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 can’t decide what’s better as an interior designer being given the blank canvas of a show home or new build, or transforming something that has become tired and dated. I suppose if I enjoy them both it doesn’t really matter. Similarly, I’ve loved the freedom I’ve been given to design this latest show home, (the brief was literally here’s the budget, make it look good, quickly). But then you can’t beat the feeling you get when you show a client your designs for their home and they love them, because you’ve managed to capture everything they told you they liked, plus a bunch of things they would never have thought of but love as well. I guess I’m just saying my job rocks.
If you read my post 10 things you might not expect from an Interior Designer (and thank you if you did) you’ll appreciate just how diverse the role of the interior designer can be. And the multi-tasking doesn’t stop there. As a small business owner I’m also Head of IT, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Chief Finance Officer, Operations Manager, Receptionist and Office Cleaner, i.e. it’s just me. When I worked in London I had a team to support me, access to expert resources, and I’m embarrassed to admit it…… an assistant. I realise now that I was proper pampered. But I’m also proud of how I’ve mastered a whole bunch of new skills. Well all but one that is.
Interiors Styling & Photography
One of the most important things when you’re an interior designer is being able to show people your work. Your website is your shop front so you need lots of images, and they need to be good. This isn’t as simple as you would think and it takes time. The rooms you see in magazines have been styled within an inch of their life. The stylist will have planned in advance how tidy or casual the room should look. Every accessory will have been carefully chosen from a stash which won’t all make it into the photographs. They will have been placed and then moved 3 or 4 times before the stylist was happy with the result. Greenery is a given, but the stylist will have thought carefully about what kind. And they will have played and played and then played some more with the lighting until it was just right.
Styling is an art which is why there is a whole industry behind it. But the greater skill in my view is the photography, which is where I fall down. Hard. Lighting regularly defeats me, but it’s also knowing which angle would be best, how wide to go on the perspectives, and how soft or sharp on the close ups. I’ve got a decent camera and editing software but it’s a bit ‘all the gear and no idea’. If I had the time I’d take a course. In fact maybe that should be my New Years resolution. Lets face it ‘lose a stone’ is getting a bit like Groundhog Day.
Which is why I’m chuffed to bits to see the holiday home I finished recently on the rental market with Cumbrian Cottages,. I’d taken some pics when it was finished but when I started editing I wasn’t happy with them and knew I would have to go back. But thankfully Cumbrian Cottages have done a much better job as I’m about to show you. But first things first people, the before pics!
The Lowther Project – Before
The property is grade II* listed and was built in the 1770’s for the workers of Lowther Castle. It’s like the tardis. From the outside it looks like an end terrace, but inside there are 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms a kitchen and living room spread over 3 floors.
The owners initially said they wanted a traditional look that reflected the age of the property, but after sharing images with them via Houzz I could see that they also liked vintage and industrial elements and weren’t afraid of going dark when it came to wall colour.
To give you an idea of how long a project like this can take, the homeowners first got in touch in March and I started work 3 weeks later. We need listed building consent from the Lake District National Park planning office before any work could start. So I completed the detailed designs and submitted the application at the end of May. We got the approval at the end of July and work started early August and completed mid October.
So are you ready to see what it looks like now?
The Lowther Project – Final Reveal
When you’re working to a budget it’s important to know where to spend and where to save. Using a mixture of new and secondhand furniture is a great way to save money, and old furniture is often better quality. It also adds character and makes a place look like it was furnished over a period of time.
I’m particularly proud of what we achieved with the budget for the kitchen. The units are from Howdens and we bought all the appliances online. The granite worktops were supplied and fitted by Lakeland Granite. They had some surplus stock they wanted shot of so we got a good price.
We used black slate flooring throughout the ground floor and on the lower ground floor which has its own external door so that the property could be pet friendly.
I used track lighting for the ceiling pendant so it can be moved into the centre of the room when they extend the dining table to seat 6 – clever idea eh?
