How can you add character to the bathroom?

Linda Clayton Home and Garden Correspondent

All too often, the bathroom is a room that we overlook when styling our homes. White and grey porcelain and stone take over, and we focus on creating functional, easy-to-clean spaces, rather than beautiful ones filled with character.

Yet it’s worth paying attention to these rooms and by looking to the past, we can find inspiration in times when the bathroom was a continuation of the grandeur, luxury, and comfort found throughout the rest of your house.

Here are eight tips from design experts on how to add character and charm to a bathroom:

Create a focal fireplace

‘Having a fireplace in a bathroom adds wonderful character to the room,’ says Mary Graham, co-founder of Salvesen Graham. This bespoke fender, upholstered in Soane’s Old Flax, is a lovely detail that recalls bygone days. ‘The traditional fireplace reflects the tone of the room, intentionally bringing in a new layer to the scheme and creating an inviting environment with a classical feel.’

Introduce wall panelling

Wall paneling may be big in interior design trends right now but its origins in homes from the Tudor period onwards make it a strong choice for traditional bathroom decor today.

‘In a bathroom with high ceilings, paneling can help break up the walls and add visual interest,’ says Jamie Bebbington, managing director, Aston Matthews. ‘Try tongue-and-groove panelling for a country cottage effect, while square beaded panels work well in a grander setting.’

Try traditional-style tiling

‘Traditional-style bathroom tiles, especially ones that are handmade, handpainted and full of unique character, are a great choice in older properties,’ says designer and colour consultant Emma Diaz, who chose these classic Delft style tiles for the bathroom in her Cotswolds cottage.

‘The uneven finish of handmade tiles naturally softens the space, no matter what colour or design you use, and feel more harmonious in their surroundings compared to uniform, machine-made tiles.’

Embrace period quirks

‘Do consider head height – a basin wouldn’t work here, but the bath, sat at a rakish angle allowing a peep to the flamingo behind, looks stunning as you step into the room,’ says head of design, Louise Ashdown.

Opt for curtains over blinds

The unexpected use of sumptuous full-length curtains with deep pleats and a traditional pelmet brings the grandeur of a historic hotel bathroom to this space.

‘Exclusively used by a careful lady owner, we went against all the rules and chose luxurious silk curtains but in a family bathroom we’d recommend the amazing outdoor fabrics now available – try Pierre Frey – that no longer feel like woven plastic and are soft and warm,’ says Nicky Mudie, director, Violet & George.

Decorate with patterned wallpaper

‘Wallpaper is so effective on slanted ceilings. I think it is a very English thing, that adds even more comfort and cosiness to walls that already have character,’ says interior designer Sarah Vanrenen.

‘This is the principal bathroom in a 15th-century manor house and we wanted to make it really luxurious. The clients had a wonderful art collection, so we hung some lovely paintings to add to the splendour.’

Incorporate antique finds

Lean into the authenticity of a traditional home by decorating with antiques for every element, right down to the accessories. In this period home, anything new was vetoed, and even the bathroom flooring was reclaimed from a nearby nunnery.

‘Antiques and montage pieces make a bathroom feel less utilitarian and more like a comfortable room that happens to be for bathing,’ says Henriette von Stockhausen, creative director, VSP Interiors.

Welcome dark wooden elements

Bathroom with patterned wallpaper and dark wood cabinet and sink unit and free-standing white bath

Popular in the early 20th century, bringing furniture in dark wood, such as rosewood and mahogany, into the bathroom lends a richness and texture that’s perfect for paying homage to a period setting.

‘The dark wood vanity grounds this bathroom to the historical elements of the home and creates a warm atmosphere,’ agrees Tanya Smith-Shiflett, founder of Unique Kitchens and Baths. ‘The linen closet is a vintage piece that adds richness and provides that traditional element that only vintage pieces can achieve.’

As with any room in the house, in the early stages of designing a bathroom, it’s worth considering the true historical value of the room, and whether there are original features that should be preserved or even emphasized.

However even when working with a modern room full of clean lines, smooth surfaces, and equal proportions, adhere to the above design tips and tricks and you can recreate a characterful space.

By adding period-style flourishes, you can build up a layered bathroom interior that is brimming with character – a welcoming space that you want to linger in as you go about your morning and evening cleansing rituals.

Elegant and luxurious, like the restrooms of historical homes, yet with all the convenience and functionality of modern times. – IOLNews

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