Bathing has been fashionable since the third century and yet, for some reason, most modern bathrooms are squeezed into the tiniest of spots available, often without even a window to relieve the gloom, and the ensuing mould.
House-hunters will often rule out a possible purchase because the bathroom was just too grotty or shabby, although countless surveys have found that simply revamping it can add up to 20 per cent to the value of your property.
So it's time to take a tip from the Greeks. And the Romans. And the Japanese, come to that. And don't forget the Turks. They all knew a thing or two about bathing, and while we're not suggesting you add Doric columns and solid-gold fixtures, it might be time to think about creating the perfect bathroom. It's not complicated, it will enhance your life, add money to your house and help it to sell. It's not the economy, stupid – it's the bathroom.
Now most of us can't do anything about the size of it, and it's probably not a good idea to sacrifice a bedroom, unless you've got at least five or six, in which case turning the smallest into an en suite will always be a worthwhile idea, says Spencer Cushing, manager of John D Wood's Battersea branch.
"In the three- to four-bed market, it's not cost-efficient to turn a bedroom into a bathroom. If you need another bathroom, then you need to look up – to the loft. Loft conversions add more value than any other form of home improvement for the money they cost.
"Nine times out of 10, an en suite shower in the largest bedroom is the most cost and space-effective way of adding value." Although he cautions that in the current market, it's not worth putting in a new bathroom for sale purposes. "People like to do their own bathrooms, and while a bad bathroom may not help your sale, it probably isn't a deal-breaker," he says. "It's better to do your bathroom the way you want it and you will get the money if and when you decide to move.
So for most of us, creating the perfect bathroom is about clever space-saving tips in the area we've already got.
Georgina Spencer of Roca UK says: "The bathroom is one of the key value-adding areas within the home, despite the fact that its average size has remained unchanged for many years.
"You need to look carefully at products such as corner basins, back-to-wall WCs and wall-hung designs, as they make maximum use of the space available. A really great basin can make a good focal point in the room and show off a bit of style, and you should invest in good-quality taps. Most taps now offer water-saving devices so will save you money in the long run."
One of the key elements to consider in a bathroom is the storage. There are always masses of clutter in there and yet it will be much more appealing if it isn't full of plastic bottles and tubes.
Fitting a back-to-the-wall loo means you can put shelves above it. Consider a cupboard under the basin, and if you can inset the bathroom cabinet into the wall, it will protrude less, giving a more streamlined appearance while giving you ample storage.
If you can't fit a shower door and need to have a curtain, then try to find one made from anti-mould fabric. Prêt à Vivre's mould-resistant material comes in either cream or oatmeal and costs £26. It's also good for outdoor cushions as it's fade-proof, too, but will be perfect in the bathroom for either shower curtains or window blinds.
Monochrome is a strong theme at the moment and you can now buy black taps to contrast with your white bath. Grohe has produced a range of very attractive ones. You can now also buy wallpaper for bathrooms which will make a really dramatic statement with the black-and-white taps.
Interior designer Nina Campbell is also a fan of monochrome. "The most typical colours for a bathroom are cream, white and black (black and white marble is a lovely combination). Marble tiles, glass and mirrors are good materials"
Lighting, of course, is key to a good bathroom. Both Nina and Amanda Kaye, of LK Interiors, insist that you should have two lighting circuits. Nina suggests one light that comes on as soon as you enter and turns off when you leave, which will provide bright light for the functional morning ablutions as well as cater for children who just forget, as well as a dimmer switch for that long, relaxing evening soak.
Georgina points out the advantage of a wetroom or walk-in area. "They don't require a large space for installation and they can offer a clean look while creating the illusion of more space because you don't need to have shower doors opening out into the room and taking up space. They are also easier to clean, and give the appearance of a luxurious area without necessarily costing more as you don't need to buy the shower enclosure."
The perfect bathroom: Ten top tips
* Use a fog-free mirror
* Entertainment – radio, television
* Underfloor heating for when you step out of the bath
* Large showerhead for really good pressure which is almost a massage
* Good storage, for all those bottles
* Two basins so you can have his and hers and give a feeling of luxury
* Taps in the middle of the bath to give that spa feeling
* Skylights if possible to give more light and feeling of space, or, failing that, go for halogen spots to mimic daylight
* Walk-in shower suggests more space
* Good-quality towels
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