Throughout my career whatever job I was doing I always had a reputation for ‘getting stuff done’. And as an interior designer I continue to focus on doing things right, doing them on time, and always on or under budget. I am also a tad competitive (possibly the worlds greatest understatement…) So when the owner of the John Dalton Building in Cockermouth set me the challenge of turning one of their new apartments into a show home in just 4 weeks I set myself the goal of doing it in 3, and I did. So who is up for an exclusive sneak preview before open house this weekend? Continue reading
I’ve designed more bathrooms than any other room since I started my business, but I never get bored of doing them because I love the problem solving aspect. People rarely have huge bathrooms and there are always logistical issues you have to work with.
And the problem solving doesn’t stop when you’ve planned bathrooms. The first fix, which is when any new pipework and electrical cables get installed before the walls are plastered, often uncovers new issues that can mean a re-think. I had to break from writing this post to go to one of my sites to talk to the bathroom fitter about raising the shower tray because the floor joists didn’t run parallel with where the waste pipe need to go. You can drill a hole in a joist for a ½” water pipe or an electric cable but not a 40mm waste pipe, you need to raise the shower tray. This then led to discussions about the height of the shelf in the shower for shampoo bottles and whether the shower screen would still fit as the ceiling had been removed to bring in light from a roof light and there was a beam in the way. This is why I never let bathroom projects start when I’m on holiday…..
Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part Two
The bathroom I’m about to show you is very different to the one I showed you in part one of this post, and not just in style. There were lots of juicy little problems that needed to be solved in terms of the layout. But how about I show you what it used to look like before we get into that?
The customer said I could only show you these if I could guarantee her full anonymity……
Make a mental note of the door below, even that got a makeover. Just noticed the random rubik’s cube LOL.
Sometimes working out what customers will like is harder than solving the layout problems, as it isn’t always easy to describe what you like you just know it when you see it. Which is why I use tools like Houzz and Pinterest to share images with customers, and encourage them to add their own images and comments so I can build up a profile for them. After collaborating on an Ideabook with these customers I decided to design them a bathroom which had a country feel but with modern touches, lots of natural wood for Mr S and lots of pastel colours with a few copper touches for Mrs S.
Are you ready to take a look?
The Pretty Family Bathroom
I’ll give you a minute to appreciate the transformation before I run through all the juicy little problems I had to solve.
Firstly, they wanted a shower but needed to keep a bath as they have two small children and the room isn’t big enough for a separate shower cubicle. Yes I know the obvious solution is an over bath shower but if only it was that straightforward.
Mr S is VERY tall and the ceiling is not, and we needed to lower it to fit downlighters as the loft had been insulated and boarded and there is no longer access to the space above the bathroom. So after checking, double-checking and triple checking the height of the reinforced bath (which you really need when very tall adults are going to be standing in it to take a shower), and finding some very shallow LED spotlights, I calculated I only needed to lower the ceiling by 10cm. This might sound like a lot for shallow downlighters but there has to be a gap above the spotlight to allow it to ventilate. Technically you can fit them directly under loft insulation if you use breathable loft caps, but as I mentioned there was no loft access to do this so new ceiling it had to be.
This meant that a shower head on a riser would work but there wasn’t enough head height for one of those lovely big ceiling mounted or fixed rainfall shower heads which they would have liked. But I did manage to find a good compromise after hunting around on the Internet – a shower kit with a 160mm head instead of the usual 110mm. So shower problems solved.
Next issue is they wanted a bigger window but it couldn’t be any wider or the sill would always be covered in water from the shower. We could have sloped the window sill but the customer also wanted clear glass and there is a public park behind their house. So unless they wanted to attract unwanted attention and possibly complaints they would need a blind, which would have got wet and mouldy. So the new window would have to be taller but not too low because the bath needed to go under the window (trust me I tried every possible layout). Even though I had checked, double-checked and triple-checked the bath height I still didn’t rest until that bath was fitted.
From the childrens’ perspective, the advantage of this low window sill is that they can use it as a slide into the bath something Mrs S found out the other night….
On to the next challenge; they desperately needed storage but I needed to keep the space next to the bath relatively clear so that the shower screen could fold outwards 90 degrees, because if the shower screen can only fold into the bath you can’t access the bath taps. And before you say what about putting the bath taps in the middle of the bath, baths designed for central taps have two sloped ends instead of one, which isn’t great when your shower is over the bath as you can’t get right under the shower head unless you ceiling mount it. See earlier challenge. I also had to find a bath mixer tap that would pivot 90 degrees so you wouldn’t bash your shins on it when you took a shower. Something I wish some hotels would take into account.
So anyway back to storage, I put the biggest vanity unit I could next to the door, with a raised shelf behind it for additional counter space.
The vanity unit was made by a company called Parker & Walkers Furniture who can make any size and style you want and paint it in your chosen colour. Although apparently Farrow & Ball Dead Salmon was a first for them.
I also included a custom built cupboard the same depth as the toilet cistern above the toilet. I’m lucky to work with Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms, Ben is a fitter and joiner so he can make me things like this. The frame for the cupboard and the cistern housing were built in pine and then clad in solid oak tongue and groove to match the top of the vanity unit.
The shower screen is a bifold that can fold in or out 90 degrees so it can fold flat against the cupboard when they bath the kids.
