Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bathroom Choices

Bathroom Choices

What do you need in a modern day bathroom?

Bath - Vanity - Shower - Toilet - Bidet - Heated Towel Rail - Demister Mirror - Heated Floor Tiles - Heater - Extract Fan - Stereo - TV?

As our lives get busier the time we spend looking after ourselves is diminishing. Way back in time - taking a bath wasn't a luxury like it is now - it was the only way to get clean. Now in the time it takes to fill and prepare a bath we could have already run through the shower, got dressed and be onto sorting out our hair! Does it have to be this way?

From a design perspective we put so much effort into creating a bathroom that looks fantastic and has all the modern conveniences that will save water, power, keep our towels warm, make sure we don't get cold feet, keep the bathroom dry and healthy, yet we don't instruct our clients how to use it.

I start with the bath - too often now I hear people saying to me; "No we don't want a bath - we don't have kids at home anymore so we won't need it and it just collects dust that we then have to clean".
To be fair - I also thought I could live without a bath and I have kids. Space was a factor in that choice for our house and I regret it every day. I wish we had put in a bath. I have to place a very large bucket in the bottom of the shower for my youngest to have his bath in the shower! Kids love to sit in water and play, it is a great way to unwind and relax. I do believe that as adults we forget all these little tricks we use on kids and don't apply them to ourselves. I often get home from a busy day at work and feel like sitting in a bath of hot water to soak and forget the day, switch my mind off and relax. A shower just doesn't do that for you. A shower is refreshing but I don't find it relaxing.

Luxury bath
Pure luxury - relax in this bathroom

Then we have the design discussion of having a toilet in the bathroom versus having a separate toilet room. The pro's and con's - having it on the bathroom is a great way to save space in your design, it is also very convenient if you are using the bathroom to be able to go to the toilet without having to run down the hall half dressed or with a towel around you and back again. But if you are going to start using the bathroom like I explained above for some quality personal and relaxing time in the bath - the last thing you want is someone wanting to use the toilet and knocking on the door interrupting your peace. If you have multiple toilets in the home this isn't an issue. If you have one bathroom you do need to think seriously about having the toilet in a separate room.

luxury bathroom
Luxury of space in this bathroom

Showers? Do curved showers really save space? They do on a drawing, but once you are inside one they are pretty cramped. This is why I always say to clients - try before you buy. Go to the bathroom stores and go through their showrooms, stand in the shower, put your arms up as if you were washing your hair - do your elbows hit the side? Are your feet standing on the waste? This is one of my pet hates - the shower waste is often placed right in the middle where you stand, I find that very annoying.

Glass shower door
Popular Glass walls and shower door with tiled walls - plenty of space here to wash your hair
The same can be said for all the other items you need for your bathroom. Sit on the toilet, all toilets are not the same, some are higher, wider. I always look for ease of cleaning in my bathroom fitting selections also, especially if you have more than one bathroom that you will have to look after. The bath is critical for you to try. Some are very narrow and not wide enough for some peoples hips, others and too short for long legged people. You can get baths that have the waste in the middle and are designed for two - so check that out if you want to take your bathing experience further!

Heated towel rail
Heated towel rail to keep your towels dry and warm
There are so many things that you can now have in your bathroom, I have even seen bathrooms with a TV and stereo surround sound.  I could imagine Hugh Heffner may have this special feature, I am guessing that as he walks around all day in his PJ's and Bathrobe that he is a fan of lingering in a bubble bath, relaxing and watching TV!

Simple vanity
Good storage in this vanity

To summarize, bathroom design is not a difficult task. It is critical to think about each element and how it will be used in the clients home, don't be afraid to ask questions about their lifestyle. You are designing for them to use it after all. Have fun and don't forget to try all these fittings and fixtures yourself. You will be guiding them to choosing what works best for them, you need to know their advantages and disadvantages.

I am now off to dream about having a luxurious bubble bath one day soon.....

You can go and learn more about bathrooms at

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Importance of Working to a Budget

The Importance of Working to a Budget

I can't stress this enough. Budget rules! You can have the best ideas in the world but if your client can't afford it then those great ideas will go nowhere.

