WORDS: ANNE SCHAUFFER | IMAGE: SHUTTERSTOCK

Clean lines, and no clutter, is Lee Moon of Lee Moon Interiors’s design philosophy for bathrooms. Top of her list would be to remove all outdated wall cabinets and wall tiles, and retile only where necessary with a light-coloured, neutral tile. “I often use sheets of glass mosaics as these are reasonably priced, and have an amazing impact.” If you can’t or don’t want to remove tiles, she suggests scraping out old dirty grouting and redoing just that.

Mirror, mirror

“A successful way of changing the look is a plain, huge mirror, either ordered to size or standard, from hardware and homeware stores. I usually custom make, as I can choose a slightly thicker mirror (5mm) with polished edges. Install a large one above the basin directly onto the splash back, and if you have a bath, install another above it. Never install a mirror onto a plain plastered wall. Chemicals leach out of the plaster and react with the coating on the mirror and it will discolour very quickly,” she explains.

It’s on top

“Replace the counter top. If the budget doesn’t run to a stone or granite top, there are melamine finishes that resemble that look, and can easily be cut to size to change out the old and tired counter,” she says. Don’t move the fixtures The primary advice of domestic renovation specialist Natalie Mallett, Al Gusto Pty Ltd, is what not to do. “Don’t alter the position of the main fixtures. Your biggest cost will be changing plumbing points. Change the actual bath or basin, but not where it is.”

Tiles and paint

For her, a relatively easy way of transforming the room, is to chop off all the wall tiles – other than in the shower – skim the walls, apply a primer and paint. Don’t have a tiled skirting? Use a PVC or pine one with moulded detail which you paint. She cautions against painting wall tiles. “If you do it the right way, it can end up expensive, and longevity is poor.” For those with old, grimy-looking, step-in showers, consider a new mosaic floor. “Chip at the existing ones to roughen them, and apply new ones on top.” Natalie’s other suggestion, “If the bathroom is very dated – green with flowers – bring in the enamel specialist to quote on respraying the entire bathroom white. They’ll tape up your windows, and re-enamel the bath, walls, and floor tiles. We recently redid a ’70s bathroom that way, taped up the mirrors within the tiling, and once the respray was complete, fitted a black timber frame around the mirror. It looked great.” An easy upgrade – if space allows – is to replace the white sliding shower door with a frameless pivot door. “Or, if you’re happy to lose your bath, replace the bath with a walk-in shower – you’re not altering the plumbing.”

Light

For windows, Natalie suggests fitting sandblasted vinyl over the glazing. “Or if it’s a really old bathroom with frosted glass, replace with translucent laminated glass. Bathroom windows are usually tiny, so, if you can, consider American shutters – you’ll only need little ones.” Work towards a neutral palette. “Hanging indoor plants give a beautiful feel to a bathroom, far better than chandeliers – you won’t get an electrical compliance certificate if you have open fittings. For lighting, choose ceiling-mounted LED fittings with natural light globes – they’ll improve the look and the visibility in the bathroom.”

Luxe touches

Changing your fittings, like the taps – rather than fixtures – can go a long way to upgrading the look. Take care, though, says Natalie, as some jobs require experts. “It’s not as simple as swopping hot and cold taps for a mixer. You need to know that you have balanced water pressure throughout your home.” She also recommends that plumbers install bathroom accessories such as towel rails and toilet roll holders to avoid accidental drilling into pipes. And, she adds, “Heated towel rails. They’re good looking and functional.”