The walls and ceiling have been painted in Farrow & Ball Calamine which looks lovely with the oak and the copper wall lights. Two of the things I learned about Mrs S through the Ideabook is that (1) she likes flamingos, hence the wall print which just happened to be the right shades of blue and pink, and (2) she likes round mirrors. Neither of these things she knew herself until we started looking at images together.
I found a towel radiator to match the copper wall lights. The heat output isn’t enough for a bathroom this size, but they’d already decided they wanted underfloor heating which would provide the heat needed so this could just be a very pretty towel dryer.
Remember how their old cottage door looked before? Well it cost £30 to get it stripped locally and Mr S filled the holes and gave it a coat or two of oil and now it looks gorgeous. The rest of the doors in the house will be getting the same treatment. The oak effect floor tiles are so realistic you almost have to touch them to check they’re not solid oak.
I have to give Ben credit for the lights along the edge of the bath. I wanted lighting in the alcove in the shower and down the outside of the shower wall but there wasn’t room for the lighting down the edge of the shower so this was his suggestion and it’s a beautiful feature.
I’ve come to realise that I like variety in all aspects of my life. I rarely eat the same thing twice in one week, and that includes breakfast. When I’m cooking dinner you might catch me crooning to a little country or throwing age inappropriate shapes to the Prodigy. I like to watch musicals and wildlife documentaries. And my favourite things to read are sci-fi and anything about serial killers. I’m not cultured I just like a lot of different stuff. Thankfully my eclectic taste also extends to interiors as all my customers have different styles, and I don’t think I’d like my job or be very good at it if I had to work with things I didn’t like all the time.
Don’t get me wrong there have been times when I’ve had to steer customers away from potentially disastrous choices, or accept that their sofa (which I don’t like) has to stay for budget reasons. But find me an interior designer who hasn’t had to deal with that. OK, so maybe Kelly Hoppen’s customers can always afford a new sofa. And as the queen of taupe she probably hasn’t had to tell a customer that tangerine orange walls with blue wall tiles would be a bad idea as I did recently……
There’s nothing wrong with an interior designer having a particular look or style of course, quite the opposite. It becomes your brand and customers seek you out because of it. But I just like lots of different styles and thankfully that works for me and my customers.
Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part One
So this week I photographed two finished bathrooms that couldn’t be more different if they tried and I love them both. I’d love to know which is your favourite, assuming you like either of them of course…. But firstly I have to tell you I’m a little bit gutted as Apple appears to have lost the before pics somewhere between my Mac and the Cloud so I’m going to need you to use your imagination I’m afraid. It used to be two rooms; a shower room and separate toilet and the décor was a little 90’s show home, you know small square shower, pedestal basin, ordinary toilet and two tone tiles with a border. Get the picture? OK lets move on.
The Hotel Bathroom
This wasn’t a typical project for me as the customer already had a strong sense of what she wanted. Initially I was just going to work on her new kitchen and dining room (more pics to follow) but we extended this to include a little help with the bathroom layout and someone to bounce ideas off and help her choose fittings. So ready for the result of this collaboration?
I’m calling it the hotel bathroom because Mr W said “wow, it looks like a hotel bathroom” when he saw it, and I agree, assuming he meant posh hotel in the Alps and not Travel Lodge.
The beautiful porcelain tiles are from Italy. My customer saw them in one of our local bathroom showrooms and we used my trade discount to make a healthy saving.
My absolute favourite thing in this bathroom is the floating basin.
I’m not a huge fan of vanity units as so many are ugly. I often buy regular furniture and fit a sink on it, or I have the fitter build me something. But this wall mounted basin has been designed to perfectly conceals all the pipework. The two drawers below provide some storage and a shelf for towels but they also help give it a little more substance as I think the basin would look lost floating there on its own.
The short stud wall between the shower and the basin gives that feeling of privacy when you’re in the shower (though you’d hope not to have too many unexpected guests..). We also added it so that the shower screen wasn’t butting up to the basin making it hard to clean.
Ben the bathroom fitter suggested the little corner shelf for the hand wash to keep the basin top clear.
The unit above the back to wall toilet and bidet provides extra storage and somewhere to display some of the decorative items the customer has collected on her travels.
The bathroom complies with my ‘must have three sources of lighting rule’ and has recessed spotlights in the ceiling, the over mirror light and small spotlights in the wall cupboard, all on separate circuits of course.
The plants you see were actually props for the photographs but I think my customer will be popping down to the garden centre this week after she saw how good they looked.
As an interior designer I believe the relationships we have with our homes are no different to the relationships we have with our partners in some respects. They are rarely perfect, and always involve compromise. At Holly Cottage I traded lack of natural light for space, character and garden. Obviously Mr W is perfect…..as well as a reader of my blog *slaps leg and chuckles at her own wit*
And like our personal relationships, sometimes we neglect them. We get complacent. Treats don’t need to be expensive but we stop making an effort. And if this goes on for too long we forget what we fell in love with and start noticing every flaw. And sadly in both cases this can lead us to Rightmove.
The role of the Interior Designer
An interior designer wears many hats, a fellow interior designer once referred to us as ‘project managers and problem solvers with taste’ which about sums it up. But what a good interior designer can also do is make you fall in love with your home again. We’re like new buyers when we walk into your homes, but the kind that can see potential. That fresh pair of eyes and the ability to see what could be achieved is worth its weight in gold. Mr W would never have bought Holly Cottage if I hadn’t a hissy fit. I know, so unlike me….
And just to blow my own trumpet for a second, I am told I have a hugely infectious positive can-do attitude. You see gloomy 1980’s kitchen….