We installed a new shower room on the lower ground floor so we could take out the over bath shower and create a big family bathroom. One where you drink champagne in the bath of course….
When you’re renovating a whole house there are a lot of moving parts to manage so if you can find a contractor that is multi-skilled it can really help. Almost all the work on this project was done by Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms. The staircase was probably one of the simplest jobs on his very long list but it has made such a difference to how the property looks.
The dark blue wall in the master bedroom is Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue which I liked so much I recently painted my own bedroom the same colour. It goes beautifully with the antique pine and the burnt orange.
The twin bedroom is very compact. There isn’t enough ceiling height for bunk beds but we were able to get in two small singles with just enough space to walk between them.
Remember the store room with the old kitchen cupboards? Well look at it now. Just shows what you can do with a space with some careful planning.
The hexagon wall and floor tiles are from Topps Tiles and made me very unpopular with Ben. “I’ve done the best I can” was his parting shot that day. But I think they look pretty good.
The third bedroom on the lower ground floor also looks fabulous but you’ll just have to take my word for it. The lighting in there is really poor and it seems the professional photographer struggled with it too, so I don’t feel quite so inadequate. But I will take some more pics when I go back and show you just how fab it looks.
Yes cheese. I won’t lie, when I saw this pic on the Cumbrian Cottages site I did think how nice it would be to curl up in front of that log burner with a glass of red and some stinky cheese. But if I put this pic on my website you’d think I was bonkers.
So if you’re looking for an uber cosy holiday home to rent in the Lake District head over to the Cumbrian Cottages website and get it booked. There’s a good pub close by and it’s walking distance from Lowther Castle where they hold Kendal Calling every year, just think no campsite toilets…..
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.
Never before has a room been so inappropriately named as this snug which my customers use as a TV room. At over 25 square metres it’s bigger than somewhere a London estate agent once tried to flog me as a one bedroom flat.
It’s the second room I’ve decorated for my customers. Our first project was their Ginormous Living Room – click the link if you want to pop back and take a look. It was a major transformation and they loved the final result which set high expectations for round two. I needed to come up with something at least as fabulous, preferably better and I think I rose to the challenge but I’ll let you be the judge. Ready for some before pics?
The Snug – Before
Their TV room was originally the garage but the previous owners who built the house later decided they needed an extra living space and converted it. God knows what they were using the ginormous living room for. Tennis court? Ballroom? Seriously pop back and take a look it’s big enough.
And if you did take a look you’ll know that the previous owners were also fans of a fake beam or two. They managed to squeeze three more in here, along with a staircase that we think came out of a church. It also had a strange laminate floor and carpet combo going on.
Those stairs lead up to the loft space where there is another fabulous fake beam and some badly designed storage. Lets not discuss the carpet, wallpaper and curtains – all the previous owners doing.
The previous owners also liked to cut corners and didn’t bother moving the electricity meter, they just hid it behind an oddly shaped cupboard….. and a darts board.
The Big TV Challenge
When I design living rooms I usually try to hide the TV, or at least make it blend into the background. But if you have a room that’s main purpose is for watching TV in you’re allowed to give it a little more stage presence. However, a lot of TV stands are ugly, even the expensive ones, and they don’t always hide all the wires. The other issue is size. You need to fill the wall that the TV sits against with ‘stuff’ so it doesn’t look lost. Here’s some approaches I’ve taken.
1. Incorporate the TV into a wall of storage and/or artwork
Image from AVSO.ORG
Image via Pinterest
2. Make the wall behind the TV the feature
I recently tiled a wall like the image below and used concealed lighting to pick out the contours. I’ll show you some pics of my own project just as soon as their new TV stand arrives. The current one is not pretty enough for pics…..
Image via Pinterest
3. Use a false wall
Image via Pinterest
Or the false wall can look like a chimney breast or run the length of the room with the TV and media equipment buried in it. This approach works well when you want a more minimalistic look so that the emphasis is on other elements in the room. I love the image below but I’m not convinced you should have a TV above a fire.
