The Florence Finds House Tour: Family Bathroom Part 1 – The Build

Well, hello! It’s finally time I shared our bathroom, in fact the whole house. I’m setting myself a goal to bring one room a month to the blog and I hope I can keep up! The majority of the house has been made-over in one way or another over the last 12 months via our big renovation and extension project. Some intentionally and others as collateral, either because they were damaged in the process or just seemed tired and dated. I think I’m going to split these posts into two where its appropriate, to divide the pretty from the nitty gritty of what and how we did things so I hope they’re both useful and inspiring. I’m going to start here with the Bathroom as it was the first room we actually completed and started using, as well as being pretty popular amongst my insta followers, so I hope you like it!


The pre-existing deco-bathroom of darkness

The Nitty Gritty:
Before we started this project, it was intended to be a single story extension ‘glass box’ on the back of the house. However we wouldn’t have gained much space if the resulting room had followed the line of the exterior wall at the back so we wrapped it around into an area that housed our bins. That meant I could have a utility room (whoop whoop!) and the living space would be bigger, which then opened up the possibility of addressing the family bathroom on the floor above. Our first floor has 3 bedrooms and had a small bathroom with a separate toilet on the landing. This made the landing an odd shape, dog legging around the loo, and there was no natural light there either so it was dark. The previous owners had renovated the house to sell but sadly their taste was dated and as a result I hated everything about the bathroom – black and white, art deco style tiles, and faux Victorian white suite.



Top left – shows the landing area dog legging around the loo. The bottom exterior shot hopefully shows the back area we built across but also the way we filled in the side to make space for the utility and bathroom, without extending the house footprint sideways.

It could have been a lot worse I’ll admit, but I really did hate it with a passion. It also wasn’t ideal for a family of 4, kids bathtimes or just spending any enjoyable time in it. There was a small north facing, (possibly original, read: draughty,) window so it was dingy too and basically didn’t have much to commend it. I dreamed of space and light and 2 sinks! Having extra space in the ground floor footprint of the house meant we could build out and over the utility room making a bigger family friendly bathroom, and creating space and light on the landing by moving the loo into the bathroom too. Pete was keen to make this a 2 phase job and come back to the bathroom but I was adamant I didn’t want to revisit the mess etc so we planned from the outset to just make it one big project.


Once the walls started to go up, the space took shape pretty quickly. We went away for the week in March and our ace builders used the opportunity to do all the horrific demolition bits while the kids were out of the house, lifting the floor downstairs to install our underfloor heating, demolishing the landing loo and making the new wall between the bathroom and landing. I remain eternally grateful – anyone who has endured a renovation knows what brick dust is like, and in a house as old as ours, removing ceiling sections means soot flying everywhere which is possibly worse and certainly more pervasive.


Once we could walk around in the space (at first climbing up via the scaffolding!) it seemed at once much bigger and much smaller than I expected. One of the only structural changes we made during the build was to this room, adding a velux when the walls were in, as it suddenly seemed very dark. I hadn’t factored in how the roof pitch comes quite low in this particular aspect of the house, which meant the wall wasn’t tall enough for our usual high windows. So we opted for a massive velux that matched the width of the window below and placed it directly in line with the window too which looked pleasing from the outside but also meant it was positioned perfectly over the bath. This also resulted in the vaulted ceiling that the velux made necessary and now I absolutely love. I’d like to say it was a pre-planned design feature and take credit but it was in fact a twist of fate with some good advice from our builders!


Once the shell was in place it was left as just that by our builders and our internal finishing team took over. Side note: We had 2 builders, one for the big structural stuff and another team that did all the internal specification like the wall panelling, bathroom, tiled flooring, utility and decoration. This played to each of their strengths according to our Architect and we were really happy with how it worked out. The internal finishing team had a fantastic eye for detail, shared my appreciation for Pinterest and basically were ready to do exactly what I wanted, as well as adding their own experience, and expertise. They first sorted out the plumbing for the double vanity, wall hung loo, bath and shower, all of which took quite some effort as each bit had it’s challenges. My main concern in this room was the width. On our architects layouts it seemed spacious enough but it was long and narrow in reality and I worried until the very day the vanity unit and bath were installed that there was enough space for them both and inbetween.


