The Budget Bathroom Challenge

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.

Before image in the budget bathroom project by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd
Before image in the budget bathroom project

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.

Tarkett Homestyle Basaltina Carbon vinyl flooring
Tarkett Homestyle Basaltina Carbon vinyl flooring

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.

TilePanel waterproof wall panels by MultiPanel
TilePanel waterproof wall panels by MultiPanel

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.

Benton Triple GU10 Spotlight Fitting
Benton Triple GU10 Spotlight Fitting

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.

 

Behold the Boutique-Victorian Mashup Bathroom

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?

Bathroom design before images
Dated cramped shower and my biggest pet hate, no alcoves for shampoo and conditioner
Bathroom design before images
More pet hates, free standing storage and cluttered sinks
Bathroom design before pictures
Just two words. Orange bath….

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.

Bathroom design moodboard
The Boutique-Victorian mashup moodboard

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?

Bathroom - double ended slipper bath against a black panelled wall and lit from below
Free standing feature bath

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.

Deck lights used in a bathroom to light a free standing bath from below
In floor spotlights light the bath from below and provide a useful night light

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.

Antique marble topped washstand in a Victorian boutique style bathroom
Antique marble topped washstand

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.

Bathroom - Grey marble topped antique washstand with oval sink, traditional taps and cut glass accessories
Oval sink and traditional taps and cut glass accessories

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…..

Bathroom - Large rectangular shower enclosure with traditional shower and lighting in alcove
Large rectangular enclosure with traditional shower and lighting in alcove

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?

Bathroom - lighting in shower enclosure
Lighting in alcove

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…..

Bathroom door and woodwork painted in Downing Street by Valspar
Door and new skirting boards painted in Downing Street by Valspar

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.

Bathroom - Reproduction Victorian style toilet roll holder
Reproduction Victorian style toilet roll holder

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.

Bathroom - Vintage bevelled edge frameless mirror and peacock artwork
Vintage bevelled edge frameless mirror and peacock artwork

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.

Bathroom - battery operated fairy lights in vintage cut glass decanters
Battery operated fairy lights in cut glass decanters

So what do you think of my Boutique-Victorian mashup, is this a bathroom with wow factor?

2016 Interior Design Trends Part IV – Bathrooms

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.

Bathrooms - Dark decor in boutique hotel bathroom

Image via www.digsdigs.com

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).

Bathrooms - Elegant marble bathroom with grey walls and gold fittings

Elegant marble bathroom in Victorian townhouse in London. Image via housetohome.co.uk

#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.

Bathrooms - Homely white bathroom

Image via blog.atmine.com

#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)

Bathrooms - Industrial bathroom with concrete counter tops

Concrete countertop in industrial bathroom by Aamodt / Plumb Architects. Image via Houzz

 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.

Bathrooms - Concrete bathroom walls and wood floor with duckboards in shower

Image via thisisglamorous.com

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.

Bathrooms - Minimalist bathroom with excellent storage

VERY minimalist bathroom by Moon Design + Build via Houzz

#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.

Bathrooms - Twin pedestal sinks in bathroom

Twin pedestal sinks in bathroom designed by Godrich Interiors via Houzz

#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.

Bathrooms - Built in bath with wide ledge

Built in bath with wide ledge. Image via Houzz

#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.

Bathrooms - Copper taps in white bathroom

Image via sheer luxe.com

#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.

Bathrooms - Bijou bathroom with bold encaustic floor tiles and large marble wall tiles

The Bijou Bathroom

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.

Bathrooms - Grey Tekno concrete effect tiles from Topps Tiles

Tekno concrete effect tiles – image via Topps

Bold tiles will continue to be popular, particularly geometrics and encaustic designs, more commonly used on floors but now appearing on walls.

Bathrooms - Blue encaustic tiles on bathroom wall

 

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

Bathrooms - Basket weave tiling

Basket weave tiling using Ochre tiles. Image via Topps

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,

Bathrooms - Tiling used to create a rug effect under a bath

Tiles used to create a rug effect under a bath. Image via Pinterest.

#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.

Bathrooms - Electricity smart meter

#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……

Bathrooms - Hi tech Japanese toilet in Japanese inspired bathroom

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.

2016 Interior Design Trends

So that’s a big attention grabbing headline for such a small unknown interior designer isn’t it? Don’t worry I’m not going to get ideas above my station and start making wild, outlandish predictions. But as all the big guns in interiors are predicting their 2016 interior design trends I thought I would spend the next few weeks sharing my favourites and adding my two-pence-worth. Some might call that plagiarism, personally I prefer ‘sharing and contributing’.

