Charcoal tiles and timber vanity

Boundless bathrooms

Housing speaks to industry experts about their style inspiration, and the bathroom design trends and innovations to watch out for.


Laura Valic & Cassandra Proudfoot
Mal Corboy

Mal Corboy is a Certified Kitchen Designer and a member of institutes in New Zealand, the UK and Australia, including HIA. He is also one of only 45 New Zealanders to be made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in the UK. With a raft of accolades, Corboy’s gongs include the Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom category at The Society of British and International Design (SBID) Awards in 2014 for his Hekarua Bay Project on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Q: What has inspired and informed your bathroom design style?

My bathroom design style is part of my overall plan when designing a whole house. When I design a single bathroom by itself, it is still a case of looking at the whole house.

My design style comes from years of experience – and maturity. It has developed from attending design shows and travelling, which provides plenty of ideas, and allows you to see what products are coming through. I also like to visit interesting bars – they often have funky toilets – and I think about how I can bring that look into a residential space.

Design is everywhere if you look around.

Large black and white bathroom
Photo courtesy Mal Corboy

Q: What are the bathroom design trends we will see in 2019?

We’ll see a lot more openness in bathrooms; they are becoming bigger and more indulgent spaces. People want the bathroom to be a place of sanctuary, where they can get away from their daily hassles.

Freestanding baths are prominent again, but I’ve seen them used poorly – stuck between walls where you can’t clean underneath.

In Milan more colour was coming though in bathrooms, from bright and bold to muted or murky tones. Metallics are coming in tapware but I think black tapware will die off, at least at the top end of the market. I always like to use chrome – done well it doesn’t date.

I’m excited about colour. I love colour and I’m keen to be bold with it. I’m doing black granite and jarrah again, and it looks great with some of the new loud tiles, such as the mosaics.

Charcoal tiles and timber vanity
Photo courtesy Mal Corboy

Q: How do you go about designing a bathroom?

Step one is the client brief: what do they want and what do they need? In my experience, men tend to want a rainhead shower since they wash their hair every day, whereas women go for a slide shower. You also need to think about storage and what they will need to find a place for.

Then consider what style they want: contemporary, modern, traditional? People often say they want a bath, but rarely use one. In that case, I suggest a big double shower. Double basins are also popular, but in a smaller room consider a larger single basin. You need to think about how your clients will actually use the room.

You must get the layout and bathroom furniture established before deciding on colours and finishes. Layout is vital to ensure the door won’t clash with the toilet, for example. Think about the placement of items, such as the mirror, as well as adequate ventilation. Then you can address colour and lighting, dictated by the style you’re trying to achieve.

Kathryn Bloomer

Kathryn Bloomer is a Sydney-based interior designer and decorator. With more than seven years’ experience working on residential projects, and prior to this working as an art director on some of Australia’s prestigious lifestyle magazines, her love of design and interiors continues. With the use of colour, texture and pattern, Kathryn aims to create beautiful homes that will last for years to come.

 Q: What has inspired and informed your bathroom design style?

I look for inspiration from nature and natural products. Neutral and grey tones play a big role in the bathrooms that I design. Most of my clients live near the water or coast, so a lighter design aesthetic and colour palette is important. Hamptons-style bathrooms are a big influence for me but I like to keep the modern Australian lifestyle in mind when I am designing bathrooms. Many of my clients have families, and durability with a practical nature is a must for bathrooms with high traffic!


Q: What are the bathroom design trends we will see in 2019?

Terrazzo is still a strong contender. There are a variety of beautiful colours available, and it’s extremely practical as a floor tile given the pattern and colour variations. Industrial and vintage accents are also a feature to consider moving forward. Finishes, such as aged brass and brown bronze in tapware add a wonderful ‘old world touch’ to a contemporary bathroom.

Marble will also continue to be used widely, from complete marble vanities to large slab feature walls. Varieties such as New York, Calcutta and Carrara create a real standout feature in a bathroom. Custom vanities with open shelving offer a lighter and less bulky feel, and are a great way to display accessories.

