Material World

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Be bold in the bathroom – get creative with the latest cutting-edge surfaces.

Once the excitement of choosing appliances has faded and the great tap debate has receded, the tricky decision of what to cover bathroom surfaces with is faced. Most people give in gracefully to ceramic, paint, stone, vinyl or possibly rubber, but what else is available?

Before considering other options, think about the task you need the material to perform and where it will be – there is a distinction between the 'wet' and 'dry' areas and some materials will not be suitable for both. But whatever you choose, it must have a degree of water repellence and be easily cleaned, given the potential for mould, bacterial growth and limescale.

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Wet Areas

A general rule is avoid using any material that absorbs water or has joints that cannot be properly sealed anywhere, such as the shower area and the walls directly above the bath and basin. The materials selected here are essentially those that come in large sheet format, where the main requirement for sealing is limited to junctions – corners, ceiling and floor or shower tray.
Acrylics such as Perspex are an immediate choice and not only come in a rainbow of colours and levels of translucency but can have a textured surface, be screen printed and even contain objects such as bamboo strips (3-form.com).
Resins come in sheet format or are poured as a non-slip floor. There is a wide variety available from glowing photoluminescents and environmentally friendly plastics created from bottles and wellies (smile-plastics.co.uk) to those mixed with tiny chippings of quartz stone (stratum.uk.com).
Stretched PVC is predominantly used for ceilings but may be used for walls. It is usually a high gloss, densely coloured material that is supple to touch. It looks stunning but it can tear easily if marked (inscapepeople.com).
Laminate is another material rarely considered but it has antibacterial properties and provides the opportunity to have lots of finishes from gloss to matt pattern and wood effect to plain (formica.com).

Dry Areas

There is a far wider range of materials for dry areas, including more sculptural products.
Leather is a surprising choice but never the less a possible one, on the premise that you never see a soggy cow (almahome.co.uk). Leatherette vinyls are surprisingly sumptuous and may be applied to the floor then 'wrapped' up the wall to give a seamless finish. In wetter areas a welded joint will be necessary (tarkett-floors.com/uk).
Rubberised wallpaper is one of Muraspec's latest offerings. It has a hugely tactile surface and may be used, like other vinyl-backed wallpapers, in a bathroom. It is good practice to seal the joints with clear silicon (muraspec.com).
Relief panels– there are a number of these on the market with either wood veneers or in a laquered paint finish. They give a modern look and come in a number of guises, simple wavy patterns give fun shadow play (artworks-solutions.com).
Shell finishes are beautiful and exotic. Nature Squared creates luxurious panels from mother of pearl, eggshell, mollusc shell and natural laquers (naturesquared.com).
PVC- created rustic stone, slate slips and bricks may sound a little unusual but are a brilliant lightweight and amusing solution for those with the desire for a country or industrial look without the mess of real stone cladding. The finished result is very authentic (dreamwall.co.uk).
Magniq is a magnetic system that allows you to alter the finish on a whim. You choose the tile and its surface and then place mirrors, hooks and towel rails on it within seconds (magniq.net).
Clear lacquer can be applied to protect a material, but check with the manufacturer first to make sure it's suitable for this treatment. Another suggestion is to get your material bonded or laminated to clear acrylic (scin.co.uk).

Words: Annabelle Filer


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