So I’m a huge fan of interiors journalist and writer Kate Watson-Smyth and one of her top 10 interior design tips is to always add something black to a room. Actually if you read her blog her tip is to add something old, something new, something black and something gold, but it’s the black which she says will anchor the space and bring definition, and I agree. There’s something reassuringly solid and stylish about black, which is why I’m delighted to hear I should be able to get my hands on more of it, specifically black metal.

2016 Interior Design Trends Part I – Black Metal

Some American interior designers think copper and rose gold metal are history, or never even belonged in interiors, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal on what’s in and what’s out for 2016. To quote Los Angeles decorator Lindsay Pennington, “Copper is for pots and pans. Rose gold is for jewellery.” I’m not sure the Brits agree judging by the plethora of metallics available right now. But it seems interior designers on both sides of the pond agree on one thing though – black metal is definitely high on the list of interior design trends for 2016.

Black stainless steel appliances

According to Houzz, the kitchen is the place for it. Apparently in a poll nearly two-thirds of Houzzers say they would consider black as an alternative to chrome appliances. I’m already onboard having installed a black SMEG Victoria Dual Fuel Cooker in my kitchen last year, along with a black microwave, and a black kettle and toaster set by Heston Blumenthal. The toaster has a crumpet setting and buttons for ‘a quick look’ and ‘a little bit more’. I was instantly sold. Just don’t tell Mr W what I spent….. Anyway, if like me you hate cleaning fingerprints off chrome you might want to check out the new collections from Samsung and LG. “Won’t leave smudges, only impressions” is actually one of LG’s straplines.

Another great thing about black appliances is that unlike chrome they work equally well in both modern and traditional kitchens, which means you don’t have to replace everything if you decide to change your cabinets further down the line.

2016 interior design trends - Black Stainless Steel appliance collection from Samsung

The Black Stainless Steel Collection from Samsung

Black bathroom fittings

Another place I would definitely welcome some black metal is in the bathroom. The comments in the Wall Street Journal from LA based, British interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard suggest we should be seeing more black hardware and bathroom fittings but as far as I can see our choices in the UK are still a little limited. But if thats about to change its music to my ears.

I was looking for some black bathroom fittings recently for a Victorian townhouse (see my Houzz Ideabook) and could only find these from Homary. Now I like them but I’d prefer something a bit chunkier.

2016 interior design trends - Black metal bathroom fittings from Homary.com

Black Chester bathroom fittings from Homary

I thought they would look fantastic with a black factory window style shower enclosure, which I’m also struggling to source. I’m sure I could have one made but that won’t come cheap…So I just have to hope that the makers of shower screens spot the black metal trend and start making them. Quickly. If they could have them in the shops by spring I’d really appreciate it…..(sighs loudly).

2016 interior design trends - black metal bathroom fittings

Black metal factory window style shower enclosure on Pinterest

Black metal furniture

Traditionally black metal furniture has been limited to bed frames, unless you count garden furniture. (I’m intentionally ignoring those dodgy wrought iron coffee tables you find in Spanish villas and hotel reception areas). But apparently we can expect to see more in 2016. Don’t worry if your budget doesn’t stretch to these cool black steel and glass side tables designed by Jasper Morrison. At £390 for one tier and £590 for two tiers I don’t expect to be enquiring about delivery costs to Cumbria anytime soon. Thankfully there are already some stylish and affordable alternatives available.

2016 interior design trends - Black steel and glass side tables by Jasper Morrison

Black steel and glass side tables by Jasper Morrison

I recently used this black steel and wood side table from Habitat as a bedside table in The Pink Bedroom project. At £25 its an absolute steal (boom boom – see what I did there). Habitat also does a matching coffee table which is only £20. £20!
2016 interior design trends - Black powder coated steel and wood side table by Habitat

Black powder coated steel and wood side table from Habitat

It worked really well with the black metal dormitory style bed in the pink bedroom, and the wooden fitted wardrobes you can just see in the reflection in the overmantel mirror.

2016 interior design trends - black metal furniture in bedroom designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The Pink Bedroom

I recently discovered these black steel lounge chairs from Cult Furniture. You have a choice of white or black metal and charcoal or cream seats but I would stick with the black and charcoal option. They would look very stylish paired with a charcoal sofa and at £89 you can probably afford a pair.

