Greg Mellor: in defense of bathrooms

Greg Mellor: in defence of bathrooms

One of our favourite local designers, Greg Mellor, makes the case for designing a bathroom as if it were any other room in the home.

Every room in the home has a function… even if that function is simply to recline and contemplate life. But where does function end and form begin? Bathrooms, in our opinion, have been getting a bad rap for far too long with an unnecessarily formal treatment. Given a different approach, this can be a room that meets (or even surpasses) the ranks of other thoughtfully styled spaces in the home like the kitchen or living room. Beyond functional, it can be eclectic, charming, beguiling, even mind-blowingly memorable.

Cape Town-based interior designer Greg Mellor has a knack for injecting interiors with lashings of comfort, personality and soul. For him, it’s only natural that the bathroom be treated with the same respect. A quick flick through his studio’s archives proves this, with a stream of gorgeous bathrooms that break the established rules and belie this room’s intended purpose. Anyway, who said you can’t hang a curtain around your bathtub?

“It seems bathrooms are often viewed as a space where one need only select finishes and sanitaryware, however I think the layouts need to be tested, planning should be carefully considered, all the architectural elements thought of and the proportions and materials looked at more carefully,” he explains.

From hanging artwork (yes, you can) and painting the walls red to creating a room within the room, Greg shares some of his top bathroom projects and dishes out some tips on steering this utilitarian room into a totally new direction – one worthy of design envy.

Greg Mellor: in defense of bathrooms

Plan and plan some more

Why should a bathroom be one big, empty, echoey space? Wherever possible the loo should be separate – and at the very least – tucked away. One should never encounter the loo immediately upon entering the bathroom, nor should it be viewed from outside the bathroom.

Consider architecture

I love bathrooms that are slightly broken up – rooms within the room, small divisions in the space created by nib walls, arches or even curtaining. Even though they should be used sparingly to be responsible water users, baths are the best focal point and can be emphasised by being placed in a vaulted niche, or a paneled recess or surrounded by curtains.

(Almost) nothing is off-limits

I love to put artworks and full-scale furniture into a bathroom; consider an upholstered armchair or an antique table. Having said that, I’m not a fan of the 80s wall-to-wall carpeting in a bathroom, nor of corner baths.

Be unconventional with materials

Steer away from the large-format tile standard and live a little. Paneling, wallpaper, rugs and window dressings are all plausible options for the bathroom. If the bathroom is designed properly, it should have decent air flow and ventilation to prevent too much steam build up in the case of using textiles and wallpaper.

A few stockists to scout out

It can be slim pickings for sanitaryware with character in SA, but Victorian Bathrooms really stocks the best variety in my opinion. Onsite Gallery often has interesting reclaimed basins and Brassique in Somerset West stocks beautiful old brass taps. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll also find that many bric-a-brac and vintage stores keep old parts and accessories and don’t forget the reclamation yards.

A final word of warning

Beware of getting caught in the trap of using a garden tap in a rustic country bathroom. They are not designed to take hot water, so you will forever be changing washers on your hot taps.

Words: Mila Crewe-Brown and Greg Mellor
Photography: Greg Cox