For many years, wet room ideas were a divisive choice for a bathroom renovation. While they were favored for the idea that they could make your space look bigger, and that they work well for small spaces, the major drawback was the idea that when you shower, the whole bathroom gets wet.
Originally, wet rooms were completely open without any glass partition, however, a simple fixed glass panel creating a walk-in shower area is a much more practical choice and the general trend for wet rooms has evolved to include some sort of shower screen.
Now, in terms of modern bathroom ideas, wet rooms are certainly up there with the most popular. While the process of installing a wet room might be more disruptive and expensive than a standard bathroom re-fit, by tanking the envelope of your bathroom, you can streamline your floor tile finishes and create level-access showers which are more practical.
All-in-all, this means a more minimalist, modern bathroom, but the design possibilities don't end there. From types of floor and wall finishes to screens and alternative bathroom layouts, take a look at our gallery of the very best in wet room ideas to inspire your space.
Wet room ideas
Wet rooms are ideal as small bathroom ideas or awkward spaces such as below sloping ceilings or in rooms with height restrictions. They’re a job best left to the professionals to ensure adequate drainage, tanking, and slip resistance. If you love the spacious look of a wet room, creating a wet room-style showering area is much easier thanks to the variety of off-the-shelf low-profile shower trays, recessed storage niches, and frameless glass shower screens and hinged doorways now on offer.
Bespoke trays and screens offer the option of creating a generously sized shower room – perhaps for two – where you can take advantage of the latest shower systems that transform washing into a wellbeing experience, with their wall-mounted body jets and rainfall showerheads incorporating steam, aromatherapy, and chromotherapy features.
There are some practicalities to consider as part of your wet room design too. One of the first things to consider when planning a wet room is where to position the drain. Ideally, the drain should be as far away from the bathroom door as possible, to minimize any risk of water escaping the room. If you have a wooden sub-floor, the way your joists run is crucial to where your drain can be positioned. A gentle slope or gradient in the main shower area will help ensure that water flows away easily into the waste.
In a wet room, the shower area is flush with the floor level and the drain is fitted into the fully tiled floor.
1. Use tadelakt for an on-trend wet room
Tadelakt, a traditional Moroccan polished plaster has become a bathroom trend for wet rooms thanks to its good looks and practical nature. 'Homeowners are creating design-led wet rooms without grout lines that can collect dirt and grime,' explains Ian Kozlowski, founder of Decor Tadelakt (opens in new tab), 'but it's also an eco-friendly, unique wall covering, offering minimalist beauty and texture.'
Polished with olive soap for a waterproof finish, tadelakt can be used across all the walls in a wet room for a seamless finish, however, it's not really suitable for flooring, and should be combined with tiles or another bathroom flooring idea.
2. Create a clever design with mosaics
When it comes to choosing bathroom tile ideas, mosaic tiles have a lot to offer. They are not only easy to apply, and can be worked well around a shower drain without awkward cuts and fussy detailing, but they can also be used to create bold designs like this two-tone stripe wet room, which runs into the shower area.
Mosaic tiles are also great underfoot, with extra grout lines creating a non-slip surface. However, be wary that all this extra grout isn't always a practical choice when it comes to keeping your wet room clean and looking its best.
3. Or choose large format tiles for a practical wet room
If you ask Roisin Lafferty, creative director of Kingston Lafferty Design (opens in new tab), she'll warn you against using excesses of small tiles in wet rooms. 'I am an absolute lover of detailed and intricate tiling, however not for a wet room – where it’s a case of the less grout the better for longevity and cleanliness,' she says.
'Large-format marble is timeless and very practical, just make sure you have a slip rating if required. Large-format terrazzo or tiles give a similar streamlined effect. And for the highest-end finish, opt for a seamless full-height glass screen with minimal framing or fittings.'
When using large format tiles for a walk-in shower, you need to make sure you specify anti-slip tiles on the floor, especially for shower tile flooring ideas where there's the greatest chance of slipping on wet flooring.
4. Pick a folding shower screen for a small wet room
Wet rooms have a great advantage in a small bathroom layout in that they don't require bulky shower trays or enclosures, meaning that it's possible to squeeze a shower into a tight corner, often next to a bath.
'When it comes to showers, a separate shower can often be considered a luxury if space is tight. However, there are a couple of clever ways around it including wet rooms and folding shower screens that take up much less room than a typical shower,' says Barrie Cutchie, design director at BC Designs. (opens in new tab)
In this small bathroom shower idea, a fixed screen would have made access to the shower and the bath difficult and cramped, while the folding shower screen still helps to keep water in one area of the wet room.
5. Use reeded glass for privacy and extra style
Reeded glass isn't just a huge interior design trend, it's a no-brainer for a beautiful wet room. Not only does the texture of this glass add to a richer scheme, but it can also be used to create pockets of privacy in a wet room, whether it's being used by more than one person at once, or shielding a shower from the view of a window. There are plenty of shower screens on the market featuring reeded glass too, while enclosures using this type of glass are harder to come by.
