One of the most prominent 20th-century designers, Charles Eames said: “the details are not details, they make the design” and the famous German architect of Mies van der Rohe took it a step further to say: “God is in the details.”
Every good design owes a great deal to the detailing stage and even more to a precise execution of those details. The simpler and ‘cleaner’ the design is, the more challenging it is to achieve in construction, especially when renovating an existing house. Paying attention to getting the details right really does make a difference.
1. Boxing out – Bathrooms are serviced by many different pipes, with some bulkier than others (waste pipes for example). If not considered properly at the detailing stage, pipes will generally be hidden in boxing by the builder. This creates awkward corners that are difficult to tile in a neat way, gather dust and are not really adding to the space. If your room size allows it, consider boxing out the whole wall, achieving a continuous flat surface to be finished.
2. Which Tile? When choosing tiles, you should consider five main elements; Scale, shape, colour, texture and edge.
The effect of scale on the perception of space is vast and finding an appropriate tile size is important. As a rule of thumb try and match the proportions of the room to those of the tile, i.e. do not use large tiles (even for walls) of a small bathroom and vice versa. Also consider the smaller the tile, the less your eye will flow around a room, which makes very small tiles, namely mosaics, suitable for a feature wall rather than for a complete room, or for the floor of a small space.
Shape, be it square, rectangular or hexagon will alter the feel of the room as much as scale. To this, there is no one correct answer, different applications suite different options. Generally, we find that for floors, square tiles are better to make the space feel grounded. On walls, rectangular tiles with the longest side running horizontally will allow the eye to pleasingly move around a bathroom.
Colours are a very personal choice, however for a cleaner minimalist feel its best to stick to a white and grey pallet. Matching the exact colour of two different tiles can be difficult and should be avoided (Don’t expect two whites to look the same). Speckled patterns can lend a certain tactility over a single colour tile. Of course be careful the speckled or brushed effect doesn’t repeat (It will instantly make a finish seem cheap).
Texture of tiles can range from high gloss to a rough stone like finish. White shine tile next to a matt one gives a nice feel to the surface in a very subtle way, while trying to match finish texture of two tiles can be near impossible. If you are interested in Moroccan or similar patterned tiles, it is best to limit them to a feature wall much as with the mosaics.
Finally, think about tile edge finish. A large bevel (curve) on a tile edge will add an uneven, rustic feel to the wall. However, a minimal bevel will appear more refined. This does leave the question why not straight edge, well straight is great but consider this, the micro bevel gives a slightly softer line preventing tiny imperfections in alignment presenting themselves to the eye. These imperfections are very difficult for a tiler to eliminate as the tiling process is a wet application where movements of less than a millimetre can happen.
Do not forget the grout. Grouting colour is another sometimes forgotten but important factor, a seamless feel can be achieved by using a grout colour as similar as possible to the main colour of the tile and ideally in a single colour tile, whereas a contrast of grout and tile will give definition to each tile and a pattern to the wall. Large bathrooms generally suit grouting that blends with the tile colour while contrasting grout and tile colour in small bathrooms breaks the space up, making the overall bathroom seem larger.
3. And now for something completely different. Why not leave out tiles altogether and go for a seamless alternative? There are plenty of options for using troweled or self-levelling materials on walls and floors; Mirco-crete, Terrazzo, Polished Plaster and Tadelakt to name a few. If you are after a seamless and clean look, these finishes are your best bet.
4. Declutter with a niche Remember we boxed out the walls? Well, that comes with an added value of plenty of space behind them. This space lends itself quite naturally to niches for bathroom accessories and toiletries. Placing them neatly in a niche neatens a space and can open up the potential for concealed lighting. We would recommend contrasting a niche against the existing tile finish.
5. Create an illusion with a mirror. This had to be the oldest trick in the book. However, it always works like a charm. Small spaces will benefit from a large mirror, making them feel more spacious. Whereas with a large space mirrors can create a focal point and can be smaller or of a unique design.