It’s 50 shades of grey in the bathroom

Everyone is getting the wet room look but I could see myself mopping up forever

Bathrooms are going grey. Photograph: Getty

Bathrooms are going grey. Photograph: Getty


They say kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. We pretty much ignored this when buying our house and went with the “whichever seller accepts our daily decreasing offer” approach (it was 2011 when mortgages were offered only on a full moon and vanished after 24 hours). Considerations about the kitchen and bathroom were more in the does-the-house-have-them category. In our case, yes and yes but both in need of updating. With a very limited budget the kitchen had to take priority so the bathroom stayed as it was.

The thing about bathroom renovations is that they are not cheap. There are so many parts to it: plumbing, electrics, carpentry, plastering, tiling and, as we found out laterally, asbestos removal (yikes). In 2011, in a fit of wishful thinking, I got a quote for a complete refurbishment which came to €5,000 (it was actually cheaper to do up the kitchen) and since then home improvement costs have gone only one way.

By 2018 that price had jumped to €8,500. For that money, for just one room (and the smallest one at that) there’s no room for mistakes.


With this in mind, we decided not to take any chances and go with a bathroom company that does the whole thing as a one-stop-shop. It was more expensive than my other two quotes, but I had been frightened so much by an employee in my local tile shop who had warned about the importance of getting a reputable fitter that I went for peace of mind over price.

She had also been solemn on the subject of tiles and fittings. ‘‘Make sure you are 100 per cent happy with your choices. You’d be surprised how many people hate their new bathrooms afterwards,” she told me. This came as no surprise to me. I could easily envisage myself being that person. There are so many variables; the layout, the colour scheme, full or partial tiling, wet room look or enclosed shower, bath or no bath? (Note: Did you know that removing the bath from the bathroom may devalue your home or at the very least delay a potential sale? No, neither did I.) So many opportunities to get it wrong.

Grout cleaning

I always thought (in bathroom fantasy land) that when the time came, I would go with that lovely beige marble look very popular a few years back. But now it’s all grey. Fifty shades. Everywhere. I also dreamed of mosaic tiles but was advised that small tiles mean more grout, therefore more cleaning. (People clean grout? Gosh, a lot has changed in bathrooms since I last looked into them.)

These days the trend is very much towards larger tiles (and cleaner bathrooms). In fact, for the ultimate in smooth bathroom finishes, the latest is to simply go for one large slab of porcelain, thereby eliminating grout lines altogether. But I’m guessing if you’re in the market for large slabs of porcelain, you probably don’t have to worry too much about cleaning the bathroom or anything else.

Meanwhile back on planet grout, I had been told that “everyone” is getting the wet room look. My own gut feeling was that a wet room (not actually a true wet room as there would be a tray) wouldn’t work in our family bathroom. True, the draw of having only one large panel of glass to clean rather than a full shower enclosure was an attraction, (particularly in view of the recent revelations on grout) but I just knew that I would be mopping water off the floor forever more so we decided to stick with the traditional enclosed shower cubicle.

Funky tiling

Feeling a little unadventurous we thought we might kick up our heels with some funky tiling, perhaps even go for a three-quarter tile so we could change the decor with a re-paint down the road. But, like the British Conservative party’s Brexit “strategy” (and I use the word strategy advisedly), partial tiling led to more questions than answers. Should the shower wall not be fully tiled? How does it work where the walls meet? Realistically will it ever get re-painted? Should we not just go for maximum facilitation?

In the end we went to the beach. The five working day turnaround guaranteed by the fitters somehow turned into 10 days (they didn’t tell us that they would be starting on a Tuesday and taking the Friday and the Monday of the June bank holiday off . . . not ideal as a one bathroom family). Thank God for the good weather.

And the tiles? After months of indecision (and enough sample tiles to cover the hall, stairs and landing), my brain eventually faded to grey (with a little marfil mosaic thrown in). The Mix Concept Fango floor-tile (I’m not making this up) would indeed put you in mind of turning cartwheels cross the floor, but the icing on the cake was the de-mister, back lit mirror which glows blue at night. “Looks a bit like Rumours nightclub in here,” said my other half when it was finished. Could bring a whole new meaning to a night on the tiles.

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