Bathroom

An expert’s guide on how to design a luxurious ensuite

Make a space you'll fall in love with.
Tumbled stone tiles leading to a freestanding bath by a window.Photography: Armelle Habib

If you have enough space for your own ensuite then, to many people, you’re living the dream. However, when planning this hardworking room, it can be easy to get bogged down in practicality and function while forgetting all about style. Here, Kate Walker of KWD shares her top tips to perfect this balancing act, so you can ensure your ensuite hits the sweet spot.

An archway leading into an ensuite with a stone vanity and green seat.
The dramatic veining on the Amazonia stone vanity is stunning in this ensuite. Custom shield mirrors from Outlines sit above twin basins, which allow for fuss-free sharing in those busy moments. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

Getting started

If you want to begin your day on a positive note, then creating an ensuite you truly love is a great place to start. After all, bathrooms are usually the first room we step into each morning, so it makes sense that they can help set the tone of our day. “An ensuite should be designed to engender a sense of wellbeing, peace and calmness,” says Kate. And, as always, preparation is key to a delightful design.

Ensuite planning and preparation

1. Get the right layout placement

Identifying the right position in your home’s floor plan can make a world of difference for your ensuite, especially when it comes to letting in extra light. “Whether it’s a new build or a renovation, we always try to position an ensuite bathroom facing east to capture the morning light,” explains Kate. Not only does an abundance of natural light help with make-up application in the morning, it’s also a strong mood booster. “There’s something so special about capturing the natural light when you’re getting ready to face the day,” adds Kate. If an eastern orientation isn’t possible, consider adding a skylight or strategically placing mirrors to reflect the sunshine.

An ensuite with a double shower and marble black and white checked tiles.
KWD created a playful pattern with ‘Bianca’ Carrara tumbled cobblestones and ‘Pietra Grey’ tumbled marble tiles on the walls and floors. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

2. Identify sightlines

Clever ensuite design doesn’t just make for a better-looking bathroom – it also allows for flexibility and functionality so multiple people can use the space simultaneously. Shared bathrooms are intimate, so including some privacy helps keep the peace. “Sightlines are so important,” says Kate, who believes hiding the toilet from view of adjoining bedrooms or walk-in robes is a must. “If space allows, we always recommend a toilet and shower separated by fluted glass to allow natural light to filter in while maintaining privacy,” she suggests.

An ensuite with a side-by-side marble doorways to a shower and toilet.
In this ensuite, doors to the shower and powder room are framed in the same stone used on the vanity for cohesion. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

3. Think about functionality

“Organisation is definitely key to a feeling of wellbeing,” says Kate. Instead of rushing through the planning stage, stop and think about every step of your household’s daily bathroom use, then ask yourself what you need to create an intrinsic sense of ease during those moments. “Create a considered space for everything, so the rush of the bathroom routine in the morning is intuitive and automatic,” says Kate. Oft forgotten – but important – design details include rubbish bins and laundry hampers incorporated into your joinery to maintain a seamless and uncluttered look, while also increasing functionality.

Ensuite decoration and styling

No matter how clever the design of your ensuite, the space is never going to feel quite right if your bathroom is visually lacklustre. And how disappointing would it be to spend so much time on this room, only to fall at the final hurdle. Decoration and styling constitute more than a simple cherry on top of a well-organised zone; they are essential ingredients to create an ensuite that is perfect for you and your family.

4. Make it cosy

“An ensuite bathroom should feel anything but sterile,” warns Kate. “There’s no need for reflective, cold surfaces.” These bathrooms are extensions of the bedroom, so they should reflect all the comforts, textures and tones found within it. There are many ways to incorporate stylistic elements from your bedroom and home into your ensuite. You could adopt the same colour palette, repeat lighting featured elsewhere in your interior or use the same materials in other rooms for your vanity top and joinery. The key is to extend your style into the ensuite for a warm and welcoming environment.