2016 interior design trends - Cult Living black powder coated steel and ash Aura Lounge chair from Cult Furniture

Black powder coated steel and wood Cult Living Aura lounge chair from Cult Furniture

So that’s the first instalment on 2016 interior design trends. What do you think? Is there room for some black metal in your home?

The Bijou Bathroom

I lOVE LOVE LOVE designing bathrooms. I think it might be the problem solving element. Firstly, few people have the big bathrooms they’d love so its always an exercise in maximising space. Secondly, the waste pipes are never where you want them to be so you either have to compromise on where things go or come up with an ingenious solution. Thirdly, people often have strong preferences about the types of fittings they like, but this doesn’t come out until you ask whether they want separate or mixer taps and you get a 10 minute rant about the dodgy mixer tap in a hotel they stayed in once that was too tall for the sink so it sprayed water all over them every time they used it……. So take note any newbie bathroom designers, ask a lot of questions upfront and be prepared for a bit of passion.

The bathroom I’m about to show you is very bijou. Less than 2m square. And the homeowner loves a bath so turning it into a shower room was not an option. She has a lovely Victorian terraced house so only one wall was external, which gave us the usual ‘location of the waste pipe’ problem and therefore only one practical layout. She wanted a much bigger window and the door had to open inwards, limiting wall space. The thinking cap was firmly on.

So this is how it looked when the new window went in. The previous one was a quarter of the size making the room pretty gloomy.

Small bijou bathroom before image

And the previous fittings were all standard sizes so squashed together making the room look even more cramped.

Small bijou bathroom before image

After quizzing her on what she did and didn’t like I decided we needed a look that included some traditional elements, a little bit of luxury and some pops of bright colour. So what do you think?

Marble effect wall tiles in small traditional style bathroom with patterned floor tiles

You’re probably wowing at the tiles aren’t you, so lets start there.

Contrary to what most people think, big tiles on the wall actually make a room look bigger. It’s to do with the grout lines and there being fewer to draw your eyes. These luxurious looking carrara marble effect wall tiles have a matt finish and are only £18.75 m2 from Walls & Floors.

I really wanted Victorian style patterned tiles for the floor, but we were working to a budget and I couldn’t find quite the right bright colour. Then I found these Renkli floor tiles also at Walls & Floors. Technically they’re Moroccan in style but the pattern is very similar to traditional Victorian hall tiles. They’re very reasonable at £28.95 m2 and as you can see below they produce it in 3 different print sizes depending on how bold you want the print to be. We went for the largest print size to make it look closer to a Victorian style and to avoid it looking too busy since it’s such a small space.

Renkli Moroccan style geometric floor tiles from Walls & Floors

Next the fittings. The traditional sink and toilet are a set from Victorian Plumbing. The old sink used to hang over the edge of the bath but this sink comes in a narrow 500mm width making it perfect for a small bathroom.

Marble effect wall tiles in small traditional style bathroom with patterned floor tiles

The bath is by Hudson Reed also from Victorian Plumbing. It’s only 1500mm long which gave us 200mm for a shelf at the end – you need somewhere for your shampoo and conditioner – and I HATE those chrome baskets attached to the wall. It’s extra deep (460mm) so she can still submerge herself. Actually she’s so short she can turn over and swim in it……The tiling on the shelf at the end and in front of the bath give it that hint of boutique hotel.

Hudson Reed 1500 x 700 x 460 bath from Victorian Plumbing

The matching Crosswater Belgravia bath and sink taps are from Tap Warehouse.

Cross water Belgravia Basin taps from Tap Warehouse

Cross water Belgravia bath mixer with shower head

We fitted the mixer tap and the shower head in opposite corners of the bath so you don’t knock your knees on the mixer tap when you use the shower. I think it also looks much neater like this.

Cross water Belgravia bath mixer and shower head

The thermostatic shower is also from Victorian Plumbing. FYI – I love using them because they have a huge range at great prices with really quick delivery, and their customer service is excellent. They didn’t pay me to say that, it’s just true. We went for a shower curtain rather than a screen because she’s a bather not a showerer, and screens either make you feel enclosed or get in the way of the taps when you want to top up the hot.

Premier Edwardian thermostatic shower from Victorian Plumbing

The homeowner used to have a large curved heated towel rail behind the door, but it stuck out so you couldn’t open the door fully. I suggested we fit a tall narrow one to the left of the window where it wouldn’t be in the way.