As a result I was obsessed with making sure not an inch of space was lost to stud walls and pipes – any of you who have created a bathroom will know often pipes are just hidden behind stud walls which built around all the perimeter can mean precious space is lost. We already had some tricky aspects with some decorative brickwork (see above) that stuck into the room at the shower end and differences in the old thin walls and new building regulation thickness block and breeze walls. Our finishers took the opportunity to hide some pipes where the walls had to be built out to meet the new thicker ones but also recessed some pipework into the bricks, even chiseling out space for the super slim cistern to hide in the wall. We chose wall mounted sink taps which also needed accommodating and placed the shower controls as you walk into the shower on the right, where you can turn them on without getting wet while the water heats up, so they also needed the pipework sinking in.


Next up was the floor and my beloved encaustic tiles. Oh my, I absolutely love these tiles. I plan to write another blog post about how incredibly high maintenance they are – think full on drama queen, but I don’t think you can beat them for texture and pattern. They are very thick so scuppered the floor level a little and we have a lipped threshold on the door frame to allow for the thickness of not only the tile but the stabilising cement board beneath them which added to the depth. Next the loo was installed and then the vanity I think, where more trickery went on to again maximise the width. That decorative brick work I mentioned actually extended along the wall to where the vanity was supposed to be positioned right against the wall and was higher than the bottom of the vanity unit, even on its legs so our builders cut a section out of the back corner to allow it to be pushed right up to the wall.

We chose a Swoon Editions sideboard which we converted into a vanity unit which required a bit of consideration of the storage layout – for example many of them have drawers to one side which would have been much trickier to convert and make space for the plumbing, and we actually chose a different design which ended up being delayed again and again so we opted for the current one instead and I actually think it was the better choice now. It was 10cm longer than the first design we chose which I think was better for the proportions of the usable worksurface on top, and the first one we chose had a brass upstand around the back which in retrospect wouldn’t have worked well with our sinks either. I think the bath was next and the free standing tap (chosen because the window position prevented us having wall mounted bath taps,) and the custom shower screen was last to go in.

A nitty gritty post wouldn’t be complete without a note on what I would have done differently and despite the planning there are still things I would change. The freestanding bath tap wasn’t a big deal aesthetically but became pricier because they are vastly more expensive than wall mounted ones, because: bigger. Adding the Velux cost us about another £2000 which seems a lot in the scheme of the bathroom but wasn’t in terms of the over all build (the Velux itself is massive and was ~£900.) My main and currently very prominent regret given that it’s January, is the underfloor heating we ditched as it would have been on a separate electric system to the water circuit on the ground floor and was an added cost. We felt we didn’t need it as we would have enough heat from the radiator but however the ambient heat is achieved, a cold tiled floor is still a cold tiled floor, which I think we notice more in contrast to the warmer floors downstairs and the vaulted ceiling makes it a very big space to heat.

Other than that I’m really pleased with our choices. One other thing I would say that made this project is the team we had working on it. When looking for trades people find yourself a YES man! All too often trades people will tell you it can’t be done or won’t be right, or will cost a lot more – whilst details like herringbone tiling will take longer so involve more labour its not that significant in my experience and you don’t want to settle then regret it all because a tiler wouldn’t just do their job! Ours did everything I asked of them and more when things didn’t go according to plan. I’ll pop the links for the builders and bathroom fitters below. I’ll also be back with the finished reveal next – the post is all written, I just need to add in the photos and product links so it shouldn’t take too long, (she says – it’s the most time consuming part!!)

Back soon!
Rebecca

ArchitectSpace AP
BuildersBoarshurst
Interior finishing/fitting108 Builders.

You might also like to read about our inspiration here: #FFHouseReno: The Bathroom

#FFHouseReno: The Bathroom

The bathroom looks like it will be the first room finished in this mad renovation project so I think it’s time I talked about the design process. Before I start, a disclaimer… I don’t really *cough* like bathrooms. That’s not strictly true I suppose. There’s many a bathroom I have enjoyed spending time in, but bathroom design just leaves me cold. So I basically ignored the bathroom for the longest time during the planning stages. We have never renovated or replaced a bathroom before so I also didn’t really know where to start. Expect of course, Pinterest.


This is the image which inspired our bathroom design as a whole.

A little bit of background first, Kate Watson-Smyth from Mad About The House says you need to know the who, what’s and where of a house before you plan anything and I wholeheartedly agree. This bathroom, although it will be a bathroom for all of us currently, will long term become the family/kids bathroom, when we complete the final renovation stage of this house and move up to the top floor. For now though we are a young family with many a bath time ahead of us in which all four of us will be trying to move around the space, so layout was important. I wasn’t prepared to compromise on having two sinks and we wanted a freestanding bath but that was pretty much it. This was a bit of luxury for us now but also half an eye on two girls competing for mirror space in future. 😉 I also wanted storage for the myriad bath toys we now have, plus toiletries of mine which are bound to double again with the girls growing up. That was pretty much it in terms of what we needed. And what I wanted desperately was for it not to be boring. Easier said than done.

