We’ve all stayed at those hotels where the toilet roll holder is awkwardly positioned, the vanity takes up way too much space and a lack of adequate ventilation makes your five-minute shower steamier than a Nicholas Sparks film. Don’t make those same mistakes.

Here’s how to design a wonderfully stylish space that you actually want to retreat to, courtesy of interior stylist Catherine Heraghty.

1. Plan in advance

Deciding what goes in the space may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an essential step best done in advance.

Will your bathroom have a bath, shower, or both? Will you have a separate toilet, and how much room is left over for storage? Will you tile from floor to ceiling, or to shower height?

Deciding all of the above first up, and then budgeting the costs of materials plus labour, could save you cost blowouts down the track.

For example, a beautiful mosaic tile may cost the same as a basic tile per square metre, but the lay rate will be quite a bit more, Catherine warns. Moral of the story? Plan ahead.

2. Maximise the space

You don’t need to be an architect to come up with a bathroom floorplan that economises on space.

To start, Catherine suggests putting pen to paper to begin sketching all the possible configurations: “You’ll soon work out which one will save you the most space,” she says.

“Once the builder has cleared the space, it’s a really good idea to mark it out on the floor and leave it there for a few days, just to make sure you’re really happy with it.

“After the plumber’s roughed in the in-wall stuff, there’s no turning back, and it becomes very expensive to change your mind.”

3. Stick to one look

Defining your style concept and actually sticking to it can be the trickiest part of designing a stylish bathroom.

But while it’s easy to get swayed by shiny new looks from opposite ends of the style spectrum, Catherine recommends keeping a visual reference of your concept – either a digital or physical moodboard – close by, to keep the space consistent.

“Whether you’re choosing a grout colour, laying tiles or deciding on a toilet, ask yourself, ‘is it at home on that moodboard?’ If it fits harmoniously, then it’s going to fit with your concept and is likely the right decision,” she says.

4. Future-proof finishes

Now for the fun part – picking out your finishes. At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, this is also the time to have your wits about you.

Think logically about what will work for you and your family. Would adjustable shower rails be useful for the household’s younger members? Should you consider the rimless toilet design and powerful flush from toilets designed with Caroma Cleanflush technology? It’d be nice to not have to scrub inside the toilet bowl so regularly, right?

Catherine’s pick is the Caroma Contemporary back-to-wall bath. “It’s a wonderful option for families because you get the look of a freestanding bath, but with the practicality element. It offers the peace of mind to families that they don’t have to worry about cleaning behind a bath, where water can splash and sit for ages, causing all sorts of issues such as mould and shower scum.”

5. Have a hero feature

Lastly, a well-designed, good-looking bathroom will always have one or two hero features.

“The reason I’d only choose one or two pieces to highlight in a bathroom is because there’s already so much going on; between the mirrors, appliances, baths and showers; and they’re not huge spaces either,” Catherine says. “I generally pick either the vanity or the bath.”

She says it’s easy to frame your hero piece with complementary feature tiles or by popping next to a window or under a mirror.

Your finishing touches should be small and complementary, not competing with the hero for attention. Think greenery, plush towels and little soaps and canisters.
Now for the fun part – picking out your finishes. At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, this is also the time to have your wits about you.