Big ideas for the smallest room

Best in class: new looks for loos

Traditionally the guest bathroom has been a place for a homeowner to let his or her imagination run a bit wild. In period homes wallpaper is one way to give these spaces, however tiny, instant personality. Some homes cover these walls with photo collages of family and friends, travels and milestones. For a fresher look play with colour. Nia Morris Studio did by teaming pastel pink walls with a graphic printed green encaustic tiled floor to create a modern mood in an artisanal mill in Gloustershire. The Brooklyn wall-mounted tap set, pictured in matt black but available in 15 different finishes, costing about €1,553 from brassware brand, The Watermark Collection, provides monochrome contrast.;

The trend in contemporary bathrooms has been towards using tiling as wall texture in bathrooms of all sizes. While most family and ensuite bathrooms err on the side of plain bright ceramics in a guest bathroom, you can afford to ramp up the pattern to create a jewel effect using mosaic. You’ll find decorative examples at every price point but for sheer luxury these Collins mosaic tiles, part of the Trove collection from American-based New Ravenna, in honed Calacatta marble with brass detailing and a a water-jet stone pattern will feel deliciously tactile to the touch. It costs about €1,136 per sq m, ex delivery.


You can also make the door of the bathroom part of its design focus as New Zealand décor firm Nicola Manning Design did with this lead glass design. When the Auckland-based interiorista drew up the design and chose the colours she had a lead glass window-maker made up a sample to sign off before manufacturing the larger glass pane. Well-regarded Irish firms that do first rate work are; Glasshaus in Navan, whose cool contemporary designs riff on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and whose design prices start from €100 per sq ft; and Bianca Devito, whose recent work on the chapel window for the Jesuit community in Milltown, Dublin 6 cleverly colour blocks the glass. Her prices start from €150 per sq ft. She also runs leaded glass workshops. A one-day starter course course that will result in an A4 leaded panel size costs €125 and includes lunch and materials.;

When space is tight, it takes a creative approach to hive out a guest bathroom, says Blair Langlinais of Austin-based Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects. By utilising an otherwise empty space, such as this one under the stairs, you can install a small powder room in which guests can freshen up. In this property the generous kitchen opens into the hall. The restrictive head room inside – the toilet is situated on the sloping wall – may not suit taller home owners and the room will need first class mechanical ventilation and good lighting. Its full height door is also worth noting. From the outside it looks like a wall panel. Inside the door shape is outlined in gloss paint. Under planning such a guest bathroom just needs a door separating it from the kitchen, says chartered building surveyor Patrick Kelleher of Kelleher Associates.;

Lighting is another important consideration. You want something that will flatter but also illuminate a room that is often windowless. This Cabus overhead style by innovative lighting and furniture company Christopher Wray is designed to light the courtesy area efficiently, without causing dazzle or shadow.

It comes in chrome, copper and matte white lacquered metal finishes and in three sizes can be fitted horizontally above the mirror, pictured, or vertically either side of the looking glass. Available in three sizes; with two design options; a solid metal front plate that diffuses light above and below the florescent tube providing flattering indirect light perfect for make-up retouches or with a cut-out version offering brighter, direct light. It is respectively priced from about €410; €455, and €522, ex delivery, from the London-based design studio.

A guest bathroom is a place to reflect too so take the opportunity to play with mirrors, a very affordable form of decor. Choose an interesting shape that is flattering to the face and don’t be afraid to use multiples like these double-sided crown-shaped designs by Danish home and skin care product range Meraki. It comes in two diameters; 20cm and 25cm, the latter costs about €15 from UK-based webshop My Little Wish. What is also interesting to note is the return of the old style big brass taps which you can pick up relatively easily from salvage shops. In Dublin try Macs Warehouse, The Victorian Kitchen Company’s salvage section and BG Salvage; Kilkenny Architectural Salvage and The Store Yard, in Portlaoise, for good architectural elements.;; Macswarehouseie;;;;

The guest bathroom is also the place to make a statement with your sink choice. It can be a minimalist understatement like the compact Cielo Narciso Mini, about €2810, ex delivery, from UK-based CP Hart, or similarly contemporary styles from Alape, available at Versatile Bathrooms in Navan, also the stockist of THG whose 2015 prototype, also pictured, sadly never went into production but its contrast of ornate Italian taps with a basic oil barrel base delivers a great talking point. So don’t be afraid to try something similar at home if you’re in any way handy. You could also reimagine a Belfast sink, a horse trough and even an old dental spittoon.;

A good guest bathroom is well stocked with reading material. You will need a perch to put the books and magazines on. This Prikka stool by Artek, with a stained solid pine split seat, comes in two height options and was designed in 1955 by Finn Ilmari Tapiovaara who was a department head at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and worked for Knoll, Thonet, and Olivetti. Before setting up his own studio he worked with Aalto, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Pictured in a bathroom at the Sir Nikolai Hotel, Hamburg, it is currently on sale at London-based Skandium reduced from €485 to €412. Some suggested reading includes Michael Frayn's Matchbox Theatre, a highbrow humorous collection of brief, abstract sketches, designed to be performed in your own head, any of the QI Facts series and Passing Time in the Loo, a pick up and put down compendium of knowledge.;

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors