It’s usually the smallest room in the house, but that’s no excuse for failing to make a statement with your annexe cloakroom.
Style it with confidence, display treasures, find space for storage, add lighting and cosy warmth, and you might end up spending more time in there than you ever imagined.
Desperate for the loo
The benefits of a cloakroom are many; useful for children, easy access for elderly relatives, within handy reach of the garden, and less wear-and-tear on the main bathrooms and en-suites. But where to put one? To save costs and disruption, site one within easy reach of the existing water supply and soil pipes. You might section off the end of a long hallway. Experts suggest that for a toilet and basin, you need a space measuring at least 80cm x 140cm. If you’re superstitious, never put a lavatory adjacent to the front door. Feng shui practitioners believe it’s bad luck; your good fortune is literally in danger of being flushed away.
Maximise the space
Have the door opening outwards, or sliding or folding to make the least impact in the room. Choose a triangular-shaped or wall-hung corner toilet if you can, box in the cistern if feasible and opt for a small corner or rectangular sink. Keep taps unobtrusive, and avoid ‘waterfall’ models in such a limited area; unwary guests could cause a flood. Boxed-in storage or a wall-mounted vanity unit should hide essential supplies.
Keep it tidy
However, such a small space is still a magnet for clutter. Invest in wall-hung soap dispensers and toilet roll holders, and a small bookshelf at just the right height for reading material. Utilise the space well and it can double up as a mini boot room. It’s a good idea to fix pegs around the walls to hang coats, hats and scarves. Don’t forget about shoe storage too. You could create customised cubby-hole style shelving to keep pairs together and store other items such as shopping bags and umbrellas.
Be bold with decor
Chances are the door to your cloakroom will always be closed, so it’s the perfect space to express your personality with a strong paint shade – such as purple or mustard – or extravagant wallpaper, like metallics and dramatic floral prints. You can go crazy with wall coverings and colours, but for a sense of harmony, tie in with the floor colour. To add depth and texture, you might consider tactile wall coverings such as cool cow hide tiles. Team with accessories such as a cow hide rug and your loo will be a talking point.
Reflect the light
Play with perspective and introduce a large or ornate mirror. Position this on the back wall, likely to be above the toilet, and you give the illusion of infinity. Or opt to display a collection of smaller mirrors – perhaps vintage or with co-ordinating frames – arranged close together for maximum impact. Also, consider adding a niche behind the loo which you can light with a downlight. This will bring some indirect light to the space and adds depth to the room.
Choose oversized tiles
Tiles keep walls and surfaces sparkling, but don’t go for the obvious. Opt for larger tiles than you first think because they create the illusion of a more luxe feel in a small space. People often make the mistake of using small tiles or even mosaics here. These can be useful to create intricate designs and patterns, but there are far more grout lines exposed compared to larger format tiles. This, combined with the heavy use the room gets means you will need to clean it frequently to keep the grout looking clean and fresh.
Take a comfort break
There is nothing less welcoming than a chilly bathroom. A heated towel rail is useful. However, where wall-space is restricted, underfloor heating is the ideal solution – run it off the existing central heating system, or install an electric mat. If there is no window, a well-maintained ventilation fan is a must. If an extractor fan cannot hold a postcard it is not providing sufficient ventilation, ideally you should replace the unit or clean the filter.
Display traditional treasures
Photographs, menu cards, cartoons and framed mementoes. The cloakroom loo has long been the place to hang cherished items with an ironic twist. It’s the idea of being amusing. An interior designer once told me that women always consign their husband’s previous life to the cloakroom, which is why you get certificates, awards, school photos and so on. You could streamline this classic idea by creating a montage of family snaps, or a visual history of your home in plain black frames.