Bathroom

This luxurious ensuite proves you can go bold in a small space

This dreamy new ensuite proves even a small space can be designed to feel like a luxe sanctuary

Interior designer Vic Bibby, her husband, Mark, and their three teenage daughters have always loved living in their modest three-bedroom bungalow on Napier’s Hospital Hill, with its views over the Botanical Gardens to the sea and proximity to work, school and friends. But there was one downside to the house – they had to share one bathroom between the five of them.

But rather than moving, they added an extension to the front of their home, with a new master bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and a small but luxuriously appointed ensuite. There’s now a new problem: the beautiful little mosaic-tiled sanctuary is proving difficult to leave.

Light and dark 

Before the project kicked off, the designer sat down with Architecture HDT to plan the layout. She wanted a walk-in shower, a simple layout and a privacy wall for the toilet. They divided the room into three parts, tucking the toilet away to one side and keeping the custom vanity front and centre, with a tiled shower taking up the other side.

Vic had a clear idea of the key elements she wanted to include, particularly the blue mosaic tiles. “I knew I wanted to use the tiles in the shower because they were a favourite of mine and a leaping-off point for the rest of the design, but because they’re dark, I balanced them by using a lot of light elsewhere.”

One tried-and-true light-enhancing technique was to install a large mirror above the vanity. “A big mirror in a small room will bounce the light around and lend a sense of space,” says Vic. She had hers custom made in an arch shape. “I went to a glass shop and they cut it to size; they can also do the installation.”

Another light source, which wasn’t on the original plans, was a skylight. “I’d seen one in a shower and it was amazing. It brings in all this beautiful light and is perfect for bathrooms because you don’t have to worry about privacy. I recommend them to everyone.”

Saving space

Vic designed a white off-floor vanity with internal drawers. “I wanted it to be floating because having all that air underneath helps with the illusion of space. When you’re working in a small area, that can make all the difference.”

Skylights bring in beautiful light

and you don’t have to worry about privacy

Another space-saving necessity was a cavity sliding door. “For a small bathroom, you don’t want a door that swings in, taking up valuable space and compromising what you can do inside.”

Because they were building from scratch, Vic was also able to request a recessed-cistern toilet. “I wanted everything to be as simple as possible so we have the cistern hidden behind the wall. All you see is the flush plate.”

One issue they had was where to put the towel rail. It ended up on the non-shower side of the bathroom, with hooks placed on the back of the shower wall to compensate.

Finishing touches

On the floor is a simple, neutral 600mm x 600mm tile with grout in the same colour to give it a seamless feel. Vic contrasted this with exciting colour, texture and fittings, such as the patterned wallpaper in the toilet area.

“My business partner, Dale Brady, and I love using wallpaper, especially in bathrooms,” she says. “You’re not in them for hours on end like you would be in a bedroom or living room, so you can go crazy and have a little bit of fun.”

Bibby spent around $30,000 on her luxurious ensuite, which includes tiles, underfloor heating, all fixtures, a custom vanity, mirror, lights, a skylight, wallpaper, painting, materials and trades. “It’s made such a huge difference to our lifestyle.”


Words by: Bonnie Sumner. Photography by: Florence Charvin.

This article was first published in Your Home and Garden. Follow YHG on Instagram, Facebook and sign up to the fortnightly email for inspiration between the issues.

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