Shower love on your luxury bathroom

One of the biggest and most costly renovations that high-end commercial hospitality businesses have to deal with is guest bathroom renovation. Bill Lumley considers the issues you may confront as you endeavour to keep your facilities up to scratch.

Ageing bathroom units, changing styles, trends and regulations all have a bearing on a need to update your en suite facilities to a greater or lesser extent.

Renovating your ensuite bathrooms is a massive undertaking, and it is not without its risks. But in order to avoid the mother of all risks, also known as poor reviews, you must ensure your bathrooms stay up to a certain look and standard.

Luxury B&B and boutique hotel guests expect bathrooms to have a fresh and modern look. The reaction of participants in TV hospitality shows illustrate this well with immediate mark-downs on the likes of Four in a Bed when the bathrooms feature old, dated or damaged bathtubs, wall-surrounds, vanities or toilets. These reflect badly on the B&B and are prime ammunition for poor online reviews: guests aren’t going to be incentivised to book into a B&B that has an outdated bathroom. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect luxury B&Bs, guest houses and boutique hotels regularly to replace bathroom components to achieve a desired level of customer satisfaction and to earn positive reviews and loyalty in return.

Inevitably, remodelling you guest ensuite bathrooms is not as simple as hiring a contractor who then subcontracts the work to a local crew. There are many industry-specific considerations that are best served by those who already have extensive experience working with other hospitality properties like your own.
Among the chief concerns are issues such as minimising the noise of construction as it takes place and keeping to a minimum the odours and dust that can disrupt your guests.

If you plan and manage the renovation project carefully and far enough in advance, you may find yourself able to close the property for a period to allow the work to be undertaken at full pelt.

And, of course, the work must of course be completed within budget and as quickly as possible to return rooms to service.

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CASE STUDY ONE: Southwood House

Southwood House near Bristol is a Victorian with three spacious en suite guest bedrooms. In the most recent guest bathroom renovation at the property, owners Carole and Andrew Stowey completely gutted their old shower room, which had originally been separate from the bedroom.
We decided to go up market with this renovation, so the room has a P-shape bath in it with separate shower above, a wash basin, toilet and bidet,” he says.
The most outstanding feature of the bathroom renovation is that most of the walls are clad in Quartz-Lite, he says. “We normally use this material for kitchen worktop overlays, but it can equally be used for shower enclosures and bathrooms. It is only 8mm thick and it is very easy to keep clean as there are no grout lines as opposed to using tiles and our customers absolutely love it.

The walls were done with Bianco Riso and the grey border and skirting with Nuvolo Riso and the bathroom’s sanitary ware is Vitra’s-Serenada Range, the taps and shower are Hudson-Reed and the flooring Karndean – “Loose Lay – Hudson LLP99,” Andrew adds.

This flooring is easy to lay and maintain and if damage should occur easy to replace. It is also really nice to walk on, particularly with bare feet!

Installing ventilation wasn’t a problem he says as there was a skylight in the bathroom, but he also installed a powerful Vent Axia fan, which is located in the loft above the shower.

As the renovation of the Bedroom and Bathroom took four weeks to complete, we were closed during this period so there was no disruption to guests,” he adds.

CASE STUDY TWO: Swain House

In 2012 Jason and Annie Robinson bought a property next door to their Georgian townhouse in the harbour town of Watchet on the Bristol Channel and turned it into an award-winning B&B called Swain House.

The derelict property, which featured a shop beneath it, had been empty for four years, Jason says. “After we bought it, we renovated it all in one go. As the property was empty there was no disruption to guests in the process.

They fitted en suite bathrooms in all the guest rooms, all with the same high-end spec bathrooms all with double ended large slipper baths and all with a double walk-in shower.

We chose high-spec Burlington sinks and toilets, while the baths at Swine House are from luxury bath makers BC Design,” he says.

Burlington was our choice for the sinks and toilets as it is a very classic, high-end British brand, and mid-range rather than low-range WCs, a higher standard than most hospitality toilets which are mostly low standard. The tanks are on the wall with a chrome pipe leading to them.” He adds: “We wanted the whole B&B to have a classical British old-fashioned Heritage Club look about it in keeping with the profile of the property itself.

TECHNICAL DESIGN

The bathrooms are now situated where there were none when they first acquired the property. Jason had lived in London for 20 years where one of his flatmates was a technical architect. “He did all the drawings for the property,” he says. “We had bathrooms on one side of the building that had never had bathrooms or access to waste. In most domestic properties the bathrooms are all on the same side as the kitchen, using the same waste pipes, so we built them into the stripped-down building.

In complying with modern-day building regulation there were hurdles all the way across the entire project, he says. “When it came to the bathrooms, we had to install ventilation, and the building walks are three feet thick, so the builders drilled massive extractor tunnels through them,” he says.