Reeded glass is also a little more forgiving than standard glass when it comes to watermarks and limescale, making it a practical choice too.
6. Opt for a modern Crittall-style shower screen
Just as steel-framed dividers and doors are much-loved elsewhere in our homes, Crittall-style shower screens are a popular choice for bathrooms and wet rooms for a luxe addition to the space.
In this design by Day True (opens in new tab), the wet room also positions the shower underneath a large roof light, bathing the space with natural light while retaining its sense of privacy.
7. Or go for a minimalist shower screen
While you may be tempted by these feature shower screens, sometimes the best option for a wet room is the simplest. As you have the design possibility to use one tile for flooring throughout a wet room, and with no trays or enclosures to carve up the space, a minimalist shower screen, like this used in this project from Brian O'Tuama Architects (opens in new tab), which highlights the seamless nature of the space.
Consider slimline frames and concealed fixings, as seen in this brass and marble bathroom idea, reducing visual noise for a picture-perfect wet room
8. Go shower screen free for a true wet room design
The beauty of a wet room is that you don't have to have a screen at all if you don't want to. However, practically when using the space, and for those using it after you, it can help to consider where water will sit in the space. In an ideal world, you'll want water and spray to not reach areas like the basin, where you might want to later stand with dry feet.
'If you are embracing the full wet room look and omitting any sort of enclosure or screen, it is fundamental to think about your choice of sanitaryware, as it is likely that it will get wet from the spray of the shower or the condensation in the room,' says C.P. Hart (opens in new tab)'s Rebecca Milnes. 'Opt for ceramics that are flush to the wall and are ideally wall-mounted. A wall-hung toilet is a brilliant choice in a wet room, as there are no areas for water to pool and makes cleaning easier.'
9. Design a double shower into your wet room
As wet room ideas don't have to have fixed shower enclosure sizes, you can use this as an opportunity to install a double shower set-up. Do you need or will you use two showers in the same space? Only you can answer that, but for a luxury bathroom idea, they can't be beaten.
This bathroom design, which includes a BC Designs (opens in new tab) bathtub, incorporates a micro cement shower floor running throughout the wet room, adding an industrial contrast to the marble and luxury fittings used.
10. Create an enclosure for a partial wet room
To get the best of both worlds of a wet room, it's possible to divide your bathroom into wet and dry zones. This is usually done by combining the bath and shower into a wet room set-up, separated by an enclosure, but properly tanked in the way a wet room should be.
This leaves your basin and WC out of the wet zone, making it easier to use these spaces after someone has showered without entering into a wet, humid space.
11. Create a broken-plan wet room
This wet room set-up by interior designer Katie McCrum (opens in new tab) of McCrum Studio is another way you could look to divide up a bathroom for a more contained wet zone. This broken-plan enclosure means that the wall intersecting the bathroom could be used for this clever bathroom mirror idea, freeing up space in the bathroom, while the showers and bath sit beyond in a dedicated wet zone.
12. Design a walk-through shower
Wet rooms are well-loved for their walk-in shower designs, but how about a walk-through shower? In a design such as this, from C.P. Hart, a walk-through wet room set-up allows for an unusual freestanding bath idea, laid out with the tub in the center of the room, meaning the shower can be used from either side without disturbing the flow of the room.
While walk-through showers may take up extra space for both an entry and exit to the showering area, they have a luxurious feel about them that makes them well-suited to high-end bathrooms.
13. Try this clever idea to protect wet room windows
While this wet room from West One Bathrooms might be small, it's perfectly formed. Not only does this Crittall-style shower screen and hexagonal tile create a modern look, but the designers have come up with a clever way to be able to position the shower next to the window, without exposing it to water spray and excess moisture.
A hinged screen over the window not only protects it from the shower, but provides privacy when using the shower without sacrificing natural light. Plus, it can still be opened, like a traditional window treatment to enjoy the view.
What do you need to have a wet room?
To create a wet room, you'll need to create a watertight environment, for example by tanking both the floor and walls of the room to protect it from any leaks. Once a watertight membrane is laid, the room can then be tiled.
When deciding which wet room system to go for, think about what your sub-floor is made of. There are systems for both solid and wooden floors. If you have a concrete floor, it can be quite invasive to channel in a waste and create the gradient fall required for drainage.
Forgoing a shower tray in favor of a wet room allows the floor tiles to run through to the shower area, which adds visual space to a room. However, not all surfaces are safe to use in a wet room setting and it is crucial to know what the slip rating of the material is. C.P Hart's Rebecca Milnes recommends using a material with a structured, textured finish to give extra grip in wet areas.
Tanking is also essential in a wet room. This is a multi-step process that entails several layers of waterproofing to ensure an excellent seal – much like a swimming pool. The two main approaches for tanking a wet room are using a self-adhesive bitumen-based waterproof membrane or applying a paint-on liquid wall membrane. It is always best to speak to your supplier about the best system for your project.
Hugh is the Deputy Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2022.
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