Narrow wall mounted heated towel rail from Victoriam Plumbing

Lastly, she was desperate for storage and used to have a set of drawers next to the bath which made the floor look cluttered so I suggested a tall narrow mirrored cabinet above the toilet.

Being an old Victorian property the ceiling was a little higher than usual which meant we could drop it to add spotlights, and I suggested we leave a gap between the wall tiles and ceiling and paint this whole area a warm gold colour.

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A traditional style loo roll holder, loo brush and mirror and some amber glass accessories and we’re done. So what do you think? The homeowner LOVES it and so do I.

 

 

The first rule of interior design – there are no rules.

This is what attracts me most to interior design, there are literally no rules. Yes, there are guiding principles and building regulations but much of this is just good common sense. One of the things that drove me crazy in my old life was the adherence to pure theory in some areas of the company (project managers you know what I’m talking about), and the way in which management theories were regurgitated, re-branded and slavishly adopted in a way David Koresh would have been envied. I once worked for a guy that would embrace anything that came in a 2×2 matrix, and another that liked anything with 7 steps. I became very skilful in shoe-horning plans into grids and developing acronyms to illustrate my vision and ensure support for my ideas. I am much happier now I don’t need to find a theory to back up my ideas, just using mood boards to illustrate my vision.

Stakeholder management is still important though. You can’t take a customer completely out of their comfort zone without a presentation strategy. I had a situation like this last week when I presented my proposals to a client for her children’s bedrooms. FYI – this is a client who told me she invested a significant amount of time and money in decorating a former home in a range of neutral Farrow & Ball tones, only to have a friend admire her for painting her whole house the same colour…..When I presented the teal feature wall and brick effect wall paper I was suggesting for her sons bedroom, alongside the dark wood and metal furniture she could see how cool it looked but was completely out of her comfort zone. Her husband and son loved it – I’m still waiting to here if she adopts the plan in its entirety….

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Mood board for her sons bedroom. A little bit geek, a little bit rock and a whole lot of cool

My latest bathroom project challenges traditional views that oppose combining styles. I started out with a clear plan for a Victorian style bathroom. But removing the plaster exposed the most beautiful red sandstone, which resulted in a new plan that combined rustic and Victorian styles. All the pipework was diverted to the utility room below to avoid any boxing at skirting level. The lighting plan had to change as the wall lights needed a flat surface and the cables had to be hidden between the stones so new positions had to be found. We had planned a bathroom cabinet but this was no longer practical with such uneven walls so this was replaced with a vintage mirror. The contractors did an excellent job of using pieces of sandstone from the garden to plug any gaps in the walls, and we hid the concrete and brick lintels above the window and door behind some fake aged oak lintels. My favourite feature is the spotlight hidden behind the beam above the cast iron bath which lights it up. I think the end result is striking but you can judge for yourself.

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The final touch will be pictures for the one plastered wall. I’m currently sourcing a painting to match the one below. If I can’t find the right match we’ll stick with the one painting which I fell in love with the moment I saw it – what can I say its my love of chickens….

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Suppliers and contractors:

Milbrook petite cast iron bath from the cast iron bath company, painted in F&B Pavilion Grey. Marble top vanity unit from Bathstore. Toilet from Heritage range. Radiator from Castrads, painted in F&B Cornforth White. Tiles from Walls & Floors Victorian unglazed range. Lighting from Fritz Fryer. Gold taps and accessories from Victorian Plumbing. Plastered wall painted in Dulux Pebble Shore. 

All stonework, plumbing and tiling by J D Osborn Plumbing & Heating Engineers. Joinery by Curwen. Electrics by Cockton Electrical. Decorating by Michael Fulton.

Give your bathroom the Midas touch

Forget being an interior designer. This week I am mostly shivering. Or making cups of tea. Or stomping about the house in a bad mood. Yes the builders are back. I’ve got plumbers ripping out the upstairs bathroom and leaving dusty damp footprints everywhere. I’ve got roofers tearing the roof off the downstairs wet room to fix the leaks and replace the skylight. The electrician popped in at lunch time to drill some more channels in the bathroom because he probably thought there wasn’t enough dust in the house. Knowing my luck the joiner will turn up tomorrow a few weeks early just to get in on the mess.They weren’t all supposed to be here at the same time but if you’ve ever had to wait to get your roof fixed you’ll know why I didn’t turn them away when they rocked up at 7.45am this morning. The word elusive was invented for roofers.

