I’ve been spending a lot of time in the bathroom lately, and I can’t blame my old lady bladder. I’ve got four new bathrooms in progress, have just started designing another, and I’ve got four more in the pipeline. That’s a lotta loo’s. And they all have one thing in common. Size. Or should I say lack of it. Continue reading “How to design a beautiful AND functional bathroom”
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.
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?
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….
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.
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….
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.