I scoured my bathroom pinterest boards and tried to establish some themes. It turns out I like my bathrooms light and bright, with simple natural colours and warmed by wood accents. However, every now and then a crazy tile I had saved would pop up and make me think, ‘Am I missing the opportunity to do something fun? Is it going to look boring?’ so I tried to find a way to bring in a bit of colour and personality. Not something synonymous with contemporary bathroom design.


The first moodboard I made to get my thoughts and ideas down on ‘paper’.

Now one part of bathrooms that I do love are tiles. But trying to find the cool tiles you just saw on Pinterest is not easy. And it’s even harder to find them at a good price point. It’s fortunate I don’t like the 4 tiled walls look because my goodness, tiles are expensive. I decided the way to include that pop of fun and colour I need was to have a patterned tile and quickly fell in love with encaustic tiles when we were researching for the hallway floor. My encaustic tile search is probably for another post as they are not the cheap option but I managed to source them at about half the price of some of the first ones I spotted. We finally narrowed the design down to a graphic starburst hexagon tile, after a brief flirtation with stars, in a dark marine blue.

For the walls, I considered tilling up the wall in the same tile but that would have been missing out on the opportunity to mix in another style I like. I have a lot of love for the clean, classic and budget friendly look of metro tiles, but I’m slightly obsessed with herringbone too so decided to tile the shower in a white elongated tile in a herringbone layout. I managed to find a handmade looking tile with quite an undulating surface in the right proportions for a fraction of the price of the higher end tile stores and to make it more of a textural effect rather than a graphic pattern, we have chosen white grout.

Black shower taps

Next up was taps. Again, I had decided on brass, but wow, taps are expensive (there’s a theme somewhere in here…) and I couldn’t find quite the style I wanted. When I was bath hunting I came across Lusso Stone who have really well priced tap and shower sets, and decided to cross over to the dark side and go for matte black. Those of you who are regular readers may remember that I really dislike black. I have barely anything black in my wardrobe but I’m finding that I am using it more and more in interiors as an accent neutral and I am so excited to see these go in. It was compromise that made me go for them, particularly as we chose everything for the bathroom so late we were starting to really try and cut the budget, so were under pressure to make savings in this room, but I think they are going to make a fantastic compromise and won’t look too stark because of…


Wooden vanity

The Vanity Unit. I knew I wanted a wooden floating unit or a sideboard style piece of furniture, originally thinking I’d source a vintage midcentury sideboard, but I just couldn’t find anything I was happy to make a decision on. Eventually I reconciled myself with the fact that anything we bought new would have to be chopped up and drilled into to convert and settled on the Fresco Sideboard from Swoon Editions. Unfortunately we had quite the debacle and had to switch for another one last minute but I’m really happy we did and can’t wait to see it in situ. The wood will add warmth to an otherwise quite stark room and the brass detail is just going to make me happy. 🙂 We plan to top it with a piece of marble to save the wood top from getting stained and have chosen counter top rectangular sinks to fit the mid-century vibe.


The final moodboard where I put all my chosen products together to make sure they worked together.

Lastly the bath. We looked far and wide at baths and really fell for the composite ones with their matt velvety finish. The first we liked was Victoria and Albert then we found Lusso Stone which are vastly cheaper than most and supply a lot of hotels and building projects with very sexy baths. The one we chose was mainly due to size restrictions because I could easily have chosen many of their gorgeous designs and hopefully it will be with us next week.

I think that’s it! I’m still updating Instagram Stories most days with daily progress and much of that is currently bathroom progress, so please do check in if you want to see some behind the scenes action. (Disclaimer: I may or may not be found on some days tearing my hair out or rocking in the corner quietly, depending how bad a day it has been!) I think it will be another couple of weeks then I should have some finished photos for you!

Hope you like it!
Rebecca

#FFHouseReno: Part I [Foundations]

Well hello, finally I can write our first post about the extension, not in the planning stages but the happening stage. Whoop Whoop!

Yeah, well it was exciting for about 2 weeks I think! Already it feels slow and dirty and messy and just muddy. The mud. Seriously. People warned us about starting building work in January and they were right! But let’s skim over that and start at the beginning.