I’m trying to ignore the disruption though and focus on what my lovely new bathroom will look like when it’s finished. As a nation we seem to be stuck in a chrome rut when it comes to bathroom fixtures. You go online and browse any of the major bathroom stockists ranges and if they do have any gold fittings they are limited. Admittedly gold bathroom taps used to have an association with avocado baths and rose pink carpets but I think enough water has passed down the plug hole for us to re-embrace gold fittings. I did start scouring eBay and salvage yards to see if I could get some lovely old antique brass fittings but what I could find was in poor condition and I would have ended up with a very mismatched suite of taps, cistern levers and plug holes. So in the end I decided to give the bathroom the Midas touch and go with bright polished gold, and I think with the soft grey colour palette and the victorian floor tiles it’s going to look gorgeous, particularly if it looks as good as some of these bathrooms…

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This is what started my gold obsession off. I also love the matt blue hexagon mosaic floor tiles
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The fittings may be chrome but the mustard bath is to die for and the moorish arch and tiles are perfect
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I love this 1920’s look – very chic and manhattan
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This helped convince me polished gold with grey was the way to go.

The bathroom should have been a one week job but they need to reinforce the floor joists to hold the new cast iron bath, and re-plaster the walls because they’re too wonky to tile as they are. So it’s turned into a two week job. But hopefully the roofers will finish tomorrow and become elusive once more so I can get a hot shower – with a view of the stars through my new mahoosive skylight!

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Fancy a night out on the tiles?

In my old life I spent a lot of nights in exotic places, in exotic bars, drinking exotic cocktails and avoiding exotic men. These days I spend most of my nights either watching Scandal (totally addicted), or searching for fixtures and fittings for projects I am working on. The last few nights have been spent on (the) tiles and I am starting to develop a fettish on a par with my love of wood and stone flooring. I wanted to share 5 absolute beauties with you to see if it’s just me or if you also find them so lovely you want to build an extension just so you’ll have somewhere to lay them.

#1 Rovere parquet wood effect porcelain floor tiles

These are so realistic its amazing. If I don’t find a customer for them this year I may have to dig up my wet room floor. They measure just under 50cm x 50cm and cost as much as wood flooring (£50 Sqm) but look how beautiful they look…..

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#2 Gosford victorian unglazed clay tiles

I am a sucker for victorian tiling, and just came across the Gosford range. The squares are a little smaller than your standard tiles which gives them that old fashioned feel, and the colours are just right; the white not too bright and the black like coal. The corners, borders and geometric patterns come ready to lay and you buy the plain squares individually. They also have coloured ones. If you have a large room or hallway it can be quite pricey once you’ve added all the squares, borders and corners you need but they are timeless. I bought mine from Walls & Floors who beat a competitors price by 5% after I brought it to their attention. Great company BTW, huge range, good prices, quick delivery, great customer service and they promise to beat any competitor by 5% – what’s not to like.

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#3 Moresque encaustic effect ceramic tiles by Envy

Encaustic painting involves adding coloured pigment to heated beeswax and then applying it to the surface you want to paint. I’ve never seen the results so I’m not sure if these tiles are technically realistic I just know they’re gorgeous. The grey ones competed with the victorians for my bathroom but dropped into second place at the last minute. There are a lot of Moroccan tiles around at the moment but these are a little different with a medieval hint about them. They also come in brighter colours.

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#4 Marble effect ceramic tiles by Vyne in gloss or matt

Marble tiles like the ones pictured below left are beautiful but they can be expensive so these marble effect tiles below right are a more affordable alternative (51p each / £45 Sqm). I came across them when I was considering matching them to a marble topped vanity unit. I didn’t use them in the end because next to real marble the veining is more black than grey but I am thinking about using them in a kitchen next to black granite, possibly in a herringbone pattern. They are only 150mm x 75mm and are not bevelled so have a lovely vintage look.

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#5 Blue gloss hexagonal ceramic tiles from Bejewelled

Just in case you thought I lived in a world of monochrome my last beauty is a bright blue gloss hexagon tile that comes in 300mm x 260mm sheets (£4 a sheet / £52 Sqm). I was actually searching for a dark blue matt hexagon tile like the one in the picture below when I came across these and we are about to fit them in a customers bathroom. The picture below doesn’t really do them justice, the blue is like a caribbean sky and I managed to find some Christy towels that are exactly the same colour – result!

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So that’s enough tiles for the night, time to catch up on Scandal…..