home makeover

The Dream House Renovation: Creating a Family Bathroom

DIY Bath tray

Regular readers will know that we’ve been gradually restoring our ancient, crumbly-but-beautiful home, room by room as budget allows.  We began with the kitchen and hallway and gradually worked our way upstairs, tackling our en suite bathroom and guest bedroom last year.  One room that has never quite hit the priority list has been the family bathroom; an inoffensive but bland mishmash of linoleum flooring, pastel tiles, 70s wallpaper and a squat, kidney-shaped plastic tub.  Oh, and a shower which has not worked for the entire 3yrs we’ve lived here.  What can I say? We’ve obviously been rather busy.  Finally last month we ripped it all out…

bathroom refit old bathroom

And now it looks like this…

An understated family bathroom

I tell you, I could spend the rest of my life in this bath and die happy.


The huge roll top, ball-and-clawfoot bath was  salvaged from another bathroom in the house which we don’t use – it actually spent the last year filled with old suitcases and boxes, gathering dust.  Finally we’ve liberated it and it has pride of place as the decadent main attraction of our family bathroom.  Oh, and it’s big enough for all of us at once, which is both a good thing and a terrible thing when you just want a quiet and relaxing soak…

bathtime rituals

Classical bath taps

I painted the feet silver as a first experiment towards painting the whole of the exterior; I’m going to live with the white for now whilst I ponder colours…

Bath feet

We added tongue and groove panelling to all the walls and hand-mixed a bold charcoal colour with a blue-ish hint (achieved by combining Shaded White and Railings from the Farrow and Ball range).  I love the depth of colour and drama of it, offset by paler walls and the whiteness of the fixtures and fittings.  We found an old French street sign in a local junkyard and that now picks up the colour of the wood and is one of just a couple of decorative elements…

French street sign

Another being this ancient rowing oar, warped and weathered with verdigris clasps; I love it.

Vintage oar in the bathroom

It is, above all, a family bathroom, but one we wanted to be able to switch easily into a calm and adult zone, so Harry’s bath-time Octonaut tribe live in this old wire basket and can be easily drip-dried and contained once darkness falls.


One of my favourite, favourite elements is the bath board I made using a salvaged piece of the original floorboards; when we ripped up the lino, the underlying boards were beautiful but chopped and nailed every couple of feet after centuries of plumbing work.  We took one up and I sanded it to a smooth finish before buffing it with a waterproof white wax, and it holds all the clutter one might need for an extended soak.  This, by the way, is the carefully edited artistic shot (below); usually you will find it piled high with a glass of wine, a slightly damp novel, a random toy that Harry has helpfully supplied me with ‘in case you get bored in the bath’, my phone, razor etc – you can imagine.

dream bathroom

We added a HUGE radiator-come-towel rail, which turned out to weigh 90 kilos (a lesson in reading the small print online), but looks magnificent and keeps the room toasty warm; in a house like ours that is not to be under-estimated, and I can imagine many a winter’s night where we will all just gather in the bathroom to socialise and eat dinner, rather than shuffling around in 8 layers of clothing downstairs like usual.

Bathroom radiator

The floor is made of engineered-oak boards and is coping wonderfully well with the nightly drenching it receives.  As a bathmat, I’ve repurposed a beautiful felted pebble rug that we were given a couple of years ago, which feels lovely underfoot as you step out of the water…

Felted pebble rub

We’ve gone for an understated look elsewhere, with simple wall lights which can be used in the evenings as a softer alternative to the ceiling lights, and a concealed cistern and boxed-in pipes to continue the flow of the panelled walls.  A laundry sack hangs on the door for all the clothes that are randomly scattered in the haste to clamber into the tub, and a tree-slice stool like those we chose for the guest room stands just where you need it to hold a glass or a book when the bath board gets too full (or just plain too far away when you’re lying back and relaxing).

Bathroom makeover

The room is still gradually taking shape as we complete the snag list, neatening paintwork and considering pictures and other accents for the walls and windowsills – but that final refining is a gradual process, and one best considered from the scented depths of the tub.  Bliss.

Now, where is that towel?

Towel hook

Bathroom window

The Dream house Renovation Part II: Making an Entrance…

I posted here about the first stage of our home renovation; creating a huge family kitchen and living space what was originally a formal reception room for visitors.  We’ve now turned our attentions to the hallway; a  vast Gone With The Wind style affair, which previously looked like this (below).  Our house was built in the early 18th Century as a sizeable ‘Gentleman’s Residence’ in the countryside bordering London.  It changed hands several times and has served many purposes, including a brief spell as a military hospital during WW2, and even a film studio in the 1950s.  As property prices escalated and families shrank in size, this once grand residence was divided into two, and the hallway shows the most evidence of this; the staircase below originally swept up once side of the hallway and down the other, and the chimney breast was centred in the main entrance hall.  The floor, though striking and a period feature itself, is not original to the property, but was added after the subdivision.  In the half of the original house we now own, we wanted to preserve as many original features as we could, whilst toning down the overall colour palette and working with the scale of the property.

Here’s where we’ve got to so far; we uncovered part of the original stone floor in the porch area, and sourced a near-exact replica to lay in the main hallway.  In a rare contemporary touch, we found this huge chandelier (it’s around 1.5m wide but weighs hardly anything, fortunately…).  Arguably the most dramatic change is to the chimney breast, which we’ve opened up top-to-bottom and filled with logs.  The previous owners had created a sort of floating shelf for dried flowers and ornaments, but we felt this was a bit incongruous; we didn’t have the option of a ‘real’ fireplace due to oddities about how the chimneys and flues are arranged, so opted for a striking, floor to ceiling feature which echoes the real fireplaces in other rooms around the house…

The logs are kiln-dried and sanded, and we spent a comical evening wobbling on ladders arranging them (and glueing them in place, for safety reasons).  If you’ve ever attempted one of those jigsaw puzzles where all the pieces look the same but fit together only one particular way, you’ll have some idea of how tricky it was…

The long, shallow console table is almost 2m and holds a constantly changing display depending on the time of year and whatever junk shop or ebay finds I’ve dragged home.  Currently in pride of place are these Indian temple bells which make the most beautiful and ethereal deep chiming noise when they move; I need to find the right place to suspend them properly, but in the meantime they wait patiently for inspiration to strike.

Bob (below) is one of my oldest possessions and was one of my first purchases after leaving university and moving into a shoebox-sized rented house.  Over the years I have occasionally flung yoghurt over him and left him outside for a few days, creating the aged patina you see here – but mostly he’s lived in the many different hallways I’ve owned since then.  It’s a testament to my husband’s devotion that he’s done most of the heavy lifting in recent years…

The chest (below) was given to me by my mother when I was fourteen, as a junk shop find for my bedroom.  More recently I’ve changed the handles and used transfer decal paper and turps to add lettering to each drawer (please, French readers; break it to me gently if my spelling is all wrong…).  It now holds the keys, junk mail, single gloves without soul mates and general clutter that tends to accumulate in a hallway, and hides it from general view.  The old typewriter – a personal passion – was an antique shop find which I’ve just sourced ribbons for via Ebay; hallelujah!

This olive tree is a faux one, rescued ex-display from a shop which was closing down; it looks beautiful at Christmas time bedecked with tiny silver baubles and white porcelain bells.  Once in a while a branch drops off, which is why we keep SuperGlue and gaffer tape in the aforementioned chest of drawers…

We’re far from completely finished; as you can see, we lack stair carpet and are pondering whether to keep or replace the wall lighting – decisions, decisions – but the biggest and most dramatic changes are done, and the dust is settling; time to pause once again and enjoy the temporary calm…