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Luxury bathrooms do not cost as much as you think

Luxury bathrooms do not cost as much as you think

The notion of luxury in the bathroom is particularly subjective, as we all use this room in different ways. For those who like to get up and go, a no-nonsense wet room is an ultimate luxury; for loungers, a big bath and somewhere to put a drink is essential. Look at your wish lists; what do you really crave? If it's a power shower, then the investment involved in converting a mediocre bathroom into a huge shower room is worthwhile. Certain other luxuries are only possible if you can start from scratch. These include inset ceiling speakers, for music in the bathroom, underfloor heating and pump-assisted plumbing, for excellent water pressure.

If finances permit, you might choose to include just one amazing new piece of sanitary ware that is not only sensually pleasing but will look cutting edge (and these days, bathrooms hold equal ratings with kitchens for being a designer statement). This might be something as radical as replacing your bath with a wooden Japanese tub or an oval stainless-steel bath. Alternatively, an ordinary wall-mounted acrylic basin may be replaced with a toughened glass, stone or stainless-steel bowl on a pedestal. Sleek designer taps or minimal spouts can also be added to a simple white suite.

Those satisfied with the basic suite, but who want a more polished look and sophisticated mood, should pay attention to the finishes in the bathroom, notably the bath or vanity unit panelling and counter tops. The obvious choices are stone, from limestone and granite to marble or concrete, or water-resistant hardwoods such as teak, mahogany or iroko. None of these come cheap: a slab of marble can cost as much as a sofa. Yet it is amazing how the inclusion of even a small piece of stone or wood can upgrade a bathroom. Remember to think of it as 'furniture' for the bathroom. Get the surfaces right, and a bathroom can look so cool and sophisticated that accessories can be kept to the monastic minimum.

Good lighting is essential in a bathroom; it must work efficiently by day and night to provide task illumination for shaving and be adjustable to create the correct level of relaxation. If starting from scratch, the most luxurious combination of lighting includes low-voltage ceiling lights on a dimmer switch with sidelights flanking the basin mirror to cast a flattering and helpful light for make-up. But it's not always possible to alter bathroom lighting (though you shouldn't overlook candlelight as a great mood-maker at night). If that's the case, concentrate on achieving good light control during the day. This means investing in a flexible window treatment that provides privacy but lets in maximum daylight. The best investment will be a set of American louvre shutters or wooden Venetian blinds.

For some, luxury is not so much about sensual comfort as extreme efficiency. A quality mirror comes top of the list. If the bathroom doubles as a dressing room, get a full-length mirror (ideally, one that pivots); if shaving or making up is a priority, then invest in one on a flexible arm. Other good choices include mirrors that come with an electric heating pad behind (to prevent steaming up) and those with built-in lighting. For organised individuals, who like accessible storage, then built- in cupboards and drawers fitted beneath a vanity counter top will be the ultimate.

The truly relaxing luxury bathroom suite is something of a comfort zone. Try to think of the bathroom not as a clinical washroom, but like any other room in the house. If space permits, a small sofa is a great idea - keep upholstery neutral and splash-resistant, such as soft towelling. Alternatively, a dressing table or chest of drawers could be added.

It can feel very luxurious to add unexpected fabrics and textures to the bathroom. Clipping an antique linen sheet in front of a plastic shower curtain or white roller blind is one option; laying a rug on the floor is another. It's your choice whether these extras are colourful or neutral - a splash of colour can be truly uplifting in a pared-down space.

If you are already armed with white towels, invest in some extras to provide the luxury of choice. A set of towels in a colour you love can offset the severity of stone surfaces. Monogrammed towels or embroidered guest towels trimmed with satin ribbon are a true luxury. Exercise great restraint when choosing accessories. If there are polished stone or wood surfaces, contrast that glamour with glass canisters and boxes. A sleek white suite could be pepped up with a metal bowl of scented soaps. Don't forget the power of paintings. Provided the bathroom is well ventilated, art won't suffer and provides the perfect individual stamp for creating a relaxing, private room.