A look back at the renovation of our ensuite bathroom which we completed in summer 2019. The design decisions, materials and sources we used and a few DIY tips and ideas.
This room was a long time coming! We moved into our house in October 2015 and put up with the original en suite for nearly 4 years until we had the time and money to renovate it. It was a nineties dream with lots of shiny cabinets and shag pile carpet. A couple of years before we did the renovation we discovered a leaky pipe connected to the bidet which had rotted the floor underneath….at this point we removed the carpet, put down some cheap lino and removed the bidet; this also left a hole in the floor which luckily neither of us managed to step into at any point!
We really wanted to incorporate a bath in here. Our house doesn’t have a conventional layout and this is the only bathroom anywhere near our bedroom so it is the only bathroom we would take a bath in and we both love a bath! In order to do this, we had to really maximise on space and be clever with the layout. The position and size of the existing shower worked well. We also felt the vanity units were in a good position, as you can see from the before pictures there was a long run of units, by reducing this run we were able to move the toilet to the other side of the room, and as we had already removed the bidet and this created the perfect space for the bath. It also meant fairly minimal movement of existing pipework which always makes things easier.
The copper bath of dreams. I had been set on this for quite some time and spent many hours sourcing one at a good price. We purchased our Witt and Berg bath from their ebay shop where they sell items that have already been made rather than made to order; we bought it for less than half the price it sells on their website!
I find choosing tiles such a difficult decision as there are so many choices out there. I fell in love with these cement tiles from mosaic factory and had to have them!! I am quite a fan of pattern when used sparingly and these add interest while the neutral colour means they don’t distract from everything else going on in the room.
After looking at various wall finishes we decided to go for microcement in the shower area. This material is totally waterproof, and provided a plain wall surface to constant with the patterned tiles, whilst still adding interest through the movement and texture in the surface. And no grout to clean in the shower has go to be a good thing right?! On the back wall there was going to be a lot of damage to the plasterboard once the mirror and cabinets were removed so we decided to take it off and see what the brick was like underneath, with a view to have an exposed brick wall. Again this provided a reasonably neutral surface while adding interest and providing a link to the decor elsewhere in the house where we have a lot of exposed brick. For the rest of the walls we decided to use a pink toned off white paint.
We had some marble left over from when we had our kitchen worktops made, and it had always been the plan to use this for the vanity top. Somewhere along the way the stoneyard misplaced the marble and we were able to upgrade to this beautiful arebescato corchia marble free of charge! We just had to pay for the machining. We designed the the piece so the basins are inset into the marble with a down stand using marble from the same slab which was cut so the vein is continuous, to give the appearance of being one solid piece.
In general I find vanity units quite overpriced, especially anything thats a little bit different. We decided to do an “ikea hack” to create ours, to keep costs down and create exactly what we wanted. We had got used to having lots of storage in the old bathroom so we added the tall cupboards as well as drawers. in the lower half of the cupboards we have our laundry bags hung on hooks, which is great way of keeping them hidden from sight! I will go into how we made these units later on in the post.
When we renovated another bathroom a couple of years previously it was so difficult to source gold coloured bathrooms fixtures, but luckily this time round the more accessible suppliers had finally met the demand for this colour way. We used lusso stone for our taps and shower as I loved the warm brass colour and simple design of their brushed brass finish, and we’ve been really happy with them. I didn’t want to go overboard with gold (and shower screens with gold fitting are still quite pricey) so we went for a crittal style shower screen from hudson reed which adds a slightly industrial nod to tie in with the exposed brick in the room.
For the ceiling we chose plaster in downlights which are totally flush with the ceiling and minimise the impact of what can be a quite unattractive lighting feature. We chose 2 boatyard pendants for either side of the mirror for a feature as well as function, again these tie in with the slight industrial feel in this room. Mood lighting is essential for any relaxing bath so we installed two beautiful rippled wall lights to use wth low wattage bulbs either side of the bath.
We decided to install two smaller heated towel rails rather than one large one, so we could have one next to the shower and next to the vanity for convenience and my personal preference for heated towel rails is a smaller size rather than the large ones that go all the way up the wall. We had acquired a small brass towel heater from my parents old bathroom and for the other one we went for the same style but in a copper finish to tie in with the bath.
The renovation process.
