A small fortune

04 Apr, 17

Using space-saving products can help maximise space in ‘rabbit hutch’ homes

Unlike the rest of Europe, the UK has no minimum standard for the size of new build homes, allowing housebuilders to capitalise on plots by building more (and smaller) properties on the land. In fact, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects, such is the proliferation of smaller housing, it claims 50% of new build homes are not big enough to meet the needs of people who live in them. They are, in fact, half the size of the average home in 1920s. In its Space Standards for Homes report, published at the end of last year, it found buyers of a new build three-bedroom home are “missing 4sqm or the equivalent of a bathroom”. The national problem is even worse in Yorkshire, as the report states three bedroom houses in London are 25sqm bigger. So, it’s no surprise this has also impacted on the size of the rooms inside the home, particularly the bathroom – which is already acknowledged as the smallest room in the house.

And as a typical three bedroom newbuild will have a family bathroom and a cloakroom, perhaps even an ensuite, the issue of reduced space is further exacerbated. It’s no surprise, then, industry experts agree space-saving suites are significant in sales. Trade marketing manager of Twyford Nicola Hadcroft believes they account for 15% of her company’s suite sales and comments: “There is no doubt that this is an important market, so much so that we have complete ranges designed specifically for compact spaces.” And while marketing manager of Utopia Furniture Group agrees that space-saving bathroom products are essential, she points out they take a far greater proportion of sales at her company: “Over 70% of units in our fitted range are offered in reduced depth options and more than half of all our orders contain at least one space-saving item.”

Reflected in refurbishments

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But of course, the issue of small spaces is not only restricted to new build homes, it is also commonplace in refurbishment projects. Consumers who are seeking the convenience of multiple bathrooms for families has seen them add additional facilities to their home. Marketing director of Geberit Raffaela De Vittorio explains: “Many homeowners look for ways to extend their homes in order to have more space to grow into, particularly with the trend towards multi-generational living. This has led to an increase in the amount of bathrooms per property, but often without the floor space itself being extended. The result is compact bathrooms, and more of them.”

And consumers have also become wise to the value additional facilities can have on the price of their house. A survey by the National Association of Estate Agents, in 2015, found that adding a bathroom was one of the top five home improvements that add value to a home. And as reported on www.thisis money.co.uk, last year, Movewithus suggested an additional bathroom could add 6% to the value of the property. In fact, aside from a loft conversion, an extra bathroom reaped the highest added value, according to data from thisismoney.co.uk. Nicola Hadcroft of Twyford adds: “Homeowners are increasingly looking for the flexibility, and the increase in house value, offered by adding an extra bathroom, cloakroom or en-suite on to the property.”

Focus for R& D

In fact, such has been the influence of the smaller bathroom manufacturers have increasingly focused on it for their new product development. That’s the view of sales and marketing manager of Lecico Bathrooms Kate Hirst: “Development of compact ceramic pieces and complementary furniture have been the most important new product initiatives for Lecico in the UK over the past 12 months. Our customers are rightly demanding more choice of product for the smaller bathroom.” And Nicola Handcroft of Twyford echoes her view: “Much of our R&D is focused on design solutions to suit such [small] spaces. One of the most recent results of this work is the e200 space-saving range of sanitaryware and furniture, which is packed with smart design and clever features to bring bigger bathroom benefits to compact spaces.” In fact, even global manufacturers which don’t experience the same issues selling to other countries are catering for UK demand. Managing director of Inhouse, which imports Pelipal, comments: “It can be a challenge for any successful international brand to cater to local market needs. German brand Pelipal understands the importance of listening to local retailers. This is just what they did with the successful Back to Wall range, and they have done so again for 2016 with the Solitaire 6001, another range designed specifically for the UK market.” He continues: “Based on Pelipal’s bestselling Cassca range, Solitaire 6001 is available in smaller sizes.”

