Tropical bathroom design with a spa-like feel

Sometimes what seems like the initial workings of a wild fantasy can be transformed into reality. Renovator Penny Bagnall-Smith’s new bathroom is a tropical paradise, inspired by where she grew up.

Penny’s bathroom design ambitions were leaning towards the truly fantastical. “I was brought up in the tropics and while I love living in London, you don’t quite get the same views,” smiles Penny. “I decided I wanted a space that would echo the feeling of being outside in a rainforest.”

So, after bringing on board Andrew Hodgkinson, of Hodgkinson Design, together they created a scheme which completely hit the exotic brief, while still being a functional bathroom.

Here, Penny explains how the project came together…

Tropical bathroom with freestanding bath, exotic wallpaper, fluted wood and double basins
The rainforest wallpaper was sourced from an interiors shop in Paris. The bath, from Victoria + Albert Baths, fits perfectly in the tropical bathroom scheme.

What was the space like before?

The room was originally divided into two. It included a walk-in wardrobe at one side, which meant there wasn’t enough floor area for a shower and a bath. My husband really wanted those two elements to be separate and getting the clothes out of the bathroom was a key part of our brief.

Andrew gained planning permission from our local authority to create a two-storey rear extension, which included our spacious new bathroom.

What was the inspiration?

My fondest memories are of growing up in Jamaica. I can remember learning to water-ski in a place called Blue Lagoon; it had palm trees and a jetty with a coconut shack. It was so untouched and magical. I couldn’t recreate the view of a rainforest outside in our garden, so I decided to put the panorama on our bathroom wall instead.

The finished design, however, started with the bath, which I’d already bought prior to commencing the works. Andrew saw the soft curves and created everything including the vanity unit around the design of the bath.

exotic wallpaper behind freestanding bath
Penny placed the bath away from the window to better enjoy the rainforest wallpaper.

What did you ask for?

I drew a picture of my bathroom, and, looking back, it’s funny because it was essentially a tropical rainforest. When I initially discussed my plans with Andrew, I wanted a fake tree with a shower coming out of it. He sat there and patiently listened to my ideas, and somehow managed to trim it back from peculiar to chic. Andrew suggested that the walnut panelling would help create a feeling of being in the forest without looking retro.

vanity unit with fluted wood, double basins, double mirrors and wall lights
The couple chose to install a porcelain floor, which is easier to maintain and more durable than marble.
round basin on wood vanity with metal brassware
The builder applied the panelling piece by piece.

When I have visited tropical destinations I’ve always enjoyed using an outdoor shower – they’re fairly commonplace. And when I spoke to Andrew about this, he suggested rounding off the walk-in enclosure as a nod to these.

We decided to apply tadelakt, here too; it is a water-proof lime plaster material which is commonly used in Moroccan bathrooms to craft basins, baths and finish off walls and ceilings.

Tadelakt: what is it, and how do you get the look? Click here

Tell us about the bathroom’s layout…

Most people tend to place a freestanding tub in front of the window for the view. As I recreated my own rainforest on the wall, Andrew suggested placing the bath there. I initially decided that I wanted a large rainfall spout, but as those often get clogged up, I chose a wall-mounted tap that was smaller, but with a similar effect.

The mixers aren’t visible because I wanted to create the sense that it was a real rainfall, and they would have ruined the vision. They are very discreet, and you can’t see them from the door, but I can just put my hand down and I can change the temperature when I’m in the bath.

I have an incredible fan located above the shower, which Andrew suggested we install, as you need to keep moisture away from the wallpaper.

tropical bathroom design with freestanding bath and palm leaf mural
Penny wanted a different lighting arrangement over the bath, to look like raindrops falling from the ceiling.

It feels like we get to go on holiday every day now. Every morning when I walk in it feels like I’ve entered a spa and I own an escape room. Having grown up outdoors I’ve spent lots of time in water, and I find sitting in the bath is very therapeutic – perhaps like meditation for others.

Penny’s words of wisdom:

  • Think about what you’ll see once the project is finished. I personally don’t like seeing WCs when you enter the bathroom and I wanted to make sure ours was as discreet as possible.
  • Get into the bath in the showroom to feel how comfortable it is.
  • Have the electrician and plumber map out the blueprint for you to keep, so you have them should you choose to make changes further down the line.
  • We’ve installed underfloor heating and a towel rail. I don’t have it under the window, but we have set it up so that if it fails we can easily install a radiator in that space.

As originally told to: Ifeoluwa Adedeji | Photography: Tom St Aubyn

Enjoyed this post? Click here for wet zone bathroom ideas

About Post Author

You Might Also Like


Want to get involved?

[email protected]

Sign up to our newsletter

Want the latest in your inbox?