I see the smart modern shaker style kitchen you’ve dreamed about with space for the downstairs loo you’ve always wanted.
I’m a whirlwind of positive energy that will practically force you to fall in love with your home again. Remember that poky dark guest bedroom you had?
A distant memory since I turned it into a second sitting room overlooking the fields behind your house, with a sofa bed for guests and a new dressing area for you.
If I had a theme tune it would be Take That’s ‘Re-light my fire’. You complain about lack of wardrobe space in your bedroom and can’t see a solution that doesn’t involve swapping your marital kingsize bed for bunk beds…
I suggest we steal 60cm from the room next door and double your hanging space and save your marriage. You see unsurmountable problems. I show you the light at the end of the tunnel.
When I bought Holly Cottage the kitchen lacked storage and worktop space and had this huge void in the centre of the room.
So I built out the chimney breast and knocked a hole in it big enough for a new range cooker and added an island. Well I didn’t personally but you know what I mean.
You see a reason to move.
I show you why you should stay. I’m like Viagra for the house.
Got time for a couple more before and afters?
Go on, one more since you asked so nicely..
So if you’ve fallen out of love with your home and can’t see any way of getting it back don’t despair, get in touch and I’ll help you put the fire back into your relationship.
Amelia Wilson, Interior Designer and Passion Reigniter!
I would bet that most people have a dream bathroom, by which I mean a wish list in their head. Nobody I know actually has their dream bathroom. At best they probably have one they quite like but wish it was a little bit bigger.
My dream bathroom would be large (obviously – whose wouldn’t) and feel very natural and outdoorsy. It would have a heated stone floor and an amazing completely private view of water; ocean, river, lake, large stream…..I’m not fussy. I’d have an enormous freestanding bath and walk in shower, and bifold doors which I could open when it was warm enough. There’d be hidden storage for all my towels and toiletries so the bathroom would always look spotless. I’d have lots of different lighting all of it dimmable and it would always be warm. Oh and there’d be a big chaise by the window for me to lounge on admiring the view and painting my nails. FYI my dream bathroom also comes with a dream life where I have time to lounge on a chaise painting my nails. This bathroom would do….
Or this one…
Thankfully most of my customers have simpler needs so I’m sorry if I’ve lured you here under false pretences but this post isn’t about dream bathrooms, it’s about reality and meeting a brief.
I recently completed a project for lovely couple who had a short but clear list of requirements. Like most bathrooms I work on their old one was very dated. If it had been longer it could have doubled as a bowling alley as the floor was a good 2 inches lower on one side, and it creaked like my dodgy runners knees. It also had a wonky flimsy partition wall at one end, poor lighting, old fixtures, and dated decor. My customers wanted a bathroom that was:
- Easy to clean
- Had good storage
- Was light but not sterile looking
- Was simple in style, nothing fussy
It is only a small bathroom and we needed to avoid layout changes because we couldn’t move the waste pipes. I won’t bore you with why – just trust me everything had to stay put. They wanted to keep a bath and a bidet, but we could lose the electric shower over the bath as they had a separate shower room downstairs. Their only other request was for a vinyl floor as like many of my older customers they find it warmer underfoot than tiles. The rest was up to me.
Bathrooms are hard to clean because of the nooks and crannies behind the sink and toilet. The easiest way to deal with this issue is to house your fittings in furniture. So my plan included a vanity unit with integrated sink, and back to wall toilet and bidet with the cisterns housed in units to match the vanity. To make the bathroom feel bigger I suggested that we re-hang the door to open the opposite way so that you didn’t have to step around it when you entered the bathroom. The old bathroom suite was a very 80’s shade of peach and the new bath, toilet and bidet were going to be white so to keep it warm looking I chose a colour scheme of pale greys and soft pinks.
The Final Reveal
Before I show you any pics I’m going to apologise for the photo quality, it’s a small room with limited natural light and I’m an interior designer not David Bailey so bear with me. Now get ready for a before pic of the worlds smallest sink and some ugly exposed pipework…..
Moving the radiator created space for a vanity with a larger sink than they had before. Their house is actually two houses knocked together so there is a chimney breast at the end of the bath which can’t be moved. Boxing this in gave us a ledge behind the bath for shampoo bottles, and increased the counter space next to the sink – ideal for toothbrushes etc. Please ignore the reflection from the mirror, I couldn’t for the life of me take a photo without this or edit it out….
Their bathroom is roughly 2m x 2m and their old corner bath took up about a quarter of the space.
My customers are concerned about their future mobility so their new bath has grip handles to help them get in and out when they start needing a little help. They have a handheld shower for rinsing the bath out, and we used large white tiles around the bath and sink and up over the windowsill which would be easy to keep clean.
The old layout had more nooks and crannies than should have been physically possible in such a compact bathroom.
To solve the problem we filled the space between the bath and the wall with additional cupboards which also increased the storage space. They have a new Aquablade rimless toilet which practically cleans itself. The rimless design pushes water all around the bowl to just below seat level and uses less water so is more efficient than a regular toilet.
We replaced the old radiator with a large dual fuel heated towel radiator so they can dry towels in the summer when the heating is off. The vertical column style meant it would fit between the toilet and the door which gave us the space needed for the vanity unit. We replaced the ceiling spotlights with LED’s and added an additional spotlight over the vanity unit.
