By Laney Clancy
Being married to a plumber and working for a plumbing business, I know that plumbers consider a flushing toilet, clear drains and well-organised pipes a thing of beauty. But for everyone else, aesthetically plumbing scores very low on the design scale. Every property, big or small, old or new, has some plumbing feature that’s oddly placed or simply an eyesore. Here’s how to hide, complement or even enhance your plumbing to make it easier on the eye.
In the bathroom
Vanity units have long been the go-to solution to hide sink drain pipes but if your bathroom or powder room is too cramped you may not have room for one.
The cheapest and easiest solution is to paint the pipework. You can choose the same colour as the bathroom wall for camouflage, or choose a more decorative colour like black (just make sure you apply a PVC primer first). Another option in a natural or nautical themed bathroom is to wrap the pipes in a material like rope. The patina of copper is quite beautiful — in my home we have run copper water supply pipes against a background of a black wall. The pipes are narrow so don’t take up space and the contrast is striking.
You can also convert ugly waste traps (where the pipes bend, often in a U shape after their connection to the basin plughole) from the standard plastic white ones to shiny chrome or modern black ones.
If you have a budget to work with, consider a pedestal basin to contain the pipes but keep the bathroom’s sleek look. Ensure a plumber has access to the pipes though, just in case they need to be repaired.
Toilets are also unavoidable eyesores in the bathroom. A wall-hung toilet puts the cistern behind a wall but be aware this does compromise a plumber’s access for repairs in future. A close-coupled toilet is the next best option as it reduces the visual impact of the toilet while maintaining accessibility. Or distract with a feature wall or impressive wall tile that moves the eye away from the toilet.
Ventilation fans are never the most attractive thing in a bathroom and the best way to hide one is to ensure it’s the same colour as the ceiling to make it blend in. Or you can safely cover it with a decorative grate that can also be sprayed to match your ceiling colour. A more expensive option is to rearrange your lighting so the fan falls in shadow.
In the laundry
No matter how sleek your washing machine, its taps and tubes are always going to be aesthetically troublesome. With front loaders in particular, you can run the hoses behind a shelf or cupboard or under a benchtop to your sink to keep them out of.
If space is an issue, you may be able to put up a curtain or screen. Make it practical — a rod you can use to hang drying items can also support a curtain you can draw across to hide the plumbing when not in use for laundry. Hiding your laundry behind cupboard doors is another way to maintain a sleek look.
Rainwater collection tanks and hot water tanks are bulky and often unsightly but there are a few things you can do to hide it or make it a feature. Camouflage is one way to disguise a tank—you could paint it to match your house or fence colour. Other people simply acknowledge the tank for what it is and turn it into a feature, using it as a canvas for artwork for example.
If you have enough room, consider erecting a screen or encasement around it. There are a number of decorative screens available that draw the eye to the screen rather than what’s behind it. An encasement turns the tank into a closed area that you can treat like a shed – particularly handy if you need to keep children or pets out. If the screen or encasement can support a living wall (vertical garden) then this is a beautiful idea as the greenery from this distracts from the tank behind it.
Don’t forget the plumbing!
Plumbing is an essential part of a house and you can certainly be inventive about designing around eyesores. Don’t forget that these pipes, drains, tubes and tanks have a function first so your decorative efforts should not compromise plumbing operations. Also be aware that if a professional does need to repair something, you need to make sure the plumber can access the fixture.
Pretty plumbing? It is possible.
— Laney Clancy is the marketing and finance manager at Pipe Perfection Plumbers in Sydney. She is married to Darren, the owner of the business. Laney gets to talk to plumbers about plumbing and home maintenance a lot, and loves a good bathroom makeover.