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