The furniture colour is ‘cashmere’ which is pale grey with a hint of pink. It works really well with the pale grey vinyl flooring which is called Lisbon and is from the Ultragrip Buzz range by Beauflor. To lift the colour in the room the walls are painted ‘Cashmere Blush’ by Valspar, and dusky pink towels add a splash more colour and warmth.
It’s a very bijou bathroom room so I’d be kidding myself if I thought this was actually their dream bathroom, but it does everything they asked for and more, and they’re very happy with the look. So that’s good enough for them and good enough for me. So what would be in your dream bathroom?
One of the great things about being an interior designer in Cumbria is that I see jobs of all shapes and sizes. And contrary to what you might think I enjoy the budget jobs just as much as those with more to spend. The Northerner in me loves to see how far I can stretch a budget and still achieve a bit of wow. A few months ago I wrote about my Budget Bathroom Challenge. The bathroom was finished well before Christmas but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and there were a couple of minor snags to fix before I showed you the finished result. And now it’s ready for its close up….hold on to your hats you won’t recognise this room.
The Budget Bathroom Challenge
If you’re a regular reader of my blog (thank you lovely people) you might remember this is the customer who knew his house needed work, particularly his bathroom and kitchen. But a combination of time, budget, overwhelming choices and the upheaval had caused him to procrastinate. That is until he slipped in the shower and pulled the curtain rail down and some of the tiles off the wall. That was when he called me.
As you can see the bathroom was more than a little tired. But because of the size it had huge potential.
It even had lots of existing storage space which we could improve.
Changing layout is something you should try to avoid if you’re on a tight budget because of the cost of labour and materials but the customer was desperate for a separate shower. We also knew we would need to plaster the whole room, another additional cost. So to keep it within budget I shopped around for fixtures and fittings, limited new lighting and suggested a sheet vinyl floor and acrylic panels instead of tiles which we would limit to wet areas.
As the property is Victorian we wanted to keep some traditional elements. However, traditional bathroom fittings tend to be more expensive than contemporary ones so we made a small saving by keeping the existing sink and just replacing the taps. (Tip – look for tap packs rather separate sets for the bath and sink to save a few pennies).
Bringing in separate trades to do everything can also be expensive, and make your project take longer but I work with a great fitter Ben Butler Joinery & Home Improvements. and Ben (and his colleague Will) do everything except plastering and painting which is a godsend.
I was initially planning a pistachio green colour to add warmth and a contrast to all the white fittings, but I then discovered the customers favourite colour was blue….. So goodbye pistachio, hello Windblown Blue by Valspar.
The Final Reveal
I’ll pause for a moment so you can scroll back up to check this is the same bathroom……
So the finished bathroom now has a large walk in shower enclosure with a powerful 2-outlet thermostatic shower and recessed storage for shampoo bottles. I originally planned to include a heated towel radiator above the bath and a tall column radiator by the door until I found this Tissimo towel radiator which gives out a whopping 4649 BTU’s which is plenty hot enough for this bathroom. (Tip – buy a plumbed towel radiator and a dual fuel element so that you can run the radiator off the electric in the summer to dry your towels).
Check out that stone flag effect vinyl floor, looks like tile doesn’t it?
We managed to squeeze a 1600mm long bath under the window. Thats only 10cm shorter than a standard bath, so unless you’re a giant you’d probably never notice.
This left plenty of space for the toilet and sink on the wall next to it. There’s nothing worse than knocking your knees on the bath when you sit down, or cracking your elbow on the sink when you reach for the loo roll.
We used white metro tile effect acrylic wall panels inside the shower, behind the bath and above the sink. If it wasn’t for the fact that most people use grey grout these days and these sheets are all white they’d be easily mistaken for tiles.
The old cupboards had old shutter style doors and very few shelves which were slatted so stuff would fall through. The customer now has much better storage with access to the boiler, space for the laundry bin, and extra shelves for toiletries and towels. And you’ll have to take my word for it as I’m not showing you a picture of the shelves. Toiletries and packs of loo roll aren’t pretty and would spoil my post….
We were economical with the lighting to keep costs down and just replaced the central light fitting and added a matching wall light above the mirror and a recessed spot above the shower.
And lastly, a new window blind from my favourite online supplier Blinds2Go. They do a great range of very affordable made to measure blinds and curtains and will send you free samples which always gets my vote.
This is a good sized bathroom, everything except the sink had to be replaced, and we needed to do a lot of joinery, plastering, plumbing and electrical work. For a project like this you can typically expect to spend at least £7-8k, but (drum roll please) we did all this for just over £5,000 proving two things:
- Employing an interior designer can save you money
- Budget can still be beautiful
And most importantly the customer loves it. What do you think?
Quick apology to subscribers who have received this post via email twice. I’m trying to fix a problem with images not downloading……
It’s around this time of year I start taking a bath. And no I don’t neglect my personal hygiene for the rest of the year, I just prefer to shower every day. Well most days anyway. If you worked from home you’d stay in your PJ’s now and again if you could wouldn’t you? But when the temperature drops and it starts getting dark at 4pm submersing myself in hot water is way more appealing than rotating in the shower trying to keep every part of me warm. And god I like my bath water hot. Thanks to my sister my skin can withstand temperatures that would have a firefighter wincing. We were forced to share a bath as children and she would keep add scalding water to try and make me get out. She should have known better, I’m as stubborn as **** so she was never going to win that battle. She should have tried my brothers party trick, which was to do a number two, that got us both out of there sharpish……Anyway, I’m also no spring chicken these days and a hot bath stops me from seizing up after a long walk with the dog.