We were supposed to start on January 3rd and were immediately foiled by the piling company still being on Christmas Break for another week. The next week came and went and I think it was 22nd of January before everything came together and the work finally started. 18x 3m steel tubes were delivered, the drain survey people, piling contractors and our building company all arrived on site at once and things finally started happening.

It was a pre-requisite of our build over agreement that we survey the drain below the works both before and after the building work, and although we had already surveyed the drain to get the drain position and structural calculations for the build over agreement in the first place, that was 2 years ago now so we repeated it to make sure there had been no damage in the interim that we could get blamed for later. All was well and the position was once again marked out ready for the piling.

The piling process was pretty incredible. Our piles were a combination of augered and driven piles. Most people think of driven piles when they think of piling – if you’ve ever been in the vicinity of piling work you might recall the thud thud thud of the piling taking place and the ground literally shaking for what seems like miles around. Because of the drain, our piles were augered which looked like a huge drill bit and essentially drills down, turfing the ground up out of the hole it creates. They did this to below the invert of the drain, about 5m down and then put the steel in and drove the last meter or so down. Fortunately for us, that meant the impact and vibrations of the banging was so far underground it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but that said, it was still thumpingly loud, like make-your-chest-vibrate loud, and the house shook. I’m so glad we have forgiving neighbours! There were other benefits to this method – one being that when drilling down, they would have had a heads up if they had hit anything (like the drain!) However, it also involved some guess work and the final depth depends on when the piles hit firm ground – at least one of the piles needed to go deeper than the planned 6m and the deepest is at 9m underground which is pretty mind boggling. Once in place we could look down the piles to the bottom and it was like looking into the centre of the earth.

Once the piles were in place we breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. It was a little bit weird that something we had been focusing our whole minds and worry on was over in a matter of days – I think they were finished in 4. However then there was another wait while the piling contractors disappeared again and our builders picked up the work, digging our foundation trenches, before the Piling company came back to finish off. They had several staffing issues and other overrunning jobs which was beyond their control but it was incredibly frustrating. They were responsible for not only the piles but the whole foundations on top of them so until they finished our builders couldn’t do anything. They eventually came back and created the ring beam – a steel frame that rests on the piles and then was set in concrete to form the foundations and finally the foundations were done! That whole process took 2 weeks, but it could have been a lot quicker as I think we had at least 4 working days where nothing happened at all in those two weeks.

Since then our builders have been on the job and it seems like everything has been happening really quickly. We joked that as they had already built up 9 meters we could expect the rest of the work to be done in another 4 weeks or so! Sadly not!

I guess it’s not surprising but we have had a taste already of the disruption the work will bring. There will be times when we have both the downstairs toilet and the first floor bathroom out of action and holes in the walls of the house so this rates pretty low on the scale of inconvenience, but the outside pipes to the kitchen sink and dishwasher were disconnected during the piling and we’ve had a bucket under the pipes collecting the water that gets emptied daily since then. I’ve been a bit paranoid about using excessive amounts of water, which when you’re constantly cleaning up after 2 kids is not that easy. However I’m sure there’s much worse to come!

I’ve also had my first wobble about the plans as the layout of the steps coming down from the extension were marked on the ground and it just looked massive. In fact the modest strip of paving outside the sliding doors, then the planters and stepped path down to the rest of the garden is almost as wide again as the new room we are building, and eats into the garden further than I expected, however, theres no other way of achieving the design I want so I’m trying to hold my nerve. The foundations for that area were concreted in last week and the supporting walls that are above ground but below the floor level of the house were put in too. The highlight of my week was the insertion of a piece of steel that will be between the glass corner and the sliding windows, that essentially holds the roof up over the largely glazed area. It gave the space a sense of a perimeter and felt like real progress.

Right now however, I’m still having a lot of trouble visualising it all. Because it’s below the floor level of the house it’s hard to get a sense of the space, and the weather has been so awful that it is hard to see past the mud. Thank goodness for the break in the weather. My to do list this week involves trying to pin them down to a rough timescale so I can try and plan when its going to be worst inside and we can try to get away. We met with another contractor to do the finishing last week (the bathroom/utility and loo fitting, tiling, wall panelling etc etc etc) and are awaiting a revised quote and I need to make a decision on who we will be sourcing our internal crittall door from. We’ve also got tile samples arriving and colour chips as I think we will be making a bespoke colour way of the tiles we want. So all together that is super exciting, especially as I feel like I’ve finally found my bathroom mojo after weeks of being less than excited about it – I just couldn’t get interested in off the shelf all-in design, but now I can’t wait to share our plans with you!

