Those of you who have been following for a while will know that we are slowly restoring and updating an ancient, crumbling yet beautiful Georgian house in England; working our way as quickly as inspiration and budget will allow (very slowly, in the case of the latter). It’s a battle against the elements; even as one coat of paint dries in a room, a strange and ominous water stain will seep through the ceiling of another. A sense of intimacy is created quickly with new guests who soon realise that every toilet flush clangs and reverberates around the house for a good 10 minutes; there are no secrets here. The house will be something of a life’s work, and is frustrating and wonderful – often in equal measure. We moved here two years ago this Christmas, and have so far tackled much of the downstairs; the kitchen, playroom and hallway have all appeared here on the blog.
Our next project was the overhaul of our bedroom and its en suite bathroom. We moved out of it more than two months ago for a job that we thought would take two weeks… we (and our builders) should definitely have known better by now! Having been camping out in the spare room since September, we finally reclaimed our own bed yesterday, with great relief and general giddiness. As we put the finishing touches to our bedroom, here’s a peek at the bathroom, which we’ve completely overhauled. I’ve interspersed the before and after pictures so that you get a sense of the layout and evolution.
Let’s start view into the bathroom from our bedroom before;
The bathroom had a very strange false step buried beneath dark green carpet (seen below), which was presumably crafted as a way of improving drainage at some point in the 70s or 80s. It had to go; beyond being a complete hazard in the middle of the night, it also reduced the floor space significantly. Oh, and the drainage thing obviously didn’t work; our en suite had no actual toilet; for that you needed to head down the corridor.
We took out the step, removed half of the wall-to-wall cupboards (which the step had been cut into, making them look a bit odd), and stripped out the old shower, replacing it with a hidden-cistern WC instead. An old armchair has been moved from the spare bedroom and has quickly settled into the corner here instead. Underfloor heating warms the new travertine stone which we laid instead of the carpet.
We think that the room is likely to have originally been a nursery bedroom, and contains a chimney breast (boxed in behind the sinks) and alcoves. The alcove to the right of the sinks used to house a built-in wardrobe, but one which we seldom used, being in a bathroom and far away from our other storage. It also had a weird half-wall which further bisected the space, and which we took down.
We replaced it with a huge walk-in shower…
For the main sink area, we stripped out the old, stained green marble top and inset basins, and chipped off the tiles to reveal the chimney breast and fireplace; incredibly, it hadn’t been boarded up so also contained several fossilised birds (eek!) and - more interestingly – a time capsule from the previous owners, and a newspaper that was more than 50 years old. I’ll share that in a future post; it makes for wonderful reading. After properly stabilising the chimney breast and wall, we had it re-plastered and tiled before choosing simple washbowl sinks with inset taps. The eagle-eyed will recognise that they are now mounted on our former hall table; we thought it would look beautiful in the space, so after sealing the wooden surface we asked our joiner to plumb the washbowls through it.
For aesthetically-pleasing storage of the things we use all the time, we found these poured-concrete planters at our local garden centre (a bargain at £15), which easily hold bits and bobs like hairbrushes, toothpaste and so forth. Hand towels are stored in the vintage dough bowl which again you may recognise from our apple-picking and other adventures – so much of this bathroom is recycled from other parts of the house.
An old French milking stool (a flea market find last year) acts as a stand for shower essentials;
‘That’s all very well’, I hear you cry; ‘but where do you store all your un-beautiful bathroom products, hmm?’ I can imagine you saying it, because that was exactly my husband’s question when I described to him my vision for a bathroom with nothing in it (or near as dammit). Well. Not that I am going to confess to owning anything unsavoury like haemorrhoid cream, waxing supplies, dandruff shampoo etc, but IF I did, they would surely all be housed in the magnificently huge cupboards we retained and which hide all manner of sins. Believe me, it’s like the episode of Friends where Monica’s secret closet full of junk is discovered.
We’ve only been able to use the bathroom for 24hrs so far, so we’re still pondering where to place things and wall decor. We’ve moved a huge picture up from downstairs which we love and are living with to see how it all works together. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to turn the old cupboard doors from the units we removed into window shutters, by stripping them and adding hinges to produce period, fold-back shutters…we shall see.
There are gremlins and small irritations, of course; the limitations of ancient plumbing and old houses means we have had to site the heated towel rail on the opposite side of the room to the sink, for example. We knew that we would have to plan this room somewhat on the fly, as we wouldn’t know what was underneath and behind the old bathroom until everything had been stripped away. All told though, we are very, very happy – not least because we’ll have no more midnight sprints along a cold corridor to the bathroom, stubbing toes and shivering as we go.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the colours we chose and fittings we used, for any bathroom fetishists or if you’re about to start a similar project yourself…
Now, time for a shower. Only my third today; the thrill of the new, eh?