I’ve had to think about what someone might need from their bathroom as they get older quite a bit recently as two of my customers have asked me to design new bathrooms for them with this in mind. The additional challenge is that they are sisters so both bathrooms have to be different but equally fabulous so one sister doesn’t feel I’ve done a better job for her sibling. No pressure eh…..So if you’re knocking on a bit like me or helping an elderly friend or relative with their new bathroom you might find some of these ideas useful
The ‘Mature’ Bathroom
1. No nooks and crannies
The bathroom can be one of the hardest rooms to clean because of those annoying gaps behind the toilet or the sink (or freestanding bath). Now imagine trying to clean it with dodgy knees and failing eyesight. This is when you need to start thinking about fitted furniture, back to wall toilets and top mounted sinks or vanity units to close those gaps. If your bathroom is an awkward shape get a fitter that can do a bit of joinery and buy extra panels to fill in any gaps so that your furniture runs walls to wall.
And you don’t need to compromise on style any more. The manufacturers of fitted bathroom furniture have definitely upped their game in the last few years, and there’s now a huge range of traditional and contemporary styles available. You don’t need to worry about post-Brexit price increases either as there are plenty of British manufacturers, like West Yorkshire-based Ellis who have apparently been in business since 1891 (they must have been furnishing outside loos then…)
2. Wall panels
I’m a tile fan and would put them in just about any room. They are just so diverse, you’ve got colours, textures, shapes, sizes, tiling patterns, and grout colours to work with. However, if you’re trying to minimise cleaning then wall panels, particularly in the shower, make way more sense. Until fairly recently I’d avoided them like the plague as I’d only ever seen sparkly ones which frankly reminded me of school changing rooms. However I’m about to use white metro tile effect panels in a project that starts next week so I’ll let you have the verdict on those shortly. I’m also about to recommend these Aqua Reflect acrylic shower panels to one of the sisters.
3. The rimless toilet
Sticking with the ‘easy to clean’ theme. Another way to minimise cleaning is a toilet that cleans itself, or most of itself anyway. The new rimless designs basically push water all around the bowl to just below seat level and apparently use less water so are also more efficient. If you’re a little
OCD fanatical about a clean loo then you might enjoy this video. I make no apologies – t’s actually quite interesting, honest…
4. Concealed thermostatic vs electric showers
If a customer wants or needs an electric shower (because of their boiler type or water pressure) then I will happily provide them with a copy of the latest Which? report on electric showers but I will not pick one for them. Simply because electric showers are exceptionally temperamental and what works in one household apparently doesn’t always work the same in another. Check out Amazon reviews on the top electric showers and you’ll see what a minefield it is. It’s their reputation for unexpected temperature changes that means I definitely wouldn’t recommend one to someone elderly, imagine what the shock could do…. But if you have a combi boiler you can’t beat a thermostatic shower for reliability, and if you want easy to clean then go for either a single outlet on a riser so you can take the head off the riser to clean the walls and shower screens, or one with a fixed shower head and a second handheld outlet for cleaning.
5. Comfort height toilets
So from hygiene to ageing. First off I suggest you go and sit on one of these comfort height toilets before you declare them the saviour of your dodgy knees. The seat is higher than a standard toilet so you don’t need to squat as low, which in theory sounds great. But if you’re a little vertically challenged like me your feet don’t touch the floor which quickly makes your legs and bum go numb, and you have to hop off when you’ve finished which will play havoc with your knees if they are a bit dodgy. Now without wanting to get into the finer details studies actually show that the natural squat position improves our ability to ‘eliminate’ for want of a better phrase. And it is thought that better ‘elimination’ can prevent ailments like bloating, straining, hemorrhoids and constipation. So who knows perhaps the next generation of toilets will be the opposite of comfort height and actually feature harnesses or handrails to help us squat lower?
6. Grip handles
One of the sisters wants to keep a bath in her bathroom as she has a separate shower room downstairs and has asked for grip handles. This typically means you’re limited to a standard single ended bath which is what I’m recommending, but this is largely because we’re also limited to a length of 1600mm.
But if you did want something a bit different I found this cool double ended bath with headrests and a grip handle. Who says you have to stop sharing the bath as you get older…
7. Vinyl floor
The other request I usually get when designing bathrooms for older people is vinyl flooring. Most of them would still prefer carpet, but they have realised how impractical it is in a bathroom, and although they are not ready for tiles (unless we’re fitting underfloor heating) they have accepted the idea of vinyl. Though typically they don’t like the wood or stone effects. Thankfully vinyl has also got a lot better in the last few years and I’ve recently discovered two brands with patterns even I would consider – imagine?
Harvey Maria has a great range of subtle patterns and colours. I’m thinking about this sage green pattern for one of the sisters to go with the Aqua Reflect wall panels.
There are of course other things you need to consider when designing a bathroom for someone older, such as good lighting and heating, but these things apply whatever your age. But if you are planning a new bathroom and like me you’re the wrong side of 40 maybe you’re not quite ready for bath grips and a comfort height toilet but easier cleaning has got to be appealing surely?
I’m not ashamed to say I’m a teeny bit competitive……Ok so there might have been an incident at an office Christmas party many years ago when I just might have physically injured one or two colleagues in my enthusiasm to win a game of musical chairs. But what’s the point of playing a game other than to win? Which is why I’m particularly loving one of my current projects. My customer has a budget that most people would use to upgrade their kitchen, but we’re going to redecorate his whole house, including a new kitchen and bathroom. Now how’s that for a challenge?