Image via Pinterest
So back to the snug.
I wanted to carry some of that modern country look through from the living room for continuity but add a touch more luxury. This translated to a scheme that includes a plush velvet sofa and grey plaid wallpaper (I can’t call it tartan without thinking of the Krankies).
So are you ready?
The Snug – Final Reveal
When my customer told me she quite fancied a velvet sofa my heart practically skipped a beat. Many of my customers have dogs and/or small children so velvet (especially deep buttoned) is a big no no. And although my customers have both a dog and a small child they also have the aforementioned ginormous living room, which they can use when everyone isn’t as clean as they should be. So we could make this room a bit more grown up and sophisticated. Bring it on!
The focal point is obviously the new media wall. The gas fire has gone and a new stud wall has been built to resemble a chimney breast so that we could wallpaper the alcoves either side. This gives the whole wall interest so it’s not just about the TV. The shelves below the TV are big enough to accommodate the current media equipment and any future equipment the customers might want, and there is concealed lighting along the top to give just the right amount of light for late night movie watching.
The wallpaper adds a posh country hotel vibe doesn’t it, and it was only £10 a roll……
The side table tops come off and can be used as trays so you have somewhere for your wine and popcorn when you’re watching a movie.
My customers are a VERY photogenic family and had loads of lovely pics I could use as artwork. The black and white prints and simple white frames look lovely against the wallpaper, and we hung the pictures high to make the walls seem longer.
The large admiral blue deep buttoned velvet sofa and matching ottoman with storage is from Next. There was room for two sofas or a sofa and armchair combo but frankly the homeowners sit in here to watch TV so one large sofa means everyone is facing in the right direction.
You remember the rule about area rugs right? Buy the biggest you can afford, preferably one that is wider than the sofa so it doesn’t look lost. This plush deep pile one is from IKEA, because it’s multiple shades of blue it contrasts with the carpet but doesn’t clash with the sofa. Perfect.
We papered the wall behind the sofa so that side of the room didn’t look bare. The dark wood doors were replaced with white 6 panel ones to match the rest of the house and all the woodwork was painted white, including the new under-stairs storage (with push to open fittings so it doesn’t look like cupboards), and the new cupboard that houses the electricity meter.
Replacing the staircase wasn’t an option, or necessary to be honest so we just replaced the newel post with a more contemporary square one, and the new grey carpet carries up the stairs into the space which will become an office, right now it’s just a nicely decorated box with lots more new storage space – see.
Most of the budget had to go on things you probably can’t appreciate like getting all the radiator pipes chased in, sorting out the lighting and plug sockets and boarding and plastering the ceiling. But there was enough for a simple console table behind the sofa and a few more framed family photos.
I toyed with the idea of floor to ceiling curtains to make the ceiling seem higher but because of the position of the radiators roman blinds made more sense (curtains would block heat from the room in winter), and to be honest blinds look more contemporary. They are a pale grey felt like material and couple of shades darker than the walls. They just add a little more texture to the room without competing with the sofa.
I live in an old house with uneven walls. Consequently I only have one wall that could take wallpaper. So I get very excited when I get the opportunity to wallpaper a customers house. But I also brace myself for a challenge because I’m VERY picky about wallpaper. There are fine lines between bold and gaudy, and striking or gives you a headache. And then there are the quirky ones which can be kinda cool, but can also look like they belong in the childrens ward of a hospital. And I get very twitchy around faux effect wallpapers. I’m not ruling them out in houses but I think they work best in pubs and restaurants and other commercial premises where you want unusual, eye catching features. But I can even take issue with subtle wallpapers. I look at some and think thats so subtle why are you bothering?