I hope that was interesting for those of you planning building work. The photos aren’t very inspiring but I hope they are illuminating at least and I’ll try to do a monthly update and progress report amongst the fun interiors posts. We are actually on week 5 now and a lot more has happened – as always follow along on Instagram – I tend to update my stories almost daily with progress including live videos walking around the site – quick and easy for me, brilliant if you happen to be super nosey. 😉

Happy Thursday Guys!

Rebecca

Introducing the #FFHouseReno

Well where did January go?! Over here it was in a constant state of anticipation for our extension project to get underway, under leaden skies, flat light and constant rain. I for one will not be sad to see the back of January!


How the house will hopefully look when it’s finished!

On a more positive note I thought I would share with you our plans for the building project we have just embarked on (yes, it’s underway as I write – you can follow along on Instagram and I usually update my stories daily with progress if you’re really keen on keeping up!) and get a little bit excited about the planned results! It’s been a long time in the making and what we are doing has evolved through the planning process too, so I’ll talk you all through it here.


The current layout of the house.

Initially the brief was ‘a glass box extension to create a living/dining family space adjacent to the kitchen.’ As you will see from the existing plans below, we currently have a living room, a dining room and a kitchen downstairs, plus the W.C. but the rooms are all off the hallway and just not ideal for family life. We very quickly realised after having Bea that we needed space where we could watch her while we cooked etc and this is even more necessary with Cora as she is a little terror! Also, our Kitchen is just that, a kitchen. We have a peninsula with seating at the worktop which is where we often feed Bea or eat together, but it’s a bit like the three monkeys sitting in a row, isn’t ideal for incorporating a high chair, and I long for a kitchen table to eat around. Although we are lucky to have a dining room it’s a total pain hauling everything in there and then it means there are two rooms to tidy after dinner instead of one!


The ground floor plans: The blue area is the new living space where the deck used to be, the utility area is green and the new WC is pink.

As the plans progressed I started to think about other things that would make family life easier and the biggest thing I wanted was a utility room. Currently our washing machine and tumble dryer are in the cellar, which although dry is damp and dusty and cold, not to mention filthy. It’s a bit like having it in a cross between a garden shed and a garage, and tricky to go down there when there are children crawling or toddling about the house too, that I can’t trust not to come after me. The stone steps to get down are the stuff of nightmares where parenting is concerned. To have those upstairs, with a sink for dirty jobs and a second fridge/freezer plus some storage is pretty much the holy grail for me and I set about trying to convince Pete we needed one. As it happened the back of our house is a bit like a tetris block when viewed from above and extending just the kitchen didn’t square off the house without going around the corner too – this meant a bigger living/dining space and making use of the space which is currently a bin store, into a utility room.


The first floor plans – the purple area shows the new extended bathroom.

As time went on this project became the final stage in creating our medium to long term home, (I’ll never say never to moving again but we plan to be here a while!) and once the idea of the utility room worked out we then had the option to build upwards and extend our family bathroom which is currently a bit awkward and certainly not ideal for the whole family to be in at bath time. Extending the bathroom also meant we could do something I had seen a neighbour down the road do which was take the awkwardly placed separate toilet off the landing and put it into the bathroom. The landing currently doglegs around the toilet, so removing it meant the landing would be much more spacious and we could put in a window to bring light onto that level as it currently only gets borrowed light from other rooms.


How the exterior looks to the rear currently.

Initially we (well, Pete,) discussed the plans as phase one and two. Living/dining area first then the rest later, but as the scale of the project became apparent I became more certain that I was not going to do it twice, especially with the kids living through it too. We can’t afford to move out while the work goes on so I certainly don’t want to put ourselves through it again and it’s all so interlinked that it wouldn’t have made sense to stop and come back to it later either. There was no easy way of splitting the project.


What the exterior will look like.

As this also represents the final stage of our renovation, we can finally sort out the hall, stairs and landing which I have hated looking at since we moved in but it didn’t make sense to tackle (and later have builders traipsing through,) before we did the rest. As there will be walls knocked through into the hall and landing we will be replacing the floor, carpets, plastering, decorating and finally making it just the way I have imagined it.

So you can look forward to a lot more posts from me on bathrooms, living spaces, utility rooms, hallways, and all the details in-between, plus the smallest room in the house, our W.C. 😉 Now the work has started although I’m anxious to see it progress I really cannot wait to have it finished and am so excited to crack on with the fun decorating part. So many decisions though!

Until next time…!

Rebecca

*All architectural plans and drawings by our Architects SpaceAP.

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