LESSONS OF THE PAST DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES

There are certain considerations Jason says he would recommend to any B&B or guest house owner to make when planning a bathroom renovation.
A lot of tips came from visits I made to other luxury B&Bs,” he says. “One useful piece of which was not to buy shower doors that slide – only buy ones that open like a door, because people will try to open the sliding doors as if they are a conventional door, and in the process pull them off the rails. We took that advice, and are glad we did so,” he says.

One piece of advice he wishes he could have received before embarking on installation concerns bath plugs. “Our baths have a rotating device to open and close the plugs, and I would advise people to avoid that like the plague, because they break,” he says. “Guests don’t necessarily realise the mechanism is already there, and they push down the plug itself manually, causing it to come off the rails. It’s a relatively minor issue that can be fixed, but when you are getting the rooms ready and you only have a limited time before the next guest will be checking in ait’s not helpful to discover at that point that the last guests have broken the plug, and you have to spend an hour fixing it. It’s a pain to say the least.

He suggests that the kind of bath plugs that guest simply have to press in and out to insert and release would be far preferable in his experience. And he has not been able to replace the rotating plug devices.

Replacing an old bathtub is an expensive, labour-intensive and time-consuming project that often involves demolition and damage to the surrounding walls and floor finishes. Water supply lines and pipes may also need re-plumbing.

Bathtub replacement is therefore rarely an option. Most owners would not consider ripping out the guest ensuite tubs unless they were planning a full renovation of the room because often walls have original tiles, and replacing the walls is often not cost effective because of the rebuilding cost.
In the case of Swain House there were issues that prevented them from replacing the bath plugs alone.

You can’t replace them, as you would still have the turning dial on the side of the bath. It is just not straight forward enough a process to replace for it to be worthwhile, especially on our baths, which are really high-end and bespoke.

In order to get access to the waste mechanism he would have to go up through the ceiling below. “They baths are not off the ground like your standard B&Q baths. These ones are on solid stainless-steel pedestals,” he says.

He adds: “I wouldn’t have baths with the plug on a chain either, as these tend to break. In fact, avoid anything that has the slightest possibility of someone using the wrong way and breaking. People simply don’t care: it’s not their place. They just pull the chain and, if it doesn’t have the desired effect, they keep pulling it till it snaps,” he says.

WATER PRESSURE

After all the time and money they invested in the new bathrooms he says guest feedback has been excellent. “They love the bathrooms. The showers have massive nine-inch rains shower hoses and the water pressure is good,” he says.

But he stresses his view that strong water pressure is essential in a guest en suite. “We had the advantage of being able to reconnect to the main, as we renovated the bathrooms at the same time as the rest of the building, which means our water pressure is phenomenal.

He warns: “If you are just renovating an existing bathroom you may not have the pipework to sustain some of the modern-day shower pressures needed to power those hoses. I’d simply advise people to be careful about what bathroom the pic and make sure sufficient water pressure is there to support it.

LUXURY ADORNMENTS

The en suites at Swain House feature large white, fluffy cotton towels, and the toiletries are Ren Skincare, a high-end supplier to hotels and guest houses. “They won’t supply unless they can see what the rooms are like, so I had to send them photos rather than just asking to buy them,” says Andrew.

He adds: “We put large bottles dot the brand in or bathrooms rather than the little hotel bottles that you find in hotels and theta the guests take home with them – even if they don’t use the shampoo people take them. We stock 300ml bottles and we sell them for £16 per bottle which discourages people from helping themselves to them. In eight years, we have had just four bottles taken.

KEY LESSONS LEARNED

  • Ensure the bathroom surface material is easy to clean
  • Make sure the flooring is easy to lay, maintain and replace
  • If possible close while renovating to avoid disruption to guests
  • Avoid sliding shower doors
  • Rotating plug devices and bath plug chains tend to break
  • Make sure your water pressure is high enough for the shower equipment you intend to install
  • Put your bathroom beauty products in 300ml bottles: minatures tend to get taken
  • Offer the same luxury bathroom brands for sale to discourage their disappearance

If a luxury B&B or boutique hotel has renovated its bathroom and is looking for premium products to offer its guests, there are certain key criteria to consider when deciding the brand or type of complimentary beauty or other products with which to adorn the bathroom.

Laura Ashley senior commercial designer Kay Ashley tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast: “We would firstly look at product style, but also what look would suit the space. In Burnham for instance we wanted to showcase our brand with a touch of femininity.

Accommodating the wides possible guest target is important, she says. “We usually follow a brief that could be a more corporate customer, and we try to suit both genders. If it is a bridal suite, we would usually have something more glamorous in mind and would consider the female aspect as more of a priority. We believe both genders of customers appreciate good design and comfort and our designs usually follow a story of the history of the hotel if you work in that way the rooms will reflect the correct design with customers responding to this positively. In all aspects we will consider the original architecture while also giving new schemes a sense of modernity to keep it looking fresh.

STYLE TRENDS

There is now more choice than ever in bathroom brassware with many new product ranges and design innovations available for those looking to revamp the style of their bathrooms to achieve an on-trend and fresh new look. Colm Lalor, commercial director at Ultra Finishing, says: “This is good news for the B&B sector, as bathroom taps and showers are a relatively easy ‘fix’ and with quite literally no limit to the number of designs and finishes available allowing owners to create a look, feel and ambiance to suit their establishment’s own individual styling.