Murusbiblusphobia – the fear of wallpaper
OK I just made this up using the latin words for wall and paper, but to stop you all from thinking I suffer from an aversion to wallpaper I thought I would show you five that have drawn my eye lately. And I’m pleased to report, at least for my own sake, that sitings of favourable wallpapers are on the increase.
1. Pheasant by Barneby Gates
I’m going to start with the one I am considering for the single wallpaperable (another made up word from me) wall in my house. This Pheasant wallpaper by Barneby Gates is quirky but not mad and has the right amount of ‘traditional’ for my house without it being boring. I’m waiting for the sample to arrive so it might not make a formal appearance at Holly Cottage. But I hope it does as I rather like the idea of pheasants roaming across my dining room wall.
2. Pindorama by Arthouse
There are lots of bold tropical and botanical wallpapers around at the moment, perfect to go with the must have for 2017 if you want to be bang on trend – a velvet sofa. I love the orchids and fuchsia in this wallpaper but if I’m honest what probably drew me in was the way the stylist had it working with the fuchsia pink border and ceiling. They should have used a huge navy or fuchsia sofa though, that little grey one looks positively out of place in this setting.
3. House Plants by Miss Print
I’ve been looking for wallpaper for one wall in a large contemporary kitchen/living/dining space and instantly fell in love with this retro style wallpaper from MissPrint. MissPrint was created in 2005 by mother-daughter co-founders Yvonne and Rebecca Drury and every MissPrint pattern is hand-illustrated by Rebecca which is what makes their designs so unique. What I really like about this wallpaper (and any of their designs for that matter) is that although they have a midcentury feel you could make them work in a traditional or contemporary setting.
4. Kumo by Albany
This cloud wallpaper is going in an office/study/reading room I’ve just designed for a customer. I suggested it because I thought the pattern was so relaxing. Maybe not great for an office but definitely right for a reading room. For me this is one of those subtle designs that is subtle but is still noticeable. My customer hasn’t been able to use this room since they bought the house as it was being used for storage so she’s very excited about having her own space. So much so she jokingly referred to this room as her lady cave…. so wrong.
5. Veranda Trellis by Zoffany
Last up is a wallpaper I’m thinking of for a living room I’m in the process of designing. I want something contemporary but elegant, and like the idea of a geometric pattern but so many of them make my head hurt when I look at them for too long. This one doesn’t and I think that’s because it’s just simple green on white. My eyes can’t seem to cope with geometrics in more than two colours. Print size helps too – too small and I feel like I’m being hypnotised.
So that’s my fab five. I’ll let you know if the pheasants make it onto the walls of Holly Cottage.
It’s been a hectic year for Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd, aka me. My version of the Twelve Days of Christmas would go something like ‘6 living rooms, 5 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, 3 kitchens, 1 dressing room, 1 dining room, 1 hallway, a pub, a showroom, a shop and an office. Good job I wasn’t approached by a partridge in a pear tree as I’d have had to turn it down.
I’ve been so busy I haven’t even had time to properly photograph finished projects to show you lovely people. I know I know the before and afters are the best bit. We all love howling at how ugly the old carpet/wallpaper/sofa was don’t we. So I promise to pull my finger out in the New Year….*adds another item to list of New Years resolutions after stop eating so much and start running again*
So although the room I’m about to show you was still missing a sofa and a sideboard when I left on Wednesday, and the pictures and gallery wall will go up in January I’m going to show you some pics anyway ‘cos it’s Christmas, it’s fabulous and it’s the largest single room I’ve ever decorated – I’ve got friends in London with smaller flats. So without further ado I present to you – the Ginormous Living Room.
Now before you start pointing fingers NONE of this was furnished or decorated by the homeowners. They inherited the whole kit and caboodle from the previous owners and have been saving since they bought the property so they could change everything. The challenge though was what to do with such a big room.
The good news was that the homeowners knew the look they wanted, which I call ‘modern country’. And that doesn’t mean Taylor Swift, it’s more about mixing traditionally rustic features with modern elements. You’ll see what I mean if I show you the plans. It took two moodboards the room is so big….
