Want to save money and space? Rip out your bathtub
Never has it been more expensive to run a bath. According to recent research by Yorkshire Water, the cost of running a bath is set to rise to over £1,000 a year, based on an average of three baths a week, due not to water rates but to rocketing energy prices. So is it time to ditch the bath and design a dream shower room that will make the most of the space in your bathroom, as well as delivering environmental benefits and significant annual savings?
According to research, running baths cost an average of £542.88 per year in 2022, a 79 per cent rise since 2021, when it cost £303.70. For 2023, these costs are predicted to increase to an eye-watering £1,023.36. In contrast, the average household will have 754 showers this year, at an average length of eight minutes, which would cost £256.36. Quite a saving. But if you’re planning a bathroom revamp, is removing the bath tub altogether a decision you might regret?
Opinion on this is varied. The feeling among some estate agents is that while not having a bath won’t actually devalue your house, it might make it harder to sell down the line, depending on your target buyer. “We find in a family home a bath is essential, especially where there are young children,” says Philip Green, director of estate agency Goldschmidt & Howland (g-h.co.uk), “so if possible it’s a good idea to keep at least one bath in a house.”
1 Body justified: However, Neil Curtis, senior designer of Ripples Bathrooms (ripplesbathrooms.com), makes the point that you should design a bathroom for how you want to use it, rather than thinking about how it might affect a future house sale.
“If there is only one bathroom in the house, resale value shouldn’t be a deterrent from pulling out the bath,” he says. “Think about the bathroom you want to enjoy for many years to come: after all, if you do go on to sell at a later date, the new homeowners can always put a bath back in if it’s important to them. I find that most of the time, when people buy a house they will consider changing the bathroom anyway because it may not be to their taste or needs updating, regardless of whether it has a bath or not.”
In many cases, a shower room is actually preferable. “In my recent experience, more and more people have asked to remove the bath and put in a walk-in shower instead,” says Curtis. “This seems particularly prevalent among the older generation or those purchasing their ‘forever home’, because they are thinking of the best ways to future-proof their bathrooms to ensure they have easy access in the coming years, not just today. Older clients are also asking for additional items now to prepare them for the future, such as discreet grab bars in a shower, and seats or benches which offer a place to perch while showering. These needn’t look functional or clinical; there are so many beautifully designed, stylish options available these days.”
Design ergonomics should also be considered. Polly Shearer, bathroom design expert at Drench (drench.co.uk), points out that in a small bathroom, installing a shower makes more sense than trying to squeeze in a bath. “The average shower tray size ranges from 700mm x 700mm to 900mm x 900mm, so it takes up considerably less space than a regular-sized bath, which is 1700mm x 800mm,” she says, adding that a wet room with a level floor surface is in many cases a more practical option.
So how do you go about designing a shower room that will give you the relaxing, spa-like experience of a soak in a bath? The following examples should provide some inspiration.
Zone the space
A dated 1990s-style bathroom was transformed into this contemporary shower room. “The owner wanted a new shower room with a classic, masculine feel. The bold, robust, very English design takes full advantage of the space,” says designer James Lentaigne of Drummonds (drummonds-uk.com).
“The bath was taken out to open up the room, and the enclosure now divides the room into two distinct zones – the ‘wet’ area and the ‘dry’ area, which includes the basin with a Verde Guatemala marble top. Brass finishes throughout are used to add to the traditional feel.”
Add personality with colour and pattern
“While a shower is a place of cleanliness and sanitation, it needn’t be clinical,” says interior designer Naomi Astley Clarke. “A warm and cosy room with dark and moody colours punctuated with shiny brass or chrome and white sanitaryware can be fresh and crisp, at the same time as being cosy. Materiality is key – marbles, stones, tiles, timbers and metals.
Mix and match to your heart’s content, and don’t be afraid of introducing brass with chrome in the bathroom – but don’t try to cram too much into a small space.” Her advice is to invest in a stylish heated towel rail: “Nothing beats a warm towel in the winter, and make sure it is nicely within reach of your shower space.” Since the pandemic, Clarke has found she has been installing many more at-home steam shower rooms than before, as an alternative to a bath.
Make sure it’s watertight
“When creating a walk-in shower room such as this, it’s always vital to ensure a watertight tanking system when the substructure is installed, as well as good gradients to the floor tile layout so there is no overspill of water into the rest of the bathroom,” says Georgina Cave of Cave Interiors (caveinteriors.com). “Also consider the type and size of your showerhead – for both ecological and economic needs – as this will dictate the volume of water used.
Having a separate hand shower will help for everyday cleaning or simply for when you don’t want to get your hair wet. Storage in any bathroom is equally important and the bespoke vanity unit we designed here provides ample room for toiletries and cleaning products to be stowed away, keeping the surfaces clear for prettier accessories.”
Maximise a small space
This shower room was carved out from a master bedroom to create an ensuite. “The owners prefer showers to baths,” explains Caitlin Dowe-Sandes of Popham Design (pophamdesign.com). “There was only a small window to let in natural light, so we wanted to bring in fresh colour and movement in the shower room and used these leaf-shaped tiles on the walls and floor, which look as though they are tumbling out of the enclosure. We left the ‘ragged’ look at the top to showcase the shape of the tiles. The loo is hidden behind a half wall that holds the sink, which maximises the small space.”
Create a spacious sanctuary
Here, the designers opted for a large walk-in shower rather than shoehorning in a bath, to allow for a better and more spacious showering experience. “The current trend for small rectangular tiles laid vertically or in a brick effect are suited to a shower enclosure,” says Diane Hyde of tile company Craven Dunnill Jackfield.
“Any tile up to around 60cm x 30cm will work well. Matt tiles in light, muted and natural tones or highly reflective gloss tiles are great ways of creating a sense of space. Heavily patterned tiles are perfect for creating feature walls or for use with a larger shower room, but keep in mind that they can be overpowering if used in a small space. Using grout that blends with the colour of the tile is a useful tool that can make a room appear less busy.”
Future-proof the bathroom
“We completed this shower room for a customer’s elderly mother – she wanted to modernise and future-proof it,” says Neil Harrold of Simply Bathrooms.
“We took out the bath and fully refurbished the room, brought it up to date and added level access and unobtrusive grab rails. We also added a recess in the walls for toiletries that are within easy reach. Also, the customer was aware that she may have to sell the house in the next few years, so these updates needed to be appealing to future buyers and also add value to the property.”