encourages you to try fixtures out in the showroom, particularly showerheads. Most showrooms have working fittings on display.

If your existing bathroom tiles are in relatively good condition and you are only making a small upgrade consider leaving the tiles in place. Address fixtures first and choose a small focal surface where you can incorporate a quality material. From there, the next upgrade Waller suggests is the vanity and mirror.

Design features to consider

To refresh an older-style bathroom try replacing the vanity joinery. “Bathroom vanity design is becoming more decorative. Combined with a framed mirror, the space can feel like it’s had a complete overhaul,” says Waller. “By floating or fixing the vanity joinery off the wall and leaving the space beneath clear, the space can feel much larger.”

Another way to create an impact in a small space is to take advantage of wall cavities and build storage into the existing wall space. In the Sydney-based Paddington home pictured, the bathroom cabinets are hidden behind mirrors at the end of the room and a floating vanity provides a less cluttered look.

Paddington Andrew Waller design 11 Floating vanity- bathroom renovation

If you have a large bathroom you can include furniture and other decorative items, like extra cabinetry, wall paper and even artwork for a touch of luxury. Waller incorporated wallpaper in the Arts and Craft–style home pictured. It is a vinyl wallpaper which provides greater water-resistance (though you would never use wallpaper directly within a wet area) and is easily changeable. While permanent bathroom materials such as tiling are expensive to update –and consequently often left neutral – wallpaper or paint can easily inject colour to your bathroom without the expensive commitment. Waller suggests Ascraft’s range of vinyl wallpapers.

ResidentialArts&CraftPropertyAndrewWallerDesign11 Wallpaper- bathroom renovation

A clever way to add colour to your bathroom is via its fixtures. Waller recommends Brodware Industries’ industrial-style colour range for a modern look, or investing in bronze fixtures (which are particularly in vogue at the moment). For a classic look, check out the English Tapware Company.

Make the most of your tiling

If you have sensitive feet consider mosaic tiling on the floor, as according to Waller these tiles are easier to walk on. While larger tiles have greater surface edges and grouting spaces, mosaics are laid together on a mesh backing and tend to have less pronounced edging.

A great way to add decoration to your bathroom is to contrast tile formats and scale. For example, in this Sydney harbourside home, Waller used mosaics on the walls and large-format tiles on the floor as a point of difference.

HarbourResidenceAndrewWallerDesign04 Tile scale

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Subway tiles have been a very popular choice in recent years. Waller suggests using grey or black grout for a contemporary, industrial look. This will also make the tiles easier to clean!

Practical tips

  • Review the orientation of your bathroom layout and where the focal point is upon entering the room. Invest in quality fixtures or material in this location.
  • When trying out fixtures in a display showroom, make sure you consider water pressure – and check your home’s water flow also.
  • If you are managing the bathroom renovation yourself, make sure all materials and fixtures have arrived and are undamaged before your tradespeople arrive. Failing to do this can lead to expensive delays, and supply lead times can be considerable.
  • Install a timer in electrical towel racks and floor heating. This will save energy and ensure you don’t freeze in the mornings.
  • Though you can save money by not moving the existing plumbing, there are times when the benefit will outweigh the cost. For example, Waller recently found that by adjusting the positions of the toilet and bath in an existing bathroom in a Sydney Northern Beaches home, he was able to significantly raise the height of the ceiling in the kitchen. The kitchen’s low ceiling had impacted the home’s functionality and value.

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Try to renovate your bathroom in keeping with the overall design of your home. Waller encourages interior design that emphasises a narrative throughout the home, for example, in the joinery or colour scheme. It is not about replicating exact design features, but more about creating a design language for consistency and flow.

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Image credits: Maree Homer

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