Sleek minimalist designs for the bathroom continue to be a popular choice and whilst their design keeps on evolving, more recently there has been growth in the industrial trend, he says. “Revolution from Hudson Reed, our own industrial-inspired range of bathroom taps and shower valves, for example, has enjoyed considerable growth since its recent launch, and it is encouraging to see the price points of these designs now more competitive than ever, a contributor to their increasing success.

Meanwhile, as classically styled bathrooms continue to remain a hugely popular choice, the demand for traditional brassware design remains high. Colm says: “Today’s classic brassware designs perfectly combine old fashioned looks with modern hi-tech innovations too so traditional styling does not mean compromising on features with taps, for example, benefitting from high quality ceramic discs. Our own Old London traditional bathroom collection is another good example; a beautifully blend of nostalgic period design yet offering the complete controllability of push-button valves.

Wall-mounted tap styles, across both modern and classic designs are also proving popular and are very much on-trend, he says. “The clean and clutter-free appearance is very much in demand when co-ordinated with some of the many bath and basin styles available. We’ve just added many new wall mounted styles to our latest Hudson Reed brassware collection.”

Chrome will always remain the popular finish for the bathroom, he insists, regardless of style, but with the popularity of monochromatic colour schemes, and of course the industrial trend, taps, mixers and showers finished in matt black have appeared. “Matched with accessories such black-framed shower enclosures, anthracite radiators and slate-grey shower trays, matt black brassware is a good choice. Colour options don’t stop with matt-black; other colours and finishes are steadily growing in popularity too,” he says.

Installation is also becoming easier with new technologies such as a fully reversible Valquest cartridge, which means if the hot and cold-water supplies are the wrong way around it doesn’t need re-plumbing. “It’s just a simple removal of the cartridge, a 180˚-turn-and-replace,” he says. “Whilst complete bathroom makeovers may demand more expert help, depending on the existing fitment and its age, changing a tap should be a DIY job.”

With brassware, modern, innovative manufacturing has not only brought about an increasing number of styles and designs, it has dramatically improved the quality and finish too. However, Cols suggests owners would do well to avoid the very cheapest of products, as these will lack durability and longevity, and often bring only problems down the line.

Just as the right level of water pressure is critical to the type of bathroom you install, so too is the flooring. Neolith slabs for example are based on Sintering Technology, which entails subjecting the 100% natural raw materials to very high temperatures and pressures. It is an especially hard surface resistant to temperatures and scratching. It will not burn if it comes into contact with fire, nor will it give off smoke or fumes.

Neolith’s director Mar Esteve Corte tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast: “In the past, shower design has been overlooked. However, we’re seeing interesting trends on the horizon, including monochromatic colours and seamless, ultra-thin single slabs being used in shower cubicles.  Using the same material inside and outside the shower evokes a sense of continuity, rather than segmenting the area into smaller sections, creating the illusion of more space than there actually is.”

He has tips on style trends that independent hoteliers and guest house owners are pursuing it comes to their bathroom renovations: “Interior designers are looking to darker, inkier tones found in igneous rock, with basalt and soapstone effects, becoming popular for visually impressive bathrooms. The old adage that opposites attract applies even in the bathroom, where black materials are being used to create striking statements in otherwise light, airy settings.
“We expect to see plenty of bathrooms which encapsulate the beautiful detailing of these ancient stones. The beautiful and complex, swirling, deep grains and organic, continuous patterns will provide a variety of designs meaning no two bathrooms will look the same.

“We’re also seeing an increase in the use of wood motifs in the washroom. While timber itself is not suitable for a damp environment, there are plenty of materials that mimic wooden effects. Adding an organic quality to any space, the unpredictable, knotted grain of timber is versatile, able to evoke a rustic atmosphere or combine with dissimilar patterns for an arresting effect,” he adds.

CONCLUSION

There are clearly numerous considerations to make when it comes to planning your next bathroom renovation project. The main lesson would appear to be not to rush into it, planning everything from assessing water pressure considerations to style:

  • Check you have access to the workings of any bath you install for maintenance purposes.
  • But the reward of getting it right will be worth the effort.
  • And when you finish it off, put your high-end beauty brands in full-sized bottles. It does discourage theft!
  • The rewards of getting it right will be worth the effort.

KEY LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Ensure the bathroom surface material is easy to clean
  2. Make sure the flooring is easy to lay, maintain and replace
  3. If possible close while renovating to avoid disruption to guests
  4. Avoid sliding shower doors
  5. Rotating plug devices and bath plug chains tend to break
  6. Make sure your water pressure is high enough for the shower equipment you intend to install
  7. Put your bathroom beauty products in 300ml bottles: miniatures tend to get taken
  8. Offer the same luxury bathroom brands for sale to discourage guests from helping themselves.