I say surprises but considering the poor standard of some of the work done elsewhere in the house, its a surprise it wasn’t worse! The shower valve/grout had been slowly leaking behind the tiles creating this mouldy area. Im surprised the tiles hadn’t caved in as the plasterboard was knackered, you can see in the picture above that we removed the lower part of the plasterboard and replaced it. Oh, and of course the toilet had been leaking, luckily just water, but we had to replace the floor in this section as well as where we already had the hole from the bidet.
Elsewhere it was a fairly straightforward job of removing the units and tiles, and slightly amending the existing plumbing ready for the new positions. Below Ive included some photos of the process behind the exposed brick wall. We removed the old plasterboard, repaired the brick work and mortar and then sealed with a very watered down PVA solution, just to prevent dust.
As briefly mentioned above we had to repair the existing shower wall due to mould, we also built the wall out to allow us to have a niche for storage of toiletries. This also allowed plenty of room for plumbing. We applied micro cement to the shower area in a pale pink colour and we were (and still are) delighted wth the results. I am planning on posting a dedicated post and how to video about microcement in the near future so stay tuned! As we have limited room in the niche i bought some plain brown glass bottles to decant our products into and I had an excuse to get the label maker out! Love how this looks too. We went for a shower tray rather than a wet room style shower mostly for ease of fitting and cleaning as well as keeping down the cost; we chose a slim profile tray which meant that by the time the tiles were fitted they were flush with the tray providing level access.
As previously mentioned we decided to design and create our own vanity unit. For extra storage we also opted to have 2 tall cupboards either side. We purchased 2x godmorgan 2 drawer vanity units from Ikea and 2x billy/oxburg combos for the tall cupboards. For the drawers we pinned reeded wood strips from B&Q to the fronts of the drawers; you could probably use a strong glue but Chris always likes to pin things just in case. Then we filled the pin holes and painted in Little Greene Paint Company “Ashes of Roses” in an eggshell finish, which I chose as an accent colour for the room, it brings together the terracotta of the bricks and pale pink of the micro cement and contrasts well with the black, copper and brass we had used.
We built a wooden structure above the vanity drawers, to provide a frame for the inset basins without encroaching into the storage space below; and as we had chosen wall mounted taps we built out to allow for the plumbing and created a useful shelf. We then templated and sent our drawing to the stoneyard for it to be cut to size and polished and then fitted it to the frame.
We kept the existing mirror as it was perfect for the new space and added a reeded wood trim to the top to finish it off.
We decided to have glass fronts to the tall cupboards to make them seem less imposing in the room, and chose reeded glass to help disguise the contents and also add texture to compliment the drawers. We bought glazed cabinets doors thinking it would be easy to remove the glass and replace but it wasn’t!! We ended up having to smash the glass to remove it, and learnt that toughened glass is extremely tough, funnily enough! If I did this again I would buy a solid door and cut out the panel to be glazed. Once the panel was out, we replaced the glass, secured this in place with clear silicone and added wooden beading to the back to secure. We had reeded glass cut to size by the local glazers. I chose to paint these half black as I thought all pink would be a bit much and the black balances everything. The bottom half is designed to almost blend with the vanity.
Just a couple of little tips for you…. Always layout your tiles (not all of them, just the edges) to check your pattern balance and so you don’t end up with a slither of tile at one side of the room. As we used cement tiles these needed sealing. We used a mid grey grout as the tiles are very porous and using a dark grout can cause staining even after sealing.
I’m not going to start going into detail about the plumbing; but just wanted acknowledge that once everything else was in place we plumbed in the radiators, taps, shower, toilet and bath.
Overall I’m really happy with how this room turned out. We had a spare piece of marble which we used as a shelf behind the bath (using brackets for scaffold boards) which provides super useful storage and adds a decorative feature. I also made a side table which comes in handy for drinks and candles! You can read all about how i made it here
There were a couple of issues with the bath to start with as it needed a lot of upkeep to keep it looking pristine, but used finish kare wax to seal the finish and this worked really well.
I hope this has been helpful in giving you some insight into bathroom design!
Tiles: Mosaic factory
Bath: Witt&Berg @eBay
Vanity handles: Superfront
Shower screen: Hudson Reed
Shower Tray: Big Bathroom shop
Taps, Shower: Lusso Stone
Paint: Little Greene Paint company
Radiators and valves: Victorian plumbing
Marble: Stone connection
Wall lights: Dyke and Dean
Pendant lights: Holloway’s of Ludlow