What exactly is a wet room?

Wet rooms are usually defined as fully waterproofed areas where the walls of the bathroom form the boundaries of the shower itself. Wet rooms typically include a sink and toilet; there may or may not be a bathtub as well.

walking on water
ARTICLE Persephone Nicholas, PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Heritage TIles

Wet rooms can be deceptively simple spaces. Thought, planning and attention to detail are all key to creating a relaxing space where form marries function.
Antipodeans love water and space. No surprise then that more and more of us are choosing that contemporary incarnation of the bathroom – the wet room – when we decide to renovate or redesign. This is a trend driven by architects and their clients alike - even those that usually embrace a more classic aesthetic are getting used to walking on water.
In Sir Terence Conran’s book Bathrooms Just Add Water, the iconic British architect describes the wet room thus:  “Wet rooms are usually defined as fully waterproofed areas where the walls of the bathroom form the boundaries of the shower itself. Wet rooms typically include a sink and toilet; there may or may not be a bathtub as well.”
Conran identifies three reasons why wet rooms are on the rise: speed and efficiency (both in terms of washing oneself and for maintenance of the area), maximising space (particularly when it is limited or awkwardly shaped) and the feeling of freedom created by the lack of boundaries.
Offering such compelling advantages, it’s no surprise that wet rooms are on the increase. Contemplating taking the plunge? Read on.

Supersize space

One of the big advantages of wet rooms is that they create the illusion of more space in even a modest sized bathroom. Doing away with conventional shower screens and trays allows the eye to travel further without interruption. The effect can be enhanced with wall-mounted basin and toilet fittings. Architect Mark Oxenham, of Castlepeake Design, suggests clients limit surface finishes.  “Having a simple palette of materials where what goes on the floor goes on the walls emphasises the simplicity of the wet room,”  he says.

Privacy please

A wet room is essentially a multi-functional space and can be occupied by more than one person at a time. Yet Oxenham says:  “A wet room can provide more privacy if you set it up so that somebody can use the dry area (such as the toilet or basin) while the wet area (the bath or shower) is separated slightly by either a partition or a screen of some type. Two people could use a wet room quite easily instead of only one in a more conventional bathroom.”
Yet no matter how close we are to our loved ones, sometimes seclusion is a must.  Interior designer Meryl Hare, of Hare + Klein, says this shouldn’t be an afterthought:  “There are times when it’s a luxury to enjoy the solitude of bathing, so I would advocate a way of creating privacy.”  Glass – with its myriad of finishes and forms – offers a supremely flexible option. Hare, however, says separate toilets are a must:  “I would always separate the toilet, both with a door and ventilation.”

Foolproof waterproofing

One of the biggest challenges in creating a wet room is ensuring it is fully waterproof. Waterproof surfaces should be floor-to-ceiling and extend at least a two-metre radius from the showerhead. A surveyor is the best source of advice but be prepared to install additional waterproofing for the underlying wall and floor structure. Tanking, for example, is a waterproof layer applied underneath the chosen surface finish, providing a further layer of protection against leakage that could cause damp or even dry rot. 

Surface satisfaction                      

Choosing the wet room surfaces is one of the most pleasurable parts of creating such a space. Revel in the tactile qualities and sensual palette of slate, marble, limestone or even waterproofed concrete. Tiles offers a kaleidoscopic choice of colours and patterns, bespoke mosaics add an indulgent and personal touch. If budget allows, consider under floor heating when planning the floor surface. Wet rooms without heating can be cold in winter.

Into the light

Lighting should be considered early in the planning process. Architect David Twohill, of Owen and Vokes, says there is no substitute for natural light.  “We try and introduce natural light in showers and wet rooms, whether it be through a window which still affords privacy or by introducing skylights that draw natural light down the walls. It’s nice to shower in natural light and also helps kill any mould in the wet room.” 

When less is more

Storage is always an important consideration in a bathroom but even more so in a wet room where bathroom necessities – not just lotions and potions, but also towels, toilet paper and cleaning materials – should be stored outside the splash zone. Recessed or cavity cabinetry and flush paneled cupboards make sense in this space.
Twohill believes appropriate storage enhances the wet room experience.  “To make it a pleasurable experience you want to make it spacious and design it so there are special places to put all your particular things that accompany you while you’re showering,”  he says.

Focus on fixtures and fittings

The minimalist ethos that defines the wet room allows the fixtures and fittings that remain to take centre stage. It also invites the use of innovative bath ware and tap ware such as freestanding baths and basins that are plumbed from the floor.  Showerheads can be mounted from walls or ceilings singly, in groups or linear arrangements. The most efficient showerheads combine reduced water flow with aeration to give the feeling of a stronger flow with less water.

The wet room of the future    

Innovation in the wet room sector will be driven by the quest for greater water and power efficiency, predicts Pinky Makaude of Parisi Bathware. We may see advances in terms of using sensors for water and lighting so that when you walk into a bathroom, lights come on or there are timers in the shower.

You might be interested in reading: Protect wet area rooms with GIB Aqualine.

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This article by Persephone Nicholas featured in Issue 003 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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