Expert Advice from Ted Wood, Partner & Architect of Botelho Wood Architects

A shower head attached to the outside of a wall or column, with a concrete paving slab set in the ground, is a simple, idyllic delight. On a perfect Bermuda evening, the shower waters both the lawn and the garden, requires no cleanup, offers sky views, and an essence of freedom (plus some degree of modesty). However, as winter approaches, there is also merit to a snug and well-considered bathroom. Here are some design suggestions:


No bathroom should be without windows. We spend a good deal of time scrubbing, brushing, and preening in these rooms. Light, and better still, a view, enriches these hygienic chores. Natural airflow is comforting and healthy; more than one window on more than one wall is the aim. Do not discount a garden view, so make one using lattice and vines, if need be. Then make sure to keep up with your gardening so that your view is always enjoyable.


A freestanding tub with floor-mounted tub filler adds both kudos and style, even if it is hardly or never used. A generous shower is a much better proposition than a cramped room with a bath.


Forget the threshold and glass door with nooks and crevices that accumulate mold and dirt. Forget the fussy mosaic floor that does not drain well and boasts discoloured grout joints.

Showers can be easy, and, when designing them, bigger really is better. At a minimum of three feet wide and five feet deep, neither a threshold nor a door is needed. All you need is a slightly textured bathroom floor tile to carry through to a slightly sloping shower floor. A big format and smooth wall tiles make cleaning easier and adds simplicity of line. Almost invisible slot drains in a back wall are neat, cheap, and a design secret.

A solid towel bar can be used for hanging a bathmat, as well as for security in the shower. And never locate the shower controls so that you get wet when turning on the shower!


Take care of steam, and odours will take care of themselves. Wonderful heated mirrors are available, but with ample air extraction close to the shower, there need never be any condensation nor attendant dampness and mildew on the mirror, window, ceiling, or wall.

Rather than ceiling shakers, use six-inch or eight-inch inline fans above the ceiling, or in an adjacent closet. Connect these with flex duct from a custom boot and discrete slot in the ceiling (another design secret) to a weatherproof hood on the outside. If done right, you will not hear the fan.

Hand Basins

The vessel basin fad may be dwindling, but they are useful in small rooms and tight spaces where counter space is at a premium. Vessel basins can project past the vanity top, allowing the vanity to be slimmer than normal if the room is narrow.

Undermounts are another option, preferable to surface mount basins as they offer a sleeker appearance and increase your countertop area.

Invest in a single hole faucet- I have yet to figure out how to wash my face or clean my teeth while simultaneously adjusting water flow and temperature with anything else.


The guidelines are simple: cantilever a vanity clear off the floor to avoid corners and having to clean the small gap underneath, and to enhance the feeling of space in the room. Stop the vanity six or more inches from end walls to avoid awkward splash back details, and, more importantly, to allow hand towels to hang within, well, hand-range. Additionally, garbage receptacles can be discretely placed below the countertop and remain accessible.


As with heated mirrors, there are great mirrors with integrated lighting available. For the DIY version, buy a frame, fit cut a mirror into it, tape LED strips on the back, and place the mirror an inch or so off the wall. This is no good for applying makeup or trimming nose hair, but it will give a soft supplemental light, enough for you to stagger out of bed during the night and do what you need to do.

Another trick with mirrors, especially in tight spaces, is to recess them into the walls. Our homes frequently have eight or six-inch thick walls and, when installing a mirror, only enough thickness to hold in place the plaster for the room on the opposite side is required. Use wall thickness for recessed mirrors, shelves, cabinets, towel warmers, whatever you need. A well-placed mirror may double your view onto that freshly acquired garden view.


This is a necessity that can be achieved by direct or indirect lighting, or by a combination of both. Pendants and sconces can be decorative, good for mood lighting, and adequate for task lighting. One mistake is to rely solely on down lighting. It is not flattering in the mirror or in reality. Consider where people stand and how the lighting works when facing a mirror. A mix of overhead and side lighting is good. 0


There are no set rules, but, in general, small rooms look best with uncluttered ceilings. Roller shades for big windows can disappear into pockets in the ceiling, leaving you free to survey your view without interruption. Rather than installing exhaust fans and surface lights to the ceiling, turn to better, more energy-friendly alternatives.


Underfloor heating feels amazing on the feet and helps keep the bathroom dry during the winter. Use a wall-mounted control to program at what temperature and time the floor is on. For new builds, be sure to insulate under and around the floor. Heated towel bars keep your towels dry and luxurious, especially when stepping out of the shower on a chilly winter day.

In conclusion, with a well-considered design, a bathroom can be sleek, easy to clean, and full of personal character. A lot of activity takes place in such a confined space, and every one of those activities should be considered and designed for. These notes are not intended as do’s or don’ts, but rather as suggestions to ensure that due thought and restless nights of thinking and planning are invested in before launching into a bathroom project.

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