How to create a warm, decorative bathroom for a country house

Interior designer Nicole Salvesen, co-founder of Salvesen Graham, offers advice on adding warmth and decorative detail to a bathroom.

What is your approach to bathroom design?

We like to treat a bathroom as if it were any other room in the house, somewhere you can spend time and relax, rather than thinking of it as a purely utilitarian space. We don’t shy away from adding fabrics and texture to a bathroom and will often include a pretty armchair or stool, covered in a soft towelling fabric, and wall lights with fabric shades to match the window blinds.

Won’t steam damage fabrics?

Not if you get the bones right first!

It is important to make sure the room is adequately ventilated. The same applies to heating. We often use rugs and carpets made from re-purposed plastic bottles that are water resistant and, if laid on top of underfloor heating, will stay dry.

Several manufacturers are now creating interesting designs using these materials, including Weaver Green (www.weavergreen.com) and Jennifer Manners.

Salvesen Graham designs, marbleised wallpaper

Salvesen Graham designs, marbleised wallpaper

What other flooring materials do you like to use?

We rarely use plain tiles, which can be cold, hard and slippery. However, we do use encaustic tiles with a matt, patterned finish to introduce a decorative feel. Wood floors, topped with a rug, can add texture, or we might choose a painted wood floor for a children’s bathroom.

How do you choose baths and fittings?

It is important to think about shape. If we are using marble – on a vanity top, for example – we might finish it with a rounded edge. Similarly, we will choose a gently rounded shape for a free-standing bath. We also like coloured baths, such as the Rockwell by The Water Monopoly, or a traditional clawfoot bath with a painted exterior. Our bathrooms tend not to feel ‘fitted’. Free-standing pieces will help to create a less utilitarian feel. We might bring in a brass drinks trolley or a wooden étagère to sit by a bath, as somewhere for a glass of wine or to rest an iPad. We think about how someone will relax in the space.

‘Is there room for a little antique chair or a pretty cup to hold your toothbrush?’

What about storage?

A good variety of storage, according to requirements, is very useful, so we always try to include mirror cabinets, as well as vanity units with drawers. Make sure the towel rail has sufficient width to warm enough towels: The Sterlingham Company (www.sterlingham.co.uk) makes towel warmers in bespoke sizes.

How do you approach shower design?

We try to make showering spaces as big as possible and will often use decorative tiles on the walls, with a marble or manufacturer’s shower tray on the floor.

Pale-blue Rockwell bath, £5,952, from The Water Monopoly, www.thewatermonopoly.com

Pale-blue Rockwell bath, £5,952, from The Water Monopoly, www.thewatermonopoly.com

What other decorative elements do you consider?

Unlacquered brass and nickel finishes tend to create a softer feeling than polished chrome. If the space is large enough, a generous, beautiful curtain can make a bathroom feel opulent and special.

What about the walls?

We also love using wallpaper, as a way of making the bathroom seem akin to other rooms in the house. Use common sense as to where you use it or choose a vinyl or special bathroom waterproof wallpaper if you are worried about splashes. Sometimes, we’ll use wallpaper throughout and cover it with glass in the shower area.

Suggestions for small bathrooms?

Use patterned encaustic tiles. If there’s not enough room for fabric. Is there room for a little antique chair or a pretty cup to hold your toothbrush?