Bathroom Feature

Cloakroom Envy

Is your downstairs loo funky or functional? Lucy Baker-Kind discovers how to inject some style into the WC

Lucy Baker-Kind
23 October 2017

If you’re feeling flush and want to give your downstairs cloakroom some character, take inspiration from grand schemes (the ‘Cistern Chapel’, perhaps?), and pay attention to detail, as this can turn the tiny room from bland to bold. 

The downstairs toilet is often the room where you can release your inner designer, but functionality must come first – more often than not, the room will be small, so invest in space-saving fittings, such as wall-mounted cisterns and sinks, or practical corner sink units that can fill an unused gap. 

Sarah Yates, from Sarah Yates Interiors in Sidmouth, suggests using every inch of available space. “Use the space under the sink by boxing in or having a wall-fixed storage cupboard with a sink set in the top,’ she says. 

Caroline Palk, from Ashton House Design in Ashburton, advises sourcing fittings designed for smaller rooms: “Choose compact designs that aren’t greedy on space. Corner and curvilinear shapes are kinder in tight spaces and make the most of otherwise awkward circulation space.” 

Caroline also stresses that storage is important. She advises planning and measuring the design carefully, especially if the room is doubling up as a cloakroom/bootroom for coats, shoes, sports equipment and school bags. “Pigeonholes labelled for every family member are good, as they actively encourage tidiness in the home.” 

Flooring should be practical and easy to maintain, with underfloor heating an added bonus. “Porcelain tiles that are faux timber planks, ‘unnatural’ flooring or sheet vinyl that mimics seagrass – there are plenty of great pretenders out there,” says Caroline. 

The use of mirrors is an easy way to accentuate the sense of space – clad an entire wall (or the entire room!) in mirror tiles, or arrange a selection of framed mirrors for an eclectic look to bounce light around the room. “Tile an entire elevation or make a statement with a scaled-up design,” suggests Caroline. 

A heated towel rail will also help to keep the room cosy in winter months, especially as the rooms are mostly sited against an outside wall. 

Now the practicalities are out of the way, it’s time to think big with the décor: “As a room frequently visited by your guests – here lies a decorating opportunity to have some fun with,” claims Caroline. 

Sarah suggests choosing bold wallpapers with a large design – her current favourites include Designers Guild Issoria, featuring gold moths, or Harlequin’s Floreale, showcasing flowers in tangerine and fuchsia pink: “It’s an opportunity to explore different ideas from the rest of your home and be a bit radical with colour.” 

If you’re choosing to use paint rather than wallpaper, Sarah recommends Little Greene’s Deep Space Blue or Baked Cherry – bold, rich colours that are fine to use in small quantities without becoming overpowering. 

Other ideas from Sarah that will bring the cloakroom to life are to display personal family collections of photographs, artwork or certificates, or to fill in an available alcove with a bookcase “displaying wacky books either by content, by colour and shape of the spines, or use the space to store maps showing their coloured sides.” 

Caroline advocates using a stand-out wall covering with practical and textural credentials, as well as similar statement tiling across walls and floors. Commissioning a mural that is personal to you and your family is another way of injecting both fun and personality. “A favourite holiday location, filtered for a retro look might tick the box. Say it with family portraits, but be sure to print extra large and fill your elevation,” suggests Caroline. 

Using one colour to decorate the main portion of the room, then finding the complementary shade on the colour wheel to bring in as an accent hue, works well for a coordinated scheme, too. 

Sarah recalls a downstairs loo with a difference: “It was one in a country house with the wooden bench with a loo seat cut in it. Leaf green-painted coloured walls enhanced pictures and certificates all over the wall. The view from the loo was through a big Georgian window looking out onto the rolling fields with sheep grazing.”

“The downstairs toilet is often the room where you can release your inner designer, but functionality must come first”

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