Natural family member

However, rather than product lines designed specifically for small rooms, manufacturers suggest they now naturally form part of a “family”. It means consumers don’t have to comprise on a look because the space is restricted and also, if required, can create a cohesive look across family bathroom and additional bathroom facilities. Managing director of Duravit UK Martin Carroll points out: “Duravit bathroom collections have been designed so that customers can select from dozens of sizes and models to create an individual bathroom to suite the size of the room. This means that products from the same ranges can be fitted in the cloakroom, the ensuite and a large family bathroom for continuity of design.” And Sara Johnston, marketing manager of Keramag Design, concurs, adding: “This is why the Keramag Design collection offers a range of washbasin sizes throughout each of its collections, enabling high-end luxury to be achieved regardless of the size of the bathroom.”

Suite starting point

But where is the starting point with a small bathroom space? Obviously, it depends on whether it is an ensuites, which requires bathing or showering,or a cloakroom with WC and basin. But either way, in terms of the biggest share of space-saving products, Kate Hurst of Lecico points to the WC. She adds: “Shorter projection, close-coupled WCs are still the volume product supplied and increasingly the back-to-wall option too.” And industry experts believe that wall-hung  will continue to grow in importance to help create a prestigious look despite spatial restrictions. Raffaela De Vittorio of Geberit states: “Homeowners want to create a sense of luxury and find creative ways to maximise space, this is why solutions such as wall-hung sanitaryware will be ever more important going forward.”

However, marketing manager of Utopia Furniture Group Sam Ball believes basins, rather than the WC, should be the focus. “When planning a small bathroom or indeed any bathroom, I would always start with the basin as the key focal point of the room. Short projection basins and cloakroom basins are suitable for all these locations, particularly when teamed with reduced depth furniture to offer valuable storage space. Our reduced depth washbasin unit is definitely our best-seller”. However, there is also an advantage for using space-saving suites in traditional family bathrooms, as use of short projection suites can add more floor space. In fact Kate Hurst states: “Sales of our micro basins are growing to supply cloakrooms and we are certainly seeing an increase in smaller basin sales for the standard bathroom.”

Adding bathing facilities

For ensuites which require a provision for washing, as well as WC and basin facilities, accomplished designers will recognise there is a huge range of products available. Small bathroom spaces don’t just rely on over-the-bath showering. In fact, head of marketing at Bette Sven Resinghoff exclaims: “Products that help to make a bathroom look larger, such as flush-to-floor shower trays that co-ordinate with the bathroom flooring, will continue to increase in popularity in the small bathroom sector.” And he points out the company has also paid attention to creating baths specifically for small spaces too: “We have over20 baths specifically designed for small spaces, including those that have part of the bath surround cut away on the angle; so that they can be used where door openings would normally prevent the use of a bath with a good lying area.” And he adds designers are not restricted to simply the stock solutions, as the company can also customise tubs. He adds: “Bette not only offers products in a huge range of sizes, but can also offer bespoke sizes to fit a space perfectly, so that the design does not have to be compromised.”

Reflections for space

With so many products, then, available to designers, and with many working in small spaces day-to-day, it’s hard to believe any part of the bathroom specification could be overlooked. However, Sam Ball of Utopia contests: “MIrror cabinets and corner solutions are perhaps the most overlooked items when planning small spaces. it makes sense to include a mirror cabinet offering out of sight and out of reach concealed storage, rather than a plain mirror.” Of course, mirrored glass provides more than mere function, it can bounce light around the room and make a space look larger – surely a necessity for an area which is less than palatial. Wayne Dance reminds designers and specifiers: “So when it comes to smaller bathrooms, we often need to create the illusion of space to compensate for the lack of it. MIrrors and mirrored cabinets can offer far more than function. Good designers consider visual tricks, the impact of reflective surfaces and lighting, alongside a host of other considerations to make a smaller space look and feel larger.

Space-saving remains steady

Certainly the market for space-saving bathrooms shows no sign of abating. Even if RIBA is able to push through minimum sized new-build housing law through government, there will always be the hobbyist developer, looking to add facilities into their home to add value. And Sam Ball concurs: “There will always be a market for space-saving sanitaryware and indeed space-saving storage”. What is also definite is a continued focus on products designed for smaller spaces, will see continual design improvement. “Far too long, the compact market has been at the bottom of the barrel in terms of design”, admits Wayne Dance. Although space may be comprised, now there are plenty of options for designers so the bathroom styling won’t be.