Satisfy Your Senses with a Bathroom That Feels Good
When it comes to interiors we are all about the visual. This is especially true in the age of Instagram. But a bathroom that looks good and a bathroom that feels good to spend time in are two very different things.
Have you ever been in a restaurant that looked great in the photos, but when you got there, had no atmosphere? Or booked a stylish hotel room only to find scratchy sheets and a weird smell? That’s the result of focusing too much on sight, and not enough on the other senses.
Touch, smell and sound are essential components of designing a space that you want to be in. Garden designers know this, and frequently think about the textures, aromas and sensory experience of an outdoor space. But if you haven’t thought about it yet when it comes to inside your home, you could be missing out. After all, nobody wants to be in a bathroom that is cold, loud, and smells mildewy (just ask a student).
In this post we’re going to look at ways you can make your bathroom design truly four-dimensional, including those neglected but all-important senses. Whether you want your bathroom to feel opulent or tranquil, you can use this guide to achieve it.
Multi-sensory interior design
The concept of multi-sensory interior design isn’t a new one. But it is one that gets overlooked in our own homes.
It would be second nature for someone designing a public space. If you want your guests at a spa to feel blissfully stress-free, for example, they need more than just pleasing aesthetics. They also need aromas, sounds, temperatures and textures that soothe the mind and body, and a way of moving through the spa with zero friction. There is no reason not to give the same consideration to your bathroom.
Sensory design is all about evoking a feeling, so the first step is figuring out how you want to feel in your bathroom. For many, the answer will be ‘relaxed’ - but that won’t be the case for everyone. It all depends on how and when you use your bathroom the most. For example, your might mainly use yours for:
Long baths before bed time (calm)
Brisk showers before work (refreshing)
Getting ready before a night out (luxurious)
Think about what you’re most commonly after when you spend time in the bath or shower, and make that the focus.
Designing for your senses: touch
If you think about it, most of the ways we use a bathroom involve physical sensations: towels, heat, water, lathering shampoo. So, it’s easily one of the most important senses to consider in sensory design. Here are some ways you can incorporate touch and texture into your design.
Let’s start with the easiest bathroom upgrade: towels, robes and textiles. These days, there are an array of textures to choose from, and they all bring something slightly different to the table.
Fluffy waffle towels create the spa experience - combine with a towel warmer and matching robes for the full effect.
Turkish hammam towels have a light-and-breezy vibe. They’re easygoing, fast-drying and less bulky than traditional towels.
For something heavy and luxurious, you can’t go wrong with a classic, high-thread count Egyptian cotton.
If you have low water pressure or skin-drying hard water, now is the time to fix it. But aside from addressing problems, you can also include hydrotherapy in your bathroom for relaxing, invigorating or muscle-soothing benefits.
Try changing your shower head. A rainforest shower head creates a waterfall of all-encompassing rain, whereas a massage shower head can ‘wake up’ your scalp and achy muscles.
Consider built-in jacuzzi jets for extra relaxation in the bath.
Splurge on a shower cubicle that is also a steam room. This one from Victoria Plum even lets you add fragrance to the steam, targeting two senses at once.
Go for a setup that is altogether more original, like this bathroom from @d.signers that has multiple jets.
Cold, drafty bathrooms do not make for a welcoming ambience. These issues can be hard to fix, but if you’re doing a major overhaul, consider:
Finding and fixing all drafts (from windows, doors, vents, etc.)
Keeping towels off the radiators. If possible, find an alternative home for wet towels to dry so that the heating can do its job!
Under-floor heating. It’s the ultimate luxury, but there’s a reason the Romans loved it.
In addition to fixing the negative, you can also make use of heat and cold as part of your bathroom routine. Keep gel eye masks in the fridge for a de-puffing facial, try heated massagers or wheat pillows, or try the Finnish formula: hot sauna (or shower) followed by an icy cool-off.
Texture is unique in that it’s both visual and tactile - so it has a big impact on how a room feels. Solid, smooth textures (like the recent concrete trend) feel calm and stable, while highly textured surfaces (e.g. a shaggy rug) can feel more stimulating.