All interior designers love the big budget jobs, I mean who wouldn’t enjoy spending mega bucks. But (maybe perversely) I actually prefer the challenge of creating something beautiful on a budget. I think it’s because the customer really appreciates the value you’ve added by stretching their budget. And trust me it’s a hell of a lot harder to work with a small budget, which plays to my (highly) competitive nature.
The budget bathroom challenge
My customer has known for a while that his house has needed attention, but a combination of time, budget, overwhelming choices and the work involved has caused him to procrastinate. Then a few weeks ago he slipped in the shower and grabbed the shower curtain, which brought the rail crashing down. So he grabbed the wall, which brought a handful of tiles off. And it was at that point he decided enough was enough. And just to prove I’m not exaggerating for dramatic effect here’s a picture of the crime scene.
Most of my customers have no idea what it will cost to update their home, so one of the first things I do is give them an estimate of what I think they’ll need spend to achieve what they want. If that exceeds the figure they had in mind we tweak or scale back their plans. If it doesn’t, job’s a good ‘un and we crack on. I went through this process with my customer, we agreed a budget and how we would allocate this between rooms so we were good to go.
If you have a small bathroom and you’re not able to do any of the work yourself you can expect to spend at least £2-3k, and it can easily exceed that, especially if you want a walk in shower. The biggest element of this will be the labour cost, so the best way to manage this is to find a fitter that can do everything. which can be (to use one of Mr W’s delightful phrases) ‘as rare as rocking horse shit’. But once you start adding up quotes from a plumber, an electrician, a tiler and maybe a joiner or plasterer it starts getting pricey. Thankfully I work with a multi-skilled fitter – the fabulous Ben Butler.
There are a number of other ways you can manage costs:
1. Try and keep the existing bathroom layout
Or limit the distance you move fittings so your fitter doesn’t have to spend lots of time fitting new pipework and electrics.
2. Consider vinyl flooring instead of tiles
Particularly sheet vinyl as opposed to vinyl planks or tiles as it’s quicker to lay. It’s not all nasty sparkly sticky looking plastic these days either, there are some great wood or stone effects, and it’s hard wearing, anti-slip, hygienic, anti-allergenic, easy to clean and quiet underfoot. Check out the Tarkett Homestyle range, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
3. Limit tiling to where you need it or use waterproof wall panels
Was there a law passed in the 80’s that decreed that all bathrooms must be tiled floor to ceiling in pastel marble effect tiles with an ornate border tile, or is it just all the ones I’m now updating? If you want to save money just tile in the shower, and round the bath and sink. Or use waterproof wall panels like these brick effect sheets by MultiPanel which are just over £80 for a 2.4m x 1.2m sheet.
4. Keep your central ceiling light
If your bathroom is a few years old there’s a good chance it’s just got a flush or semi-flush light in the centre of the room, and maybe a light over your sink. Now when I’ve got more to spend I usually recommend ceiling spots, lighting over the sink and in some cases other feature lighting maybe in the shower, or around the bath, all on different circuits so they can be used separately. But if you’re on a tight budget just upgrade the ceiling light to something with multiple LED bulb’s so it’s bright enough and save the cost of additional fittings and your fitters time.
5. Shop around for bathroom fittings
Many suppliers offer bathroom packs which are cheaper than buying individual items, or packs of matching bath and sink taps. Or look on eBay as you can often find second hand fittings that are in perfectly good condition, or lovely vintage items that people don’t care for anymore. I’ve even sold my customers old bathroom fittings to other customers. One mans trash is another mans treasure and all that.
So I have done all of the above for my customer and we’ve agreed on a plan that comes in under £4k for a bathroom thats approx. 3m by 4m, needs plastering and will include a bath and walk in shower. Challenge accepted – challenge met. Work hopefully starts in October so watch this space for what I can confidently predict will be some spectacularly good before and afters.
Oh and back to that game of musical chairs, for the record, I did win.
That’s quite a title isn’t it? But a grand bathroom like the one I’m about to show you deserves a grand title, and oh lordy what a transformation. Shall we jump right in with a few fabulous before pics?
The homeowner has a lovely Victorian townhouse and wanted a mixture of new and traditional in the new bathroom. I actually quite liked the existing sink and toilet and the taps, and they wouldn’t have been out of place in a new bathroom with some traditional features but the homeowner was adamant, she wanted a completely new bathroom, and who am I to argue…. (Cue rubbing of hands with glee at prospect of picking new stuff…)
I love a monochrome bathroom but they can look a little stark, and as I’d just turned the homeowner on to the idea of colour after painting her bedroom pink (see the pink bedroom project) I needed to inject a little colour into the bathroom. I plumped for bottle green after spotting some green glass bottles in a local homeware shop, which got me thinking about peacock feathers, and before you could say wowzers I had a plan with wow factor.
The focal point in the new bathroom is without a shadow of a doubt the free standing double ended slipper bath. Now if you’re going to have a fabulous bath like this one it needs to stand out. When I told the homeowner I wanted to panel half the wall behind and paint it all black she was a little shocked but thankfully decided to trust me. So what do you think – was I right?
The panelling is from an eBay seller who can make whatever style or size you want. It’s made of water resistant MDF so fine for a bathroom and only cost £110 including delivery.
