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Renovation Diary: How do we Create a Characterful Bathroom?

In this instalment, Clare dreams of the day her ‘undone’ statement bathroom is finished

Houzz UK Contributor. Model and journalist turned pastry chef. On a baking hiatus… More

‘Adjusting expectations’ is a skill we’ve had to perfect recently. It’s handy when, for example, after months of amendments and compromises, the plans for your dream home are agreed in principle, but you’re still waiting for the official letter to magically appear.

Speaking of skills, we’ve also been practising our recently acquired demolition talents on the main bathroom-to-be – an ideal activity for releasing pent-up, planning-related frustrations: just grab any tools you can, knock back a coffee and away you go. And with the old bathroom walls finally removed, I’ve been gathering my thoughts on how to put it all back together again…

More in this Renovation Diary series: A Victorian Semi Full of Potential l How do we Create a Style for the Kitchen? l How do we Create an Entrance With Impact? l How do we Create a Snug (We’ll Actually Use)?

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I’ve been searching for an image that illustrates the overall feel I want to achieve for the bathroom. While we won’t be painting our floor or walls white, for me this bathroom has the general look I love – the not too ‘done’ / haven’t tried too hard / romantic and authentic vintage feel I’m hoping to achieve.

The imperfect paint, the pieces of art and the mirror resting casually against the wall – they tell the story of a real home, not a hotel bathroom designed to please all, but a personal space, created for its inhabitants, and a place where you could take a leisurely soak and feel right at home.

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And here’s the same look again in a different home. It’s arguably on a less achievable scale, since most aren’t lucky enough to have such high-ceilings or the space to put a roll-top in the middle of the room at a jaunty angle, but still…

There’s certainly inspiration to be had here. Most notably for me, it’s the undone walls – a feature I’d like to be brave enough to try, but we’ve yet to find out whether, when the paper is stripped away, the walls reveal such abstract beauty or rather, as I suspect, need sweeping up from the floor instead. Fingers crossed on that one.

Before Photo

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And so to the current ‘feel’ of our bathroom-to-be… Not exactly the ‘undone’ look we’re going for, but with the old, small bathroom walls removed, you finally get a sense of how much brighter and larger the new space will be.

We’ll be bricking up the modern side windows and replacing them with two Velux roof lights to bring in lots of natural light while gaining privacy. The only regular window will be the traditional wooden sash at the end of the room, with the bath underneath and views out over the garden.

10 design questions to ask about knocking down a wall

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Here’s the floorplan of how the space looked when we first got the house. Now, with the walls removed (see next photo for proposed floorplan), the new bathroom will measure what feels like a slightly ridiculous 6.5 by 2.7 metres.

These bathroom trends came through strongly in 2017 – have you embraced any in your home?

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It’s clearly more than enough space to house all the bathroom fittings we need plus room for storage, too. I’m not used to all this spare space and keep having to remind myself this is not a game of Tetris, and that I should, instead, enjoy the prospect of gaps between furniture and walls.

Inspiration for the bathroom initially came from our previous neighbour back in London, an architect, who was kind enough to let us use his amenities while we were renovating our old place (due to a slight oversight on our part – the fact that boilers are needed for hot water…). It was such a great space and seeing how the design of the bathroom at his place gave it equal value to the kitchen or living room made me realise it was worth us giving over more square footage, too.

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So, after two decades in London, where space comes at a high price, natural light in a bathroom is still something of a luxury for me. Most renovated Victorian flats I’ve experienced are home to bathrooms that are windowless cutouts with extractor fans that never quite manage to keep the steam, or often mould, at bay.

Given all this scope, it’s my mission to create a bathroom as bright and airy as this beautiful room. I love the idea of populating the space with foliage, which helps to create a peaceful quality, so if I’m able to keep an array of plants thriving myself, then job done.

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Having created a bathroom from a bedroom in exactly the same location in our last home [see above and, for more photos, click through to the project in Clare’s profile], I have experience of the standard sloping ceilings that come with the upstairs, back rooms of a Victorian house.

As this time around the bathroom is much larger, encompassing the whole of the upstairs back extension, there’s the potential for the room to look tunnel-like. Another challenge – since Ben is 6ft 4in – is simply fitting his head under the shower.

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With there being nothing but roof above the bathroom, we’re hoping to lose the ceiling and gain as much height as possible – an idea demonstrated nicely by this lofty bathroom. As mentioned, we’ll also be adding two rooflights.

We have no idea what’s up there currently, but there have been encouraging nods from builders, so for now I’ll continue to dream of beautiful exposed beams with hanging plants adorning them…

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The bathroom is also high up on the wallpapering treatment list. While I’m a well-versed feature-waller, this time around I’m keen on being braver and, budget permitting, papering whole rooms instead.

If you’re going to paper, then you may as well go the whole hog, especially when the print is as incredible as this. I find it mesmerising; the effect is like stepping into a fairytale.

Naturally bright spaces can take bold colours and prints and, accompanied by the original, wooden floorboards here, a floral print like this is a great match.

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Here’s another example of a brilliant wallpaper print and, well, what can I say about that pink paired with the gold fittings? Amazing.

I never thought I could swing pink tiles past Ben, but he actually quite liked this look. Now I’ve assigned him the cellar and promised him a log-burner and a dog, the prospect of pink tiles (although perhaps on a slightly smaller scale) is looking good.

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I learned several things from the last bathroom renovation – one being that you don’t know the joy of having separate basins till you try it. No more barging while cleaning your teeth, no more sharing a toothbrush holder and no more beard hair lurking in the corners. What can I say? It’s the little things…

This bathroom is a great example: a well-lit vanity area, plenty of storage for the inevitable bathroom paraphernalia and plenty of elbow room.

So now to hunt for a suitable, perhaps painted and slightly beaten cabinet that can house a couple of basins. Luckily, Suffolk has plenty of reclamation yards and vintage fairs (any excuse for a spot of furniture shopping).

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Another thing I learned from our previous bathroom renovation was that, with an open, walk-in shower, you never quite stay warm unless under the water.

So, similar to the shower unit in this bathroom, this time we’re planning on enclosing it with solid side walls for some privacy and glass to the front in the form of a door. Hopefully it will keep in the heat, not to mention the steam, which should also be helpful in a wallpapered room.

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Speaking of doors, these are my inspiration. They’re a great example of something a little different from your typical, plain glass and I like how they have a traditional edge and will echo the windows and doors we’ll be using in the new extension.

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It’s certainly been dirty but very satisfying work so far and I’m glad we’ve put in the effort ourselves to get the house ready for work to start. It’s not only saved us vital money, but has helped us to connect with what will be our future home. And thankfully we don’t have to remove the massive pile of rubble in the garden!

Find Clare on Instagram to follow the build in even more detail @renovation_wreck

Tell us…
What tips do you have for Clare and her bathroom redesign plans? Share them, or ask her a question, in the Comments section.


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