A closer look at lighting, contrast and my HUGE pores.
Read time: 10 minutes
This week, Etsy has been my hero. Last week, I was bemoaning how hard it was to find things that were both beautiful and functional for this experiment of mine. This week, I am feeling love for the world again having found a community of creative people doing some really innovative things – often without even knowing it. Etsy is a treasure trove of unique, handmade items by independent sellers and, as it turns out, is also leading the way in design where there is currently a gaping void in the mainstream.
It started with our light pulls. In order to be inclusive, light pulls need to be hung at an easy-to-reach level, be easy to grip, pull and see.
While I quite liked the existing light pulls (they looked a bit like cement or terrazzo), they were a little worse for wear. Being a hollow ceramic design, they had obviously repeatedly hit the hard tiled wall over the years and smashed.
I searched the usual hardware shops (and some of my favourite haunts such as ZaraHome and Anthropologie, which I was convinced would have lovely light pulls since they do such gorgeous doorknobs and drawer handles), but found all their offerings pretty boring (or super tacky – glow-in-the-dark zombie anyone??). So it was Etsy to the rescue – one of my favourite places for unusual gifts, but I hadn’t really used it for homewares before. I quickly came across JoyojoyUK – a lovely wood carver based in Bath, called Nic. Nic has created wonderfully ergonomic and pleasingly tactile wooden orbs, that look really modern and are just the right amount of quirky for me. Perfect for grabbing too, even if grip strength isn’t your strong point, especially when it can sometimes take quite a yank to flick the switch, as in our house. And the lush colour of the wood warms the bathroom up a treat.
The best thing about Nic’s light pulls was the colourful pull cords. Our existing cords were disgusting. Really disgusting. I dread to think how many hands have pulled them and a sort of troubling greasy brown stain has developed just above the handle where people grip.
Our bathroom desperately needed a splash of colour too, so the opportunity to change over to these made me very happy indeed. It is also amazingly helpful for spotting and identifying the pull cords. White cord against white tile? Not very useful if you have any kind of visual impairment or it’s just at night. In our bathroom, in addition to the light pull, we also have two more pull cords for hot water and the extractor fan, right next to each other. Hard enough for us to remember which is which, but what about our poor guests? How many times have you been in someone else’s bathroom desperately grabbing all the cords wondering what essential services you are turning on and off in their house, all while you get more and more desperate to pee? Now we helpfully have a pink one for the hot water and a teal one for the fan – my updated take on the classic red and blue for hot and cold. Much more sensible.
The other important thing about bathroom light pulls is that they need to be positioned helpfully in the room. This means how high/low they are hung, so you don’t have to stretch unnecessarily (easy to reach from seated, but not too low for children to become tangled) and also intuitively positioned near the door for easy location. This is something they are certainly not in our house. In fact, we think whoever built our house was having a bit of a laugh. One of its many quirks is that the light pull is behind our opened bathroom door meaning you have to walk in, close the door, plunge yourself into darkness then flail blindly for the cord.
Obviously you can rewire things, or rehang the door to change the way it opens, but neither of these options are practical in our house at this time. So instead, I have added in one of these battery-powered sensor lights near the door, so as soon as you enter when it’s dark you get 15 wonderful seconds of light, enough to find the cord without feeling like you are locked in a closet in a horror movie. I love them. The best bit is the squeals of delight you hear from guests as they enter and think your house is magic.
Lighting is really important in the bathroom generally. Most people over 60 need three times as much light as they did when they were 20, but it helps us all with clarity and contrast (although people with some conditions have difficulty with glare). Natural light is the good stuff here as not only is it great for your mood, it also allows you to see all the colours of the spectrum, making things appear more vivid. Ensuring there are no dark patches reduces the likelihood of tripping over things, but it’s also much easier to keep on top of all the pruning and preening that goes on in the bathroom. Our light fitting is nothing to write home about, but it does the job – it is a simple enclosed ceiling light that doesn’t cast shadows or cause dark patches anywhere. Job done. However, in order to throw a bit more light on the close ups or for use at night I have added this gooseneck magnifying mirror.
I really like these extendable magnifying mirrors, so you don’t have to lean in to see yourself and which neatly tuck away when not in use, but as we can’t screw into the walls willy-nilly, the suction cup option is a great one. It also means you can take it travelling. Be prepared though – it is slightly horrifying seeing your pores and stray hairs this close up. You can also get these LED strips to put around or behind your existing mirrors.
We also have a lovely big window, which is a blessing for light, but as we live on the ground floor, somewhat of a curse for privacy. You may not be able to see every detail from the outside through our misted glass but you can certainly see someone is in the buff, creating a feeling while showering more like rabbit in the headlights than oasis of tranquility. I first thought I would cover it up with some kind of curtain, especially as our window has a fairly ugly and obtrusive extractor fan embedded in it. I tried a net curtain, but even with a really cool one it looked old-fashioned, so I had a go with a cut-down shower curtain I liked (I really love Society6 for shower curtains but cafepress have some great ones too). I had been lamenting not being able to add a splash of colour with a shower curtain as we have a transparent screen, so I really hoped this might work, but it made the room too dark. I thought about blinds too, but I realised that to open and close a curtain or blind would mean doing so via the bath twice a day due to the awkward positioning of our window – a rather wet and inaccessible option. So instead, I have become a plant lady. I have never really had the space to get into houseplants before, but now I have let my wild side out. And wow, have I fallen hard. My excuse is that they are great for adding privacy and purifying the air, but really I think I just like all the beautiful plant pots…
I kept the curtain rail I bought and instead hung glass planters (super cheap from Flying Tiger) to give a bit more interest as well as coverage but without compromising the light. I’ve also thrown in some pictures leaned against the window in key places (handily using wrapping paper as a stop gap for now – nice art is expensive and I don’t want to ruin it in the damp). All this without stopping the beautiful light flooding in.
The extra greenery has softened up a pretty stark room a fair bit too. It has also been an opportunity to add a bit of personality and fun. I have had a weird pot with a face on it for ages – but suddenly it has a new lease of life (a giant cress-head is probably not everyone’s cup of tea but it makes me smile – see my next post for photos!). Watering them is quite therapeutic too; I have discovered each has such a different personality from my thirsty diva fern to my super chilled out spider plant and have unashamedly started following people like @thejungalow on Instagram for inspiration. Next stop Bank Holiday garden centre visits and National Trust garden membership. #plantlady
Our white tiles and walls are great for making the most of the light we have too, and for hygiene, but terrible for contrast if, like ours, all your fittings are white as well. Re-enter Nic’s pull cords. No problem spotting these against the white tile. You can also get stunning matt black bathroom fittings like shower, taps, door handles, rails etc. for your bathroom, which if deployed well can look really dramatic as well as helping to locate things if your eyesight isn’t exactly 20/20.
Moving away from traditional white and adding a blast of colour to the bathroom is individual and delighting if done well, like these ones:
Next time, the finishing touches – bath mats, toilet heights and roll holders, toilet brushes, bins and taps! And then a nice relaxing bath with a glass of wine I think 🙂
Thanks so much for reading. Please feel free to share if you know someone who might be interested or comment below if you have any thoughts, questions, hints or tips for me.