Grey marble and white cabinetry bathroom
Photo courtesy Kathryn Bloomer
Grey tiles white vanity and bath
Photo courtesy Kathryn Bloomer

 Q: What comes first: colour, tiles, bath and sink or the vanity?

Usually the hero or main focus point of the bathroom comes first. A beautiful freestanding bath can be the standout feature and everything else is created around it. Colour is also a huge starting point since it can determine the type of stone used or the choice of floor tile.

Even with a natural or neutral colour palette, tones and layers of colour can all come together to create an inviting bathroom. The use of pattern and tile size should also be considered before choosing tiles. For example, smaller tiles such as subways are great for a classic look, while large format tiles create a more contemporary and open space.


Q: Does a bathroom need to follow the design of the rest of the home, or can it be a star in its own right?

When I design a home I like all of the rooms to reflect and relate to one another. There should be a natural flow between the interiors. If you have used a particular stone for a kitchen island bench, then you could use a stone in the bathroom that picks up on those tones and colours from the kitchen.

Another way to keep up the continuity is to accessorise: towels, luxury products, vases and baskets can all help in creating a flow from one room to the next.

Adam Drake-Brockman

As Executive Sales Manager for Residential with iconic Australian brand Caroma, Adam Drake-Brockman has a passion for innovation, quality and the protection of our most precious resource – water. Over the course of his career, Adam has worked in varied roles from retail sales to manufacturing, and is currently HIA’s WA President. This diverse experience has provided him with a unique perspective of the industry.


Q: What are the bathroom design trends we will see in 2019?

I think we’ll see a continual rise in statement basins. From colour options to material selection, basins will become key to creating a stunning bathroom. Whether they’re made from beautifully textured concrete, the bolder ‘pop’ of terrazzo or uniquely textured metallics – basins can create a luxe but understated look.

To support beautiful basins, we will continue to see a rise in colour tapware. Advances in plating techniques, such as PVD, is not only increasing the range of colour finish options but significantly improves the durability and toughness of the finishes.

Bold colours will bring it all together to create a sense of luxury and personal expression. Darker tones offer the perfect canvas for coloured tapware and statement basins, enhancing their beauty while still working harmoniously with the space to create a considered and luxurious environment.


Villa white and grey bathroom
Photo courtesy Caroma

 Q: What innovations are coming to Australian bathrooms?

Smart technology has entered every aspect of daily life and the bathroom is no exception. Smart showers will be an innovation that will prove popular here. The obvious benefit is a personal shower experience, but it also has environmental and safety benefits, such as precise water monitoring and temperate regulation, that will excite consumers.

I believe the popularity of rimless toilets will continue to grow and ultimately become the new standard in flushing. The hygienic benefits of removing the traditional rim where germs and bacteria can multiple has been readily adopted in the Australian market. With such a variety of rimless designs available consumers will become increasingly aware of inferior products claiming better flushing performance.

For a long time, the Japanese style washlet toilet has been considered an over-the-top innovation that is not relevant to our market. But we’ve seen a shift towards acceptance of this technology. As technological integration opens up more ‘smart’ features, such as motion sensors, hygienic sprays and self-cleaning mechanisms, this will continue. Combined with an ageing demographic the potential for these assistive design features will gain more support.

Caroma small stylish basin
Photo courtesy Caroma


Q: How can we future-proof bathrooms?

One of the best ways to future-proof bathrooms is to make considered choices prior to construction. Careful planning to ensure appropriate circulation space and access to fixtures, plus reinforcement of internals walls to accommodate the later installment of rails and supports, are basic measures. If considered at inception it can significantly future-proof a bathroom.

I also believe it’s important to be proactive. Start conversations and plan for future-proofing sooner rather than later. Understanding the challenges the user may face or the tasks that are becoming increasingly difficult allows the issues to be addressed prior to a potential injury.

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