The bath was a real bargain too, only £400 from Bathandshower.com. Look how glam it looks lit from below. Just the right amount of light for those late night bathroom visits, or more importantly soaking in the bath with a glass of wine….We used outdoor deck lights so it wouldn’t matter if water sloshed over the edge of the bath. The guys at my local electrical wholesalers told me I could submerge them or stand on them and they’d still work. If you’re wondering what the lights are above the bath its just the reflection from a row of glass tealight holders sitting on a shelf I got the fitter to fit on top of the panelling. You gotta have candlelight when you take a bath.
Those fabulous Victorian style floor tiles were also a bargain at around £20 a square metre. They’re called Harrow Grafito and I bought them from Roccia (formerly Tile Mart) in Preston. If you’re up that way its worth popping into their enormous showroom for a nosy. (If you see Ben say hi from me).
I decided early on in the process, before I’d even picked a colour scheme, that this bathroom was going to have an antique marble topped washstand. A modern vanity unit just wasn’t going to cut it. And I found a beauty in one of my regular haunts, Old Mill Antiques in Manchester.
I intentionally picked an oval sink and mirror to match the shape of the bath and the sink looks beautiful sat on top of that grey marble. The cut glass accessories are also a great fit. They’re from Homesense (aka land of amazing finds). Oh and see that black leather cube bottom left? It’s an ottoman doubling as a laundry bin, or somewhere to sit your book when you’re climbing into the bath. Assuming of course you have time to read in the bath….It does three jobs and was only £10 (from Dunelm) – now that’s what I call a bargain.
If I could only give you one bathroom tip (which would make for a very short blog), it would be to always install the biggest shower you can and get your fitter to build a false wall so that you can have alcoves for shampoo bottles. I hate cramped shower cubicles, and I want to cry when I see those horrible metal baskets stuck to the walls, or worse still shampoo bottles sitting in the shower tray…..
The homeowner was worried the shower enclosure was going to be too big but again she trusted me and was glad she did. I have to give the fitter Ben Butler credit for the light in the alcove as it was his idea – nice touch eh?
I also wanted to mention the paintwork as I guess it’s not every day you see black woodwork. But it’s a great way to frame light coloured walls. I love the black door. The wall colour is called Sleeping Inn by Valspar which is white with a touch of grey. The black paint colour is Downing Street by Valspar, very topical at the moment…..
As Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design”. Which is why I hunted for the right toilet roll holder until I found this one on eBay. It might seem trivial to some but like the washstand a modern one would have looked out of place.
I bought both the vintage frameless mirrors on eBay for a total of £60. It amazes me that these mirrors can be picked up so cheaply as I think they’re beautiful. The peacock artwork is also from an eBay seller. I bought 4 for £22.50 and framed them in black frames from Wilko.
I always like to add personal touches to my designs that the customer will appreciate. In this case it’s these lights I made using battery operated fairly lights from IKEA and cut glass decanters from a charity shop. The homeowner loved them.
So what do you think of my Boutique-Victorian mashup, is this a bathroom with wow factor?
I’m starting to regret naming this series of posts ‘2016 interior design trends’ part I, part II etc. as it’s starting to sound like a movie franchise from the 80’s that gets worse with every new sequel (think Police Academy 1-7….). So this is going to be my last post on 2016 trends and it’s back to random waffling next week. I have some great before and afters coming up, and a couple of interesting projects I want to show you.
But I couldn’t move on without talking about bathrooms. They used to be such bland rooms (I’m talking post 70’s avocado bathroom suites of course). The most exciting feature being a patterned border tile, or a colourful bath mat. Wild and crazy huh. But not anymore, the trend now is to pay them the same attention we pay our living spaces. And if your bathrooms are bijou then the goal is to make them ‘smacious’. Which apparently is the transformation of a small space to make it feel more spacious. Sounds like a word Nicole Scherzinger would use so it’s not likely to make it into my vocabulary anytime soon….
So anyway lets get on with it. Here are eight trends we can expect to see in 2016, some new and some just continuing to grow, and two that I’m REALLY not sure about. Don’t skip to the end now, thats just cheating.
#1 – boutique bathrooms
The first thing I do when I stay in a hotel is check out the en suite. I can turn a blind eye to shortfalls in the bedroom (ahem…) if the bathroom is good, and that doesn’t mean it has to be big. Size is not everything. Sometimes its just a tap that wins me over. Boutique hotels ALWAYS have fab bathrooms. One way you can create that boutique look in your own bijou space is to paint all the walls dark, even black if you’re brave enough. I would be but Mr W would forbid it. With good lighting this can actually make the room look bigger.
If you’re not brave enough for black walls then another easy way to get the boutique hotel look is by using that timeless classic, marble. I had a nosy around the bathroom below last year when I went on a house tour organised by Living etc. Serious case of bathroom envy I can tell you. With the pale grey walls and gold fittings this bathroom murmurs elegant over and over…. (it would be uncouth for it to scream).
#2 – the homely vibe
If you’re not into glam then another trend for 2016 is to go homely, which is something we’re seeing in kitchens too (see Part II). This is an easy look to achieve as you just need to pretend you’re decorating your living room. Add a mirror that doesn’t look like a bathroom mirror, lights that don’t look like bathroom lights (not always easy I know), some artwork, a few plants and accessories, a chair if you’ve got room, maybe even a rug.
I love this bathroom as there are so many interesting little touches but the neutral colour scheme keeps it from looking cluttered.
