interior design

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.

IMG_8246

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.

Octonauts!

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 Restoration: Heading upstairs…

French armchair in bathroom

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;

old bathroom 1

And after…

view from bedroom into bathroom

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.

old bathroom step

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.

new bathroom left view

new bathroom left corner

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.

old bathroom cupboard

We replaced it with a huge walk-in shower…

bathroom 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.

vanity unit

washbowl

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.

concrete planter dough bowl bathroom storage

An old French milking stool (a flea market find last year) acts as a stand for shower essentials;

milking stool

‘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.

bathroom wardrobes

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?

Kate

Bathroom Sourcebook