The best materials for bathrooms

The best materials for bathrooms
Posted in: Help and Advice

Natural Selection

Bathrooms are the one space in the house where we crave a sense of indulgence and to combine that sumptuous aesthetic with practicality. Investment in bathroom materials, fixtures and fittings is key to achieving good-quality materials that will stand the test of time.

Probably the best material for bathroom surfaces and the one that combines both opulence and functionality, as well as undoubtedly being the most popular, is marble, followed by limestone. The split is roughly 70/30 among clients, according to Chris Elliot, project consultant at Artisans of Devizes. ‘Geologically marble is slightly more dense a material,’ he explains. ‘Any natural material is porous by nature but properly sealed and maintained, marble, and even limestone, gives unrivalled aesthetics and beauty to bathroom spaces and an air of opulence while being practical and hardwearing.’

Marble’s popularity stems from its use in commercial settings such as hotels, with many people experiencing its beauty while on holiday and then deciding to replicate that luxurious aesthetic at home. ‘Marble has always been a symbol of opulence within a property and a value adder, combined with the fact it is a little more dense as a material, it’s a popular choice as a result,’ Chris notes. Use of limestone in a bathroom is slightly less common. ‘Normally when limestone is installed, the finer limestones are used, including those with very small fossilisations.’

Natural stone tends to add value to a property. Porcelain and manmade options are alternatives to natural stones which, in Chris’s experience, often are used in rentals, lower commercial properties or children’s bathrooms, whereas marbles and limestones are showcased more frequently in master bathrooms and family homes. ‘In bathrooms you often find a honed finish is most applicable, both in a limestone and a marble, because it is a little more formal and elicits a cleaner looking finish,’ explains Chris. ‘As well as stone being used on bathroom walls and floors, it can also feature on vanity tops and bath surrounds, and you’d tend to see more of a honed finish in those applications.’ 

Calacatta Oceana Marble. Credit: Overbury Interiors
Aliseo Scallop Mosaics. Credit: Layzell Architects

The most popular Artisans of Devizes’ marbles featured in bathrooms include Aliseo marble, ‘which is a lovely white marble with soft veining, where subtle warming rust tones can occur in the quartz deposits,’ according to Chris. ‘Taj Mahal, a predominantly light grey marble with pinky tones, is another popular choice,’ he continues. Calacatta Oceana Oro, a combination of green tones with some gold, is also on trend. ‘It’s quite a varied material with lots of energy,’ notes Chris. Artisans of Devizes’ limestones used in bathrooms include Sloane and Portland, both of which evoke a pale yet interesting aesthetic. Kimmeridge is another interesting limestone used on occasions, for when a more intense grey tone is required.

To keep your natural stone looking in tip-top condition, it is strongly recommended to seal it. ‘Although it is hardwearing, some toiletries contain colourants, so it is a good idea to seal the stone to give it the longevity and the robustness it needs,’ says Chris.

Another reason that marble works so well in a bathroom is due to its bespoke capabilities. ‘With porcelain, you have to find a way to hide the edges if you’re doing bespoke work on it and it’s quite thin as a material. With natural materials such as marble or limestone, we can fabricate them into whatever’s needed and our highly skilled craftsmen can create some beautiful edges on it, so it’s perfect if you want everything to blend well, introduce an air of exoticism, or even if you just want something that’s got organic edges rather than clinical square edges.’ There is a heavy demand for bathrooms to be almost fully clad in stone, sometimes floor to ceiling, and a combination of the same marble is often used in varying formats across the space, including the vanities or bath surrounds and bespoke shower trays. ‘Marble gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of the design, you can really tailor it and make it your own. Obviously, the beauty of mother nature, with no two tiles or slabs looking exactly the same, creates a very personal and unique stamp, whereas porcelains by contrast will often have a set number of repeats, so runs the risk of looking a little more manufactured and purposeful as a result.’

Izmir Marble Mosaic: Credit - Sam Watkins Mcrae & Pine Studio
Aliseo Metro Tiles
Aliseo & Viola Marble. Credit: Claudia Ludwig Design
Aliseo Marble Skirting

Another advantage stone has over porcelain is that, properly looked after, it will be a lifelong product. ‘It shouldn’t deteriorate rapidly and as long as you’re treating it with care and respect and undergoing casual routine maintenance, it’s something that should last beyond your lifetime,’ says Chris. ‘That’s where stone really shines with its longevity and durability. We do obviously have some more sustainable options as well by way of reformed materials, but stone itself offers more longevity and therefore a lower carbon footprint than that of porcelain.’

The use of high-quality materials in a bathroom should be cohesive. ‘Normally when natural stones are used, it’s to create your own stamp and design, so you do want to make sure you’re using quality products throughout,’ explains Chris. ‘You don’t want to spend a large amount of money on a floor or wall covering only to then buy inferior quality goods elsewhere that don’t have the same longevity or durability. Sometimes it’s a particular unique aesthetic that providers such as Samuel Heath can offer, so you can rely on your own design sensibilities or seek specialist advice from companies such as Artisans of Devizes or Samuel Heath to guide how these best work together.’

As Martyn Whieldon, Managing Director at Samuel Heath, expands ‘You don’t want to choose brassware that affects the integrity of the marble or limestone years down the line. You want a product that is fitted into your marble or limestone that you don’t have to worry about.’ All of Samuel Heath’s products are made from the purest northern European brass. ‘Brass is the best material for bathrooms,’ he explains. ‘It’s hardwearing, it’s malleable and easy to work with, meaning you can create beautiful shapes and patterns.’ Because Samuel Heath focuses on buying the purest and best quality northern European brass they can find, it is the highest quality so it doesn’t contain any ferrous metals that tend to rust. Where possible, all the internal components are made from brass rather than plastic components, which cheaper products typically use. ‘The problem with the plastic components is that they tend to wear rather quickly. Because we use internal components made from brass, wear and tear is minimal, so it makes for a product that has real longevity.’

The components are then polished by hand by Samuel Heath’s team of highly skilled master polishers to create a perfect surface for plating. ‘The onsite electroplating process that follows includes up to 21 individual processes to create the high-quality finish for which we are known, and these multiple layers and the thickness of the layers result in a lustrous, hardwearing finish.’ These factors all ensure that Samuel Heath’s brassware will endure. ‘We speak to clients who have had their products for 20 or 30 years. To ensure this longevity as internal parts are subject to wear and tear over the years, we offer spare parts, such as cartridges, to prolong their life over time. Even if we discontinue a collection, we continue to offer spare parts to make sure the product life can continue,’ concludes Martyn.

Credit: Samuel Heath
Credit: Samuel Heath
Credit: Samuel Heath
February 22, 2024