The newly decorated Ginormous Living Room
Now before I show you anything, please excuse the amateur iPhone photography, the sun kept streaming through the windows (what’s all that about in Cumbria in bloody December), so I’ve had to edit the pics to get rid of the glare. Please also avert your eyes from the rubbish outside which we haven’t had time to shift. Sorry, I’ll stop apologising and just get on with it – ta da!
Totally different room right? Bye bye ugly fake beams, antique pine clad ceiling and wrought iron staircase (we don’t even need to mention the carpet do we…). Hello beautiful, and relaxing but elegant living room.
That chimney was just crying out for a stove wasn’t it?
So I’ve given the room two zones – and this is the grown up’s bit for a glass of wine after the little’un is in bed and when they have friends round.
The plan was to paint the lower half of that coffee table in Farrow & Ball Rectory Red, and we might still.
I think the new lighting is my favourite bit.
So this is where the second couch (leather BTW) will go when it arrives. They did promise before Christmas so they still have 24hrs but I’m not holding my breath….
…and this is where the sideboard now sits in the more child friendly zone, i.e. wipe clean sofa, washable covers on the armchair and a very fluffy rug for floor play time. Now that the sideboard has arrived I can work out how big the gallery wall we have planned needs to be. I love that snuggler chair and footstool from IKEA, it’s a perfect match for the Laura Ashley plaid sofa isn’t it?
And just when you thought the room couldn’t get any bigger it wraps around into the dining room (the kitchen is to the left). I wish now I’d taken a decent pic of the new staircase that fabulous joiner Kevin Robinson supplied and fitted, but you’ll see it when I do the final photographs.
So it brought a few challenges – that high ceiling being one for the plasterers, decorator and electrician, and getting the layout right. But what a transformation eh?. I’m chuffed to bits with the result, and I must confess have a little bit of house envy.
Would love to know what you think?
No thats not a typo *tuts* and I’m not inviting you to snoop round my house either. Tho if you happen to be in the area and you bring biscuits I’m fairly sure I’d let you in. No, Mi Abode is a Scandinavian interiors and homeware retailer in Uppermill, Saddleworth. Which is a little off the beaten track for us Cumbrians but luckily also has an online store. Phew…
So what makes Mi Abode worth talking about? Well for starters they sell a mixture of beautiful but very affordable vintage and contemporary Scandinavian design pieces. But more importantly Mia the owner is actually Scandinavian, and many of the items she sells are actually from Sweden. But what I really love is that some of them are made by her mum Helga. Yes Helga. From Sweden. Could this Scandinavian interiors shop be any more authentic?
So want to see what caught my eye when I happened to be in Uppermill for a very important breakfast meeting (by which I mean a catch up with my sister over heavily buttered fruit toast and coffee)?
The first thing I spotted was these felt baskets. Perfect for rolled up towels or loo rolls in the bathroom, or magazines or throws in the living room.
And then I fell in love with these little fellas.
Mamma Helga makes these Elf Christmas decorations in various shapes, sizes and shades. I bought the big guy, now known as Lars. He will probably spend Christmas on the living room hearth but he will spend the rest of the year in my Scandi styled summer house……which just might have been featured in Real Homes magazine this month *tosses hair over shoulder celebrity style*
Mia stocks the key pieces needed to get Hygge like the Danes, i.e. scented candles throws and cushions
….and its not all monochrome.
She also has some pretty funky artwork…..
and fab lighting, including these concrete pendants.
The shop is a veritable treat for the eyes, everywhere you look there’s something you want to prod and poke
And its not just pretty stuff, there are practical things too. Instead of stuffing your kitchen drawers with postcards that you don’t want to throw away, recipes you’ve cut out of magazines and vouchers you want to keep, what about putting them in these cool storage books?
So don’t just take my word for it get online at http://www.miabode.bigcartel.com/products and take a look for yourself
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.