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bathrooms made easy

From Habitat magazine - issue 02

For most of us, a bathroom does not serve a purely functional purpose. It can provide a sanctuary in which to linger and reflect while we wash away the cares of the day. A bathroom can also be a place in which to quickly revitalise and refresh ourselves. Sue Reidy investigates bathroom design solutions.

Our featured bathroom, with its clean and contemporary appearance, answers both the practical and sensual requirements of a well-designed space. It also demonstrates what can be achieved on a medium-sized budget. Nelson architect Hugh Grant, of Hugh Grant Architecture, planned the layout of this Signature Homes showhome bathroom in Stoke, Nelson. The detailing and selection of fixtures and fittings were carried out by the Nelson Signature Homes team.

Bathroom tiles

The tiling is innovative, with its use of unusually large rectangular tiles. The feature tile bands run around the length of the wall and through the shower to create visual interest. Underfloor heating is installed beneath the floor tiles, as is common in the South Island.

A Clearlite Bathrooms Gauguin spa bath was chosen for its suitability in bathrooms where space is at a premium, and is fitted with an electronic pump to keep the water warm. Remember, if you’re planning on installing a spa bath, make sure the pump can be easily accessed – it can save considerable time and money in the long run.

Bathroom ventilation is provided by a ceiling fan, which is ducted to the exterior wall, to help prevent the development of damp and mould.

All Signature Homes bathrooms are lined with GIB Aqualine, a product specially designed for walls and ceilings in wet areas. The Resene SpaceCote paint on the walls has likewise been specially developed for use in such spaces.

Where do you start?

Bathrooms and kitchens are, without doubt, the most highly used areas in any home and present their own particular design challenges.

Auckland interior designer Jo Baylis advises anyone building a new home to make sure that planning is finalised prior to any building work commencing. Once pipework has been set into concrete – literally – it can be difficult to explore alternative options.

Before she begins work on designing or renovating a bathroom, Jo discusses the requirements of each of the people who will be using the room, the physical constraints of the space, and the look and feel envisaged by the owner. Priorities are then set according to what can be achieved within the budget.

The majority of the cost of any bathroom is in the installation: builder, plumber, tiler, electrician, plasterboard-stopper, waterproofing, painter, and a joiner for any custom-made cabinetry. Then, products will generally absorb around a third of the budget, says Jo.

Using a bathroom designer can cost anything from $500 upwards, depending on the scope of the project. However, the cost of planning up front can save you both money and stress during the construction process.

Tiles and blinds
Vanity and tile floor.
Vanity: Clearlite Cosmos vitreous china double bowl, Floor: Bali Avorio 316mm x 316mm Floor inserts and wall banding: Metallica Alpax grid 200mm x 200mm.

Things to think about


It’s vital to choose a wet area-rated plasterboard to line the walls underneath tiling, and the ceilings.

Water pressure

Think about the quality of your water flow and what will work best for you – mains pressure or low pressure.

Water heating

Around 45% of most families’ monthly electricity bill is spent heating the water in their hot water cylinder and storing it at the required temperature, so it might be worth looking at a gas-fired continuous-flow water heater.

Instead of paying to store hot water, continuous-flow water heaters take cold water from your mains and heat it within seconds on demand. This means you only heat – and pay for – the hot water you actually use. They can also be advantageous in homes where space is at a premium, as the system – and the LP gas bottles that feed it if you’re not on mains gas – can be installed outside. The gas bottles come in different sizes, too, and will need refilling periodically. If you go with a Rockgas Homepack, for example, which consists of two 45kg cylinders, you’re looking at filling them about six to nine times a year for an average four-person family.


Extractor fans are vital in any bathroom to prevent mould and to extend the life of the bathroom fittings.


Ask the electrician to install separate light switches for fans, heaters, mood and functional lighting.


Obtain plumbing advice before you decide to move items around in your bathroom. For example, it can be difficult to put a toilet against an inside wall in a house with a concrete floor, because there’s nowhere for the waste to go. It’s much easier to cut a hole in timber floors in an older home.


Tiles may be affordable, but don’t forget that most of the cost is in the installation. Tiling starts at around $50 per metre. Small mosaic tiles can cost anything up to $150 per metre to lay.

Project management/builders/subcontractors

Paying your subcontractors separately may save you money, but it may also be false economy. Subcontractors often need to return to the site several times and scheduling them in the right sequence can become a logistical nightmare for the inexperienced. A project manager has a team of subcontractors who are used to working together and have an understanding of where their roles finish and the others begin. If you are managing a raft of separate subcontractors and something goes wrong, it could be difficult for you to establish who is responsible and how to fix the problem. For many people, having a project manager is well worth the extra cost.

Lastly, always make sure you get guarantees for products and workmanship.

Blind: Luxaflex 45mm cedar blind.

Bath and vanity detail.
Bath: Clearlite Gauguin spa bath, Tapware: Aquatica, Heater: Scope wall fan heater 977 in stainless steel, Towel rail: Scope 4 – Bar towel warmer in chrome, Wall tiles: Degas White 333mm x 600mm, Get this interior look with Resene Zylone SpaceCote, tinted to Resene Tana. Tiling: Tile House, Richmond, Nelson.

DIY checklist

Before you start

  • Review what you like and don’t like about your current bathroom – what will your priorities be?
  • Set a reasonable budget.
  • Measure your bathroom and draw a sketch to scale.
  • Contact the council to confirm any minimum clearances or regulations that may apply.


  • Gather style ideas and work out what you like.
  • Determine the fixtures you want in your new bathroom.
  • Work out a layout that makes the best use of the space and fits your needs.
  • Confirm colours, finishes, lighting, storage and accessories.

Before building

  • Get a building permit if you need one.
  • Prepare a materials list and get it priced by your suppliers.
  • Arrange financing if necessary. S
  • Elect any specialist contractors.


  • Draw up a general outline of how the process will work and list the materials that will be needed for each phase. The idea is to do everything once only, so the order of tasks is important, especially as you will be without your key bathroom functions for a time. Usually:
    1. Walls and floor stripped back.
    2. Water supply shut off at the mains, plumbing connections dismantled, and toilet, bath, shower and basin removed.
    3. New floor substrate installed if necessary to ensure an even, waterproof surface.
    4. New wiring installed if necessary.
    5. New plumbing installed if necessary.
    6. New fixtures installed.
    7. Tiles cut, laid and grouted. The jury is open on whether grouting should be sealed – sealing helps prevent grouting damage and tile movement from water, but there is a risk of water under the sealer encouraging mould.
    8. Walls painted with appropriate wet area paint.
    9. Silicon sealant laid between fixtures and wall and floor where necessary to stop leakage.
    10. Enjoy stylish new bathroom! Talk to suppliers to establish lead times on any special order materials or fixtures and place orders in advance. Leave a little extra time, so mistakes can be corrected without holding up the job. Arrange for a building inspector to check the job when necessary.
  • Talk to suppliers to establish lead times on any special order materials or fixtures and place orders in advance. Leave a little extra time so mistakes can be corrected without holding up the job
  • Arrange for a building inspector to check the job when necessary.

words: Sue Reidy
pictures: Daniel Allen

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