A harmonious design often uses a mixture of textures to create balance. However, we’re not just thinking about visual balance here. It’s also worth considering what the materials feel like to the touch; from what’s under your feet to what you wash your face with. Overload the room with texture and it might feel too overwhelming, under-play it and it could feel (literally and figuratively) ‘flat’ - depending on the feeling you’re trying to create.
This design is a good example of achieving this balance. It has the eye-catching, hexagonal tiles on the floor that look like they’d feel great on bare feet, but the walls, linens and area around the bath are kept very simple.
Designing for your senses: sound
It’s not always possible to eliminate all sound and turn your bathroom into a quiet oasis - especially if you have a family or noisy neighbours. However, that doesn’t mean sound isn’t worth paying attention to.
Music can easily affect your mood, and as such, it’s one of the easiest ways to change how a room feels. And, thanks to modern technology, there are ways of including music in your bathroom that don’t involve a risk of electric shock, tinny sound quality, or having to press buttons with wet hands. There are a few options:
If you have a home music system, add waterproof speakers to your bathroom and get connected.
Alternatively, try adding waterproof bluetooth speakers to the ceiling and control them from your phone.
For an option that doesn’t involve wiring, a portable waterproof speaker will do the trick. Go for a smart speaker like the Sonos One and you could even control it with your voice while you’re in the tub.
For true built-in audio, check out Kohler’s Moxie showerhead. Yes, you read that right! It’s a showerhead with a bluetooth speaker, giving you 7 hours of sound with each charge. It’s also magnetic, so you can take the speaker out of the shower with you.
If you prefer not to listen to music while you’re in the shower or bath, have a think about the ambient sound in your bathroom instead. If all you can hear in there is traffic outside, dripping taps or the extractor fan, try some of these tips to reduce unpleasant ambient sound. It may be enough to create a sense of calm. If you’d like to add some extras, though, try these ideas:
Wood-wick candles have special wicks that crackle like a log fire while they’re burning. They’re perfect for a cosy, candlelit bath.
Wind chimes. Yes, they’re a little bit hippie, but hang a set outside the bathroom window and you’ll get a distant, twinkly sound.
Use some of the above sound systems to play ambient soundtracks, like rain, ocean waves or a rumbling thunderstorm.
If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space outside your bathroom, plant things outside that will rustle in the breeze for your very own naturally-made soundscape.
Designing for your senses: smell
There’s perhaps no other sense that evokes emotion more than smell - which is why it’s doubly important to address it in a room that may not always be a bed of roses. It’s hard to feel anything positive in a room that smells damp (or worse), so the first step here is to neutralise, then add in the aromas you love.
Some aromatic catastrophes to watch out for:
Damp shower curtains. Just...get rid of it.
Musty bath mats. If your bathroom is cold, shaded or doesn’t have great ventilation, they can quickly become unappealing. Consider switching to a mat made from silicone, wood or bamboo.
Clashing scents. Things like cleaning products, shampoos and conditioners, and deodorant can have overpowering chemical smells that will ruin any ambience you’ve tried to create. Try unfragranced products, or products with complementary scents.
There are a few ways to choose the fragrances in your bathroom. Firstly, you could go down the aromatherapy route. In aromatherapy, scents are chosen for the effect they have on your mind and body. So, if you want to feel relaxed in your bathroom, scents like lavender and chamomile might help, while eucalyptus and rosemary can be more invigorating if you’re a get-up-and-go type.
Alternatively, you could simply choose aromas that make you feel good. For example, I associate coconut body butter with being on holiday, so using coconut is an instant pick-me-up. Or, you could even draw inspiration from your bathroom’s design; warm, rich scents for a cosy bathroom, clean and fresh for a minimalist bathroom, etc.
The ways you can introduce different scents all have their pros and cons, such as:
Scented candles. Great for relaxation, but not so useful if you don’t spend much time in the tub (or if you have young children).
Reed diffusers. Good for a more gentle aroma, but can wear off over time.
Bath and body products. This is perhaps the easiest way to incorporate a soothing, uplifting or indulgent fragrance into your bathroom, but of course, you’ll only get to experience it while using the products themselves.
Bringing it together
After reading all of this, you might have lots of ideas. But while it’s great to engage the senses, you also don’t want to overload them. Start with that emotion you want to create, and work from there.
By Amy Murnan