I am one of those people that would rather not do something if I know I am not going to do well at it. I would say 70% of the time it relates to organised team sport or anything to do with hand-eye co-ordination, so it doesn’t really bother me. For the other 30% I admit that this trait of mine could be classed as a flaw in my character, and therefore something I should keep adding to my New Year’s resolutions. However, when it comes to my job as an interior designer, I think this “trait” actually works in my favour, particularly when budget vs quality is involved.
I am not implying that if I don’t have the desired budget, I call it quits - marching off the field, blaming the low lying sun or the dewy grass for my poor performance. Rather when it comes to a restrictive budget, this “trait” plays a big role in influencing my decision making process.
Essentially, if I don’t have the budget for plan A, I don’t compromise the quality just to achieve the look. Rather, I change the design so that the plan B option works perfectly. By doing so, I aim to successfully balance overall quality, budget and the desired aesthetic.
This isn’t just me here, ask any interior designer and they will tell you that they make hundreds of decisions every day to help their clients get the most out of a budget, and therefore produce a winning, good looking and good quality result. It’s such a large part of our jobs that it’s probably the main reason why any interior designer will stop just short of murder when somebody tells them all they do is fluff cushions.
However, what if you aren’t an interior designer, or don't have one on board? There is a good chance that perhaps you also don't have the luxury of an aerial view of a job. Seeing it from start to finish, knowing where you can redesign and tweak to get the best result. Whilst you are probably very aware of your budget, it is knowing when and where to balance budget, with aesthetics and quality, that alludes you.
One of the most common areas in the home where I see people struggle to balance these three elements, is with hard finishes. The items that get glued, screwed and fitted in. I have chatted a bit on how to best achieve this balance on items such as timber and stone, but there is another area where I feel people slip up more often than not. This area is bathrooms, and in particular, their bathroom fixtures.
So if this is you, in the spirit of The Basic Principle, and my aim for you to not have to “make the same mistakes others have already paid me to make” these are my thoughts on bathroom fixtures.
1) Read my post #ALLOYALLOY – Chrome is not the enemy. Chrome taps are akin to a white loo, so don’t feel like you have to rid your bathrooms of chrome if you are trying to be unique or make a statement with the rest of the bathroom.
2) Whilst obviously useless without them, your fixtures don't by default need be the star of the bathroom. Especially if you have to opt for something inexpensive. Place the focus on things like mirrors or wall lights to carry the “theme” of the room. If you need your taps to scream "this is a modern bathroom" for it to look like a modern bathroom, you have bigger design fish to fry I'm afraid.
3) If you are concerned about your bathroom dating (something that you should be thinking about) I hate to break it to you, but chrome, stainless steel or nickle is the way to go then. They may be in vogue now, but even black fixtures will date.
4) Same goes for quality. To fit a tap during a build is easy, to have to replace it because it was cheap and nasty, not so much. Rather opt for well-priced, good quality chrome or stainless steel fittings, which are generally easier to find, than go for a cheap plated metal just to achieve a look. If a brass tap sounds like it might be too cheap to be actual brass, chances are it is. Introduce these more specialist metal finishes elsewhere. In items that are more for show than they are for shower.
5) If you are keen to install black fixtures, which I myself have done, make them as sleek as possible. There is nothing worse than a little basin with a chunky black mixer planted in the middle. Think of it like a beauty spot...too big and it's really just a mole.
6) If in doubt, go with a cross-head taps/mixers versus a single-lever tap/mixer. Cross-head taps are, and will always be, a classic. Regardless if you are after a more traditional shape or something quite clean-line and sleek, a cross-head tap will always stand the test of time. ALWAYS
7) Whilst not really a issue of quality, more taste, an exposed shower may come in sleek, minimal options, but I always find these look best in a more traditional design. Something about a modern exposed shower just screams Ibis Executive. Likewise, a handheld shower attached at a height does not a rain shower make, and a shower head without an arm, reads a little more prison shower cubical than it does home spa.
8) Finally, as I have already discussed, I am all for mixing metals in a bathroom. However when it comes to mixing the metal finish of your actual bathroom taps, mixers, spouts etc in one room, that's a hard no. So while having chrome basin taps and a brass framed mirror is okay, having chrome basin taps and nickle shower fittings is sacrilege. I would actually go so far as to say that all bathroom fixtures should be bought from the same brand to ensure a consistency of finish. When you start mixing the finish of your taps and mixers, things start to look like a bad patchwork quilt. Like you have collected fittings over the years and thrown then all in one room once you had a full set. Rather avoid this.
A well considered bathroom is the true testament of a well thought out home. Be it the downstairs loo for guests, or the master bathroom as private sanctuary for yourself, our bathrooms serve more than just a utilitarian, practical purpose. Whilst I know that when it comes to making decisions for our home, we can't just throw in the towel if we can't have/decide that we want, but the aim of this blog is to give you the understanding of basic principles so that you can better make these decisions. Sometimes, as with your bathroom fixtures, knowing when to pair things back so they don't appear forced, on trend for the sake of it, or to simply miss the mark, is all that it takes to separate an average design with a brilliant one.