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Best in Bath


Today we talk bathroom design with Sarah Trotter, a Melbourne based interior architect who runs her own practice, Hearth Studio.

Sarah is known for her creative treatment of small spaces, and is responsible for one of our favourite bathrooms of ALL TIME (the humble yet supremely photogenic bathroom of Alex Kennedy in Carlton – pictured again below!). Today Sarah shares with us some of her top tips for creating a beautiful bathroom.


1st July, 2016
Sarah Trotter of Hearth Studio
Friday 1st July 2016

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in interiors, and luckily for me I have been able to turn this into my day job. I work as an interior architect, and after working for a couple of wonderful Melbourne design firms, I started my own practice, Hearth Studio, in 2012.

A lot of my clients come to me seeking assistance with two of my favourite spaces to create: kitchens and bathrooms. These spaces are really important, and require careful consideration as they are often the buzzing hub of the home! They also happen to be places where you can really get creative with materials and textures.

I used to find bathrooms challenging. They do require extreme practicality, but I love the opportunity to create a peaceful and personal place to start and end the day. I often have my best ideas and revelations in the bathroom. Here’s some of what I have learned along the way.

Hearth Studio’s Approach to Bathroom Design

A bathroom can be a tricky space to design, as often we only allocate a small, tight area to bathrooms when designing a home. It’s best practice to maximise the designated space in a practical way. I like to try and have a ‘wet area’, a separate toilet, and a generous shower when I plan a bathroom, despite the constraints.

Bathrooms are very private spaces and it is a very personal process designing a bathroom for a client. People have to discuss everything from toilet paper to toothbrushes and shower rituals. It is so important to get the little things right, and to ask the right questions. Like, how big are your shampoo bottles?

Top Considerations

Always consider what you see when the door to your bathroom is open. I always try and hide the toilet suite from initial view, as a toilet is a toilet, and ideally shouldn’t be the focal point of the room!

Try to create a ‘wet zone’. Having the shower and bath adjacent to each other can be very useful when you have a family. For example, you can hose down your muddy toddler before popping them in the bath! The shower waste can also be the perfect insurance against a bathtime ‘splash party’.

Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into the bathroom, a little colour and texture can make this intimate room feel special and personal, even if the rest of the house is more of a blank canvas.

The North Carlton bathroom of Alex Kennedy, designed by Hearth Studio. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

updating a bathroom on a budget

It is often hard to update your bathroom cheaply, as it usually involves more than one trade (a plumber, plasterer, tiler, cabinet maker etc.). If you can stick to one trade – just a plumbing change, an electrical change or a paint change – that is a great start. Other cosmetic changes that can liven up the space include:

Choosing a mirror with personality can make a big difference. Scour your local stores or eBay to see if you can find something that suits you. Make sure you have the right hardware to attach it to your wall – talk to someone at your local hardware store to get the fittings you need for plaster, tiles or masonry.

Lighting is a great way to change the feel in a bathroom. Having one light near the vanity, separately switched and dimmable, can make a huge difference to the feel of the bathroom. Moody lighting transforms the bathroom from a strictly utilitarian space to somewhere much more relaxed. You can create instant ‘day spa’ vibes with the right lighting!

A new shower curtain or paint job. Changing tapware and plumbing can be tricky and expensive, but there are plenty of cost-effective changes that can really enhance the space. Replacing an old shower screen with a great quality shower curtain, or painting your ceiling and untiled walls is a good place to start.

Top Three Local Retailers for Bathroom Finishes

1. Bespoke Tile and Stone are lovely to deal with, and have a great range of beautiful tiles.

2. Dunlin Home distribute Davey lighting from England, which are rated for outdoor use. Outdoor lights are perfect for wall lights in the bathroom, as they can withstand water and steamy conditions.

3. Fibonacci stocks some great terrazzo in beautiful new colour ways. I’m loving Terrazzo at the moment – it has a timeless feel and adds a great texture for floor tiles (ie. hides sins).

Top Three Local SupplieRs for Bathroom details

1. Groupwork. Our Groupwork project 003 is one of my favourite bathroom hardware systems, designed by me in collaboration with architect Murray Barker and artist Esther Stewart.  It is wall mounted, and perfect for smaller spaces where cupboards or shelves aren’t an option. It is manufactured in Australia by Avenir.

2. Astra Walker. I love tap ware by local brand Astra Walker, and the finishes on offer! I love their white taps, and the return of coloured tap ware, which is  reminiscent of Dorf and Caroma coloured fixtures from the ’60s and ’70s.

3. Rowsaan. Rowan and Saan make beautiful handcrafted brass handles for cabinetry.

Groupwork 003 project designed by Sarah Trotter, Murray Barker and Esther Stewart. Photo – Lauren Bamford. Styling – Esther Stewart.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email