The Home Front: Forward-thinking bathroom design

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Breadcrumb Trail Links Renovating Homes Decorating Interior designer Josie Smith shares her conscientious and future-proofing approach to bathroom design Author of the article: Rebecca Keillor Standalone bathroom vanity with plenty of space surrounding it for those with mobility devices. Photo by Jon McMorran /PNG Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and […]

Interior designer Josie Smith shares her conscientious and future-proofing approach to bathroom design

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When it comes to design and decor, your bathroom should receive just as much love and attention as any other space in your house, says interior designer Josie Smith, founder of studio illa.

Smith recently completed a major bedroom and bathroom renovation, in Greater Vancouver, for a couple that wanted to convert their boxy 90s style rooms into something modern that would suit their lifestyle for years to come.

Smith opened up the rooms to have the bedroom flow into the bathroom, in a light, airy, open-plan design, which involved raising the ceiling to its original rafters.

“It was a project with an eye towards the future. This is a couple that has lived in the home for 30 years, and they wanted to stay there for a long time to come. The idea of aging in place is really important to them, but it’s also an idea that younger people are attracted to as well,” she says.

Modern shower design by Josie Smith of studio illa, wide enough to allow for mobility considerations.
Modern shower design by Josie Smith of studio illa, wide enough to allow for mobility considerations. Photo by Jon McMorran /PNG

Vancouver can be such a transient city, says Smith, and there is something increasingly appealing for young people about being able to stay in one place for a long time.

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The open-plan design allows for mobility aids, such as wheel-chairs or walkers, should they ever be required.

Smith also added special backing in the bathroom walls (such as in the shower), so grab bars can easily be added in the future.

“They don’t need them yet, but we made a provision for the future, just in case,” she says.

Smith also tackled some common annoyances in bathroom design in this project, such as how shower handles are often located under or next to shower faucets, causing a blast of cold water before the water warms up.

Mirrored medicine cabinets have made a comeback. Bathroom designed by Josie Smith of studio illa.
Mirrored medicine cabinets have made a comeback. Bathroom designed by Josie Smith of studio illa. Photo by Jon McMorran /PNG

To avoid this, she placed the on-and-off shower handles at the entrance to the shower, so the owners can turn it on and let it warm up for a few seconds before stepping in.

“There’s also a benefit for caretakers down the road if they’re helping someone bathe. Not as cramped, in a sense,” she says.

Choosing the right materials for your bathroom is key, says Smith, and this involves going with what you love and are also comfortable maintaining.

Certain materials — such as natural stone — require more cleaning and tending to, and for some people, the effort is worth it. Knowing what maintenance is needed for any product you chose before purchasing it is a wise idea, she says.

Lighting is another critical area in bathroom design that’s often overlooked, adds Smith. In the last few years, lighting has come a long way, she says, with LED strips now available that can be embedded behind mirrors or under millwork, allowing for different layers of light.

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“When you’re having a bath, you don’t need to have a harsh overhead light on, you can just turn on the dimmer on your hidden lights, and it makes a huge difference to the feel,” she says.

Smith says she also loves the return of the old-fashioned mirrored-medicine cabinets in bathrooms, which are now available in beautiful shapes (such as ovals) and provide storage, which bathrooms are often lacking.

Designing your bathroom to suit your future needs is a sustainable approach to renovation, says Smith.

Waste is always generated when people redo their bathrooms (or any room in the house), and so the less you do to it, the better. It’s also a more sustainable choice to go with materials produced locally, says Smith — such as natural stone.

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