A freestanding bath surrounded by windows and blush curtains.
Autumnal curtains from Lynch’s Window Fashions demonstrate how drapes can be decorative, serve a practical purpose and add softness to a historically perfunctory, cold and hard-surfaced space. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Julia Green & White Picket Interiors)

5. Use wallpaper and panelling

While tiles and stone are popular, they are not the only option available. “Consider different wall treatments like panelling or wallpaper,” suggests Kate. “As long as the shower is separate and waterproof, you can be creative with materials to create a joyful space.” A well-considered scheme can also complement other features in your home. If you have a Queenslander, VJ panelling will speak to the architectural style of its design. And don’t forget wallpaper – it’s a simple but effective way to introduce colour, pattern and personality. Looking to decorate your walls with artwork but concerned about humidity? Simply ensure your shower is well-ventilated.

An ensuite with red tree-themed wallpaper and a marble-topped vanity.
Neutral tones form a warm base in this guest ensuite, allowing the Cole & Son ‘Seafern’ wallpaper in Rouge on Parchment to take centre stage with its modern interpretation on antique botanical prints. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green & Jade Lee Martin)

6. Invest in high-quality fixtures

Where possible, indulge in the best of the best. After all, your ensuite is your personal sanctuary. Kate recommends beautiful tapware in a finish that will patina over time for that prized mix of aesthetics and hardy functionality. “Natural materials such as stone feel beautiful underfoot,” she adds. “In an ensuite, which is usually only used by the parents in a household, it’s wonderful to have a feature bath in front of full-height windows. Having a view to look out on adds to the appeal.” Lightweight curtains achieve privacy and add romance.

A classic ensuite with gold tree-themed wallpaper and a vintage-style vanity.
Custom joinery built by Vansellar Kitchens provides stylish storage. This frees up the basin to be decorative, with beautiful brass stands to complement the warm bathroom. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green & Jade Lee Martin)

Functional ensuite features

Once you’ve planned the location and layout of your ensuite, you need to knuckle down and focus on functionality. Since the ultimate aim is a relaxing and effortless space that can withstand busy mornings with high traffic, there’s no design detail that’s too small to be considered. Every feature can aid convenience. From ample storage to cleverly positioned power points, practicality is the backbone of this space.

7. Carefully consider storage

The importance of storage in an ensuite cannot be overstated. But it’s not just the amount of storage that matters, it’s the type and placement that make all the difference, too. “Think carefully about how you use the space to ensure everything is at your fingertips and out of sight where possible,” says Kate. “Eye-height storage is an excellent choice so you can avoid having to bend.” She also cautions against open shelving. “Bathrooms can get dirty and no matter how conscientious you are, shelves need to be cleaned and will fill with things you don’t want to see.” And don’t forget a place to store your bath towels! Although they can be stored in a linen cupboard, it’s much easier to have them close at hand in the bathroom.

A large ochre vanity and bench in an ensuite.
Hepburn Hardware’s ‘Henley’ handles in Acid Wash Brass and Brodware ‘Manhattan’ tapware in Rumbled Brass Organic from E&S. The bench seating, custom designed by KWD, continues the striped theme on the flooring. (Photography: Armelle Habib)

8. Get a bathroom electrician

Knowledge is power, so consult a qualified electrician before you start planning lighting and power points. You’ll also need different types of lighting in your ensuite – task lighting is important for make-up application and shaving, while feature lighting in the form of wall sconces or pendants adds a sense of luxury and makes a style statement. When it comes to power points, the more the merrier, but consider installing some in a drawer or inside your cupboards. “You can keep appliances plugged in but hidden from view,” explains Kate. Heated towel rails are another practical electrical inclusion.

A grey tiled shower with brass tapware.
Ochre shades add cheer in this bathroom, which is filled with warm accents. (Photography: Armelle Habib)

9. Connect with the outdoors

What could be better than a bathroom with a view? “Seeing Mother Nature in the morning always brings joy,” shares Kate. “A window with vistas to a garden adds a sense of wellbeing.” As well as providing natural light and making the space feel bigger, windows improve ventilation and help prevent mould. If this isn’t feasible for you, consider installing an operable skylight. Other options include extractor fans, ceiling fans and dehumidifiers.

Tumbled stone tiles leading to a freestanding bath by a window.
Tumbled Carrara marble stone with Giallo Reale tiles laid in stripes guide the eye to the Vero freestanding bath, which serves as a dramatic and luxurious centrepiece in this spacious bathroom. Wallpaper adds texture. (Photography: Armelle Habib)

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