One of the keys to being a successful interior designer is being able to work to a budget.

Here are some tips to help you with this.

  • Lists - yes a boring list. Get your client to write down everything they want in priority order. This way you can focus on incorporating into the design what is most important and spend the money wisely. They need to be realistic and know that they won't get the entire wish list but will get the most important things.
  • Shop around. Know your products and how much they costs to install. Some items may be cheaper to purchase but cost more to install. So you don't achieve a saving, sometimes it can end up costing you more for a lesser quality finish.
  • Be realistic at the beginning when you set a budget. Don't stretch people too far at the front end as lets face it - any job, be it a new home or a renovation always has additional costs that come up along the way no matter how well you plan. You don't want your clients to feel uncomfortable and worried that they can't pay to get things finished.
  • Leading on from above. When setting a budget always factor in a contingency. Depending on the complexity a 5%, 10% or sometimes a 15% allowance over and above what you believe it will cost. That will be your true budget. 
  • Let your clients know up front if you don't think they can achieve what they want with their budget. They may not thank you for it, but better that than getting half way through a job and then telling them. That is not good for business!

  • Most of all think creatively. Don't always take the easy option. There are more ways than one to achieve a result. You are a designer and you need to think that way - look at what you want to achieve and plan how you can do that, it is sound design practice to price an option three different ways before you build it or purchase it to be able to find out the most cost effective option.  
Best of luck with sticking to your budget.
Another article on budgeting for DIY jobs

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Always Have an Opinion on Design

Always Have an Opinion on Design

This may seem like an obvious statement, but I have recently been put in my place about sitting on the fence.

Here is the background.

I had been working for a company that managed insurance rebuilds and repairs after the Christchurch earthquake. This was a very labor intensive role, a very emotional role and a role where I had to turn off my "design" way of thinking and focus on managing the process and the client. This was initially difficult as I love having input into how a new home will look. My job was to progress the rebuild or repair from taking the scope of work, through design, consent, and into construction. This sounds reasonably straight forward. It was but along the way there were constant battles between the client wanting to change things and the insurer letting them know they could but would have to pay for it. We all know when it comes to money there is always conflict! Therefore to keep the process as smooth as possible, the less change the better. So in my daily life, I stopped making comments on how I saw the new plans, I had no design input and for want of a better word, "processed" the clients on their journey to a new or repaired home rather than "guided".

I now have a new role, I am a Design and Sales Consultant for a New Home Building Company in Christchurch. With this role, I have to take the clients on a similar journey. I am organizing their design with the architect, liaising with engineers and geotech engineers, keeping them informed of progress, presenting them with costs and obtaining their building consent. I do not have to manage the build of their new home, but I have to make sure that they love what they are going to get when it is completed.

So, early on on my job when asked a question from a client about which cladding I preferred and why, I didn't have an opinion. Oops, wrong approach! I had trained myself to stay neutral, and now I have to be the person that the clients rely on providing good and qualified advice. I am happy to say that I learned the hard way and I am pleased that I now reply with not only my opinion, but reasons why you should use a specific cladding in one area and not another, which ones are most cost effective, which have the least maintenance and what is popular and in fashion at the moment. Everything the client wants to hear to be able to make informed decisions.

Have an opinion - love it or hate it and why?

The lesson that I have learned, (which I knew but had neutralized) after over 20 years of working in this industry is to not only have an opinion on design, but also ensure that you have the information and knowledge to back that opinion up. Why else would a client come to you if they don't believe that you can help them make critical decisions on their new home?

This works for Interior Design as well as Architecture.

I have one last comment. I am Lee Brown and I set up this blog years ago. For some reason, I set it up under the Google account for our business and as the years have gone by and Google have updated many things, Chris is the person attached to the account - his profile has taken over my blog! So when you read through the blog, you are listening to Lee, even though you see a picture of Chris!

Don't for get to check out our website and register for a free ecourse in interior decorating, color or curtain design and join the many others who have increased their knowledge of design.

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