#3 – raw materials
Another trend which is growing in both kitchens and bathrooms is a scheme that combines raw materials like brick, steel, wood and concrete. I’ve just taken on a new client who likes this look so I have been scouring the county looking for a local supplier of concrete floors and worktops. I also spent longer than I should ogling concrete lights (check out URBI ET ORBI via clippings.com)
Mixing wood with concrete stops the bathroom looking too stark and cold. I like the way they’ve continued the flow of wood in this bathroom by putting duckboards in the shower area instead of a shower tray or tiles. I’m not sure I could be bothered with the maintenance though as I expect you’d have to re-oil the duckboards every once in a while.
The industrial look is typically minimalistic which leads quite nicely on to number 4…..
#4 – minimal not clinical
In contrast to the homely look, another growing trend in bathrooms is to make them clutter free. This obviously requires great storage. I don’t know about you but I start twitching when I see those chrome or fabric organiser things hung on the back of bathroom doors. Or free standing rattan drawers jammed between the sink and the loo because whoever planned the bathroom didn’t think about storage. I can’t understand how you can forget how many toiletries the average person uses. If you don’t have space for separate cupboards get a vanity unit instead of a pedestal mounted sink, or use the space above the loo (which there nearly always is) for a cupboard or some shelves. Make sure there are alcoves in your shower and/or a space at the end of the bath for bottles. Mr W goes mad as I’m always ‘tidying away’ anything he leaves out in our bathroom. It’s not that I’m averse to a few things on display, quite the opposite, but they need to match the decor, which deodorant and beard moisturiser (weird product which recently appeared in our bathroom) never do.
#5 – mirror image layouts
So by this I mean his and hers, or his and his, or hers and hers for that matter sinks and mirrors side by side. Obviously you need space to do this but very nice if like me you have to share your bathroom sink with someone who likes to trim his (well moisturised) beard and doesn’t clean up after himself properly……You don’t need to splash out on a big vanity unit either, providing of course you have another storage solution, you can do this quite cheaply with two simple pedestal mounted sinks. Obviously the ones below weren’t cheap but it’s the dark walls with matching skirting, and the mirrors that give this bathroom the wow factor.
#6 – Wide bath ledges
For a while it seemed like everyone wanted a roll top, clawfoot bath in their bathroom. I have a period property so obviously I have one, and I do like it but am I the only one that sloshes water all over the floor when I get out? I also wish I had somewhere to put my kindle and wine glass for the two occasions in a year when I actually have time to relax in the bath. Apparently I’m not alone on this and we can expect to see a move towards built in baths with wide ledges around them for candles and wine glasses. Still need to resolve the problem of never having the time for a proper bath though.
#7 – Metallics
The metallics trend continues in just about all areas of the home. So I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that the trend for fittings in different metallic finishes like gold and copper will continue. If you can’t afford to spend a lot on your bathroom then keep it simple and all white and blow your budget on a statement tap, its what people will notice most.
#8 – Big tiles, bold tiles and creative tiling patterns
In my post the bijou bathroom I talk about how big tiles can make a small bathroom look more spacious (fewer grout lines). Just be careful on the floor. You don’t want to find you only have space for one full tile and lots of cut ones. Ideally you want to see at least four full tiles in the centre of the floor space.
I know I’ve already talked about the trend for raw materials, but there are some great concrete effect tiles for those of us who can’t afford the polished concrete floor.
Bold tiles will continue to be popular, particularly geometrics and encaustic designs, more commonly used on floors but now appearing on walls.
I get proper excited (as we say up north) when I see creative laying patterns. Last year it was straight and diagonal herringbone patterns, and now we’re seeing patterns on walls that used to be limited to patios and kitchen floors, like basketweave, windmill and pinwheel
Last word on this topic, ok two words, tile rugs. Love ’em. Great way to sneak expensive tiles into a bathroom without blowing your budget. Can also be used to create zones around a bath or sink area to make the room look bigger,
#9 – underfloor heating
Underfloor heating is a luxury but one more and more people are opting for. And according to Ideal Standard international designer Robert Levien, heated bathroom walls are next. I’m not convinced. I just had an electricity smart meter fitted and now know exactly how much my bathroom underfloor heating costs me every day. So even if I could afford to splash out on heated walls I don’t think I would. I’m already turning off lights and appliances left right and centre and running back to the meter to see what effect it has. I’m such a northerner.
#10 – hi tech toilets
A few years ago I landed at Heathrow late on a Friday night and they kept us on the plane for ages until they could find a bus to drive us to the terminal. I’d had a glass of wine (possibly two) during the flight, so by the time I was on my way to passport control I was crossing my legs. As I passed the Nippon Airways First Class lounge I thought what the hell, they’re not going to say no to a woman in need, so I scurried in and blagged entry to the loos. I got quite a surprise when I sat down on a heated cushioned seat. I was even more surprised when I noticed the buttons and menu of options on the wall to my right. I could have avoided toilet paper altogether and had my bum washed dried and deodorised if I’d wanted to. But I’m British so I didn’t.
Apparently these toilets/bidets or washlets as they are called are common in Japan and are now gaining popularity in the US. I don’t know why I’m averse to the idea, I mean when did you ever see a toilet brush you’d be proud to have in your bathroom? And how many times have you been stuck in a loo with no paper and had to shout for help. I’m just not sure……
So hope that was useful. If you’ve got any questions or want to share your experience of scary Japanese toilets feel free to get in touch. I’m heading back to Google now to search for concrete.