In the summer, we visited a friend in Somerset who has a kind of dark, quasi Moroccan-themed bathroom. It has inky walls, a hammered copper sink, Moorish lanterns and an ornate mirror. I loved it but my wife hated it. How would you make a statement with a guest bathroom?
I’m afraid to say I will be taking your wife’s side. I have nothing against rooms that celebrate ideas from other cultures, if done well. I rather like Moorish lanterns when used as ceiling lights, if they are of good quality (there are many cheap and nasty ones).
I like a good theme occasionally too, but generally I find the concept a bit dated. Unless you’re actually in the place you’re referencing, I suggest picking and mixing ideas.
I remember visiting a house in the Scottish Highlands whose bathroom was decorated in a contemporary banana-leaf wallpaper. I was torn because on one hand, I approve of creating one’s own fantasy and forgetting rules, but on the other, it completely jarred with the house’s age and thus didn’t really work for me.
I’m not saying it should have been tartan wallpaper or nothing, but I do believe one should consider and take inspiration from one’s surroundings, to some extent.
So where else to look for bathroom inspiration? I wrote about my love for the interior decorator Syrie Maugham back in late August. In the 1930s, Maugham decorated a Georgian townhouse for Helen and George Hay Whigham: its sumptuous bath/dressing room, along with the master bedroom, took up the entire second floor of the house.
It has become a favourite room of mine, with its mirrored classical pilasters surrounding a sky-blue bathtub, chrome fireplace and white fluffy rugs. The overall effect is strikingly modern and chic: pure film set. The Duchess of Argyll was reported to have said that the room was so glamorous she could have held a cocktail party in there.
Speaking of colourful bathtubs, I employed a similar trick when decorating Hotel Les Deux Gares in Paris recently. Inspired by bathrooms of the 1920s and 1930s, I tracked down a manufacturer of pastel-coloured toilets, sinks and bathtubs in the UK. The Bold Bathroom Company makes wonderful Art Deco and Edwardian-style fixtures.
I combined pale blue, pink and pistachio-green toilets and sinks (although not in the same room) with a monochrome tiled floor and chrome pillar wall lights. These bathrooms won’t be for everyone, but I’m hoping they might put a smile on guests’ faces. Perhaps we’ve all seen enough cookie-cutter hotel bathrooms dripping in expensive white marble?
Mirrored walls and a pink bathtub could be too bold, I admit, although seeing as we are discussing a guest bathroom, why not create a fun sanctuary for visitors? Wallpaper is always a good idea for making a statement.
The bathroom at interior designer Rita Konig’s farm in County Durham is a good case in point, having been decorated in Le Manach’s striking Pommes de Pin wallpaper in celadon, available from Pierre Frey.
Another designer known for her bold bathrooms is my friend Rachel Chudley. In an Islington townhouse, she hung an Alexander Calder-esque mobile above a bath, and in her own east London home, the bath is sunken into a wooden surround, giving the room a decadent, luxurious feeling.
One of hers I admire is a cobalt-blue loo with tongue-and-groove panelling and Lioness & Palms wallpaper from CommonRoom. This 1918 design is by CFA Voysey and was based on a watercolour drawing in the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Consider unconventional lighting: I’m a huge fan of the Coral Wall Lights made by Balineum with plaster artist Viola Lanari (pictured below). Made in resin, these come in six colours, but custom colours can be ordered too.
I am glad you wish to make a statement, because I reckon guest bathrooms should be uplifting and surprising. One jumped out at me from a 1995 issue of The World of Interiors recently, belonging to the designer Colin Childerley and featuring multicoloured tiles arranged in a random pattern and a prison-like steel sink. It is simple, unexpected and show-stopping. What more could you ask for?
House & Home Unlocked
FT subscribers can sign up for our weekly email newsletter containing guides to the global property market, distinctive architecture, interior design and gardens.
Sign up here with one click
Get alerts on House & Home when a new story is published