Befores and Afters and some tips for small bathrooms

Our bathroom is a small, characterless, windowless box which was created by siphoning off space from the two principal rooms that our flat once was and at 1.7m x 1.9m (5 ½ ft x 6 ¼ ft)it is about as small as a bathroom can get. However despite the room’s architectural failings it has a nice feel to it and I have always rather enjoyed spending time in there.

But it was in a bad way. Aside from being hideously decorated it suffered from cracked tiles, random boxings, a broken shower attachment and the most bizarre plumbing our builder had ever seen. The first thing we did when we moved in was remove the shower rail and curtain which immediately made the room feel less cramped (we are fortunate to have a separate shower room). I do feel that ripping out something you hate in your home is almost as satisfying as introducing something you really like and definitely goes some way to keeping one’s spirit up when renovations are not financially possible. Here is how it looked before we started the renovations last year.

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And here’s how it looks now.

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Seeing the two rooms together I’ve realised that actually what I’ve done is turn a navy-and-white room into a white-and-navy room, but I can assure you it was a whole lot more complicated than that. The room is so small it’s pretty much impossible to take a photo of the whole room and so it’s just vignette shots I’m afraid.

The layout of the room worked really well so we *just* needed to fix the appalling plumbing and replace absolutely everything in the room. Despite resistance from almost everyone I spoke to, we installed a reclaimed parquet floor which I am absolutely thrilled with – it’s so much softer and warmer than a cold tiled floor and as long as it is sealed properly is perfectly resilient. Eventually we are going to lay the parquet throughout the flat and having the same floor in the bathroom creates a sense of flow which is really important in such a small home.

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I am a big fan of concealed cisterns in small bathrooms as they create a streamlined look and have the added benefit of providing surface space. I carried the boxing along behind the basin and topped it with a cheap off-cut of some Corian type composite from the marble yard. I asked my builder to clad the front of the boxing and the bath panel in moisture-resistant MDF panelling – I was worried it would look a bit cheap but it’s turned out really well and, as with the floor, is a warmer substitute for acres of chilly tiles.

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I installed a niche in the wall above the bath which does a great job of creating the illusion of depth, and provides more storage for pretty bottles and jars. I chose wall-mounted taps for a glamorous feel although we have had a couple of spout-related injuries (ouch) so I’m not sure that was such a great idea. I also really wish I’d included a shower attachment to hose muddy paws. We bought our basins and taps from CP Hart whose products I love as they do a great job of bridging the gap between modern and traditional – I find most contemporary bathroom products depressingly dull and chilly but traditional products can be too fussy. CP Hart are not the cheapest but they do fantastic January and summer sales which is of course the best time to buy bathrooms.

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There is no point in painting a tiny room such as this in a pale colour as nothing will make it feel larger and it’s far better to go with an enveloping, sumptuous colour to make the most of a diminutive space. We went with Little Green’s Basalt eggshell which provides the rather lovely soporific feeling of looking up at the night sky when one is lying in the bath. As indoctrinated by Abigail Ahern I painted the ceilings and woodwork in the same colour and it is fabulous, it makes such a difference. We replaced our nasty cardboard core door with an oak one which I have left unpainted as I have an odd aversion to doors painted different colours on either side – it’s making me feel queasy just writing about it.

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I like a bathroom to feel comfortable and cosy, just like any another room. What I really love is those old fashioned bathrooms found in English country houses, the ones where a tub has been installed as an afterthought in an extravagantly sized wallpapered room and placed next to a colonial rattan chair and ginormous potted palm. With this in mind I bought a pair of cane chairs from eBay for £30 which clearly need to be recaned. I’ve put one next to the bath to hold magazines and books and most likely a glass of wine – I left a space between the bath and the heated towel rail for this purpose.

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I don’t like loo roll holders and so our loo rolls reside abundantly in a basket (Richard is frequently dispatched to the Co-op to buy huge armfuls of them).

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I did initially buy a little vintage milking stool from Etsy but I didn’t really think that one through with a puppy who thinks stealing the loo roll of the top it is the most fun imaginable.

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Obviously when I started taking photos he assumed he was the subject and insisted on lying outside the bathroom door.

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The room isn’t finished yet, in particular I need to find some pictures for the wall, but I have found that bright tulips sing against the dark walls and so I’ve resolved to have some every week until the end of spring.

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18 comments

  1. It looks incredible, Annie! What an amazing job you did in there. I love every little bit of it, but especially those floors (!! is it okay if I steal your idea?) and the abundance of flowers. The two taps on the sink are so charming and remind me of the sink from my dad’s apartment’s bathroom. How long did everything take from start to finish? My only complaint is that you didn’t include a shot of Edward dropping his ball into the bathtub ;) What a cutie he is. xo
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    • Thank you! Yes you can totally steal the floors but really you ought to have the Parisien chevrons rather than the English herringbone surely?? It took 9 months!! But that was mainly because we had to wait 3 months for the flooring guy to be able to fit it and then the builders disappeared, as is their want. Edward is so annoying when he does that. It’s worse when he can’t find his ball as then he drops a soft toy in which gets soggy x x

  2. Gorgeous. Love love love the parquet floor! So envious of it going in throughout your flat – wowee. Also love the niche above the bath. We’ve always moved into places that don’t *need* renovating. Must feel amazing to have something just as you want it. Also wish we had a shower head on our bath taps. Washing muddy paws over the bath with a washing up bowl and sponge is a right royal pain!

  3. Oh hooray! The post I was waiting for! You know, we always thought it was a charming room, and you’ve only made it more so and much more functional too. Really, really lovely. We’ve looked at lots and lots of houses lately and the bathrooms are always abysmal. I just don’t understand. Plastic tubs and boring sinks. I guess I have to resign myself to redoing a bath again, and if I do, I’ll be pouring over these photos once more. Especially of those gorgeous floors! :)
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  4. Wow, what a transformation! I was just thinking about painting our family bathroom dark rich navy blue too. Our tiles are already white so it would create a nice crisp contrast but the only reason why I haven’t done it yet is that it’s not original anymore. I want something unique and I’m worried that it will look like navy and white bathroom from Pinterest. You know what I mean? The question is can I use art and accessories to tie it all to uniqueness? Would it be enough? That’s what I’m thinking. anyway. Great job and love that navy paint colour!

  5. I was always against small bathrooms and this was one of my No no-s during the apartment hunting. And lthough I found the apartment that changed my mind I still look for ways to make a little more space and I believe that those niches in the wall are the perfect solution. Wasn’t it problematic though to ‘install’ them :?

    • Actually it was pretty straight forward as it is a stud wall – they just cut a stud in the middle and made a frame around it.

  6. I am considering moving my bathtub from one wall to the other. This will necessitate that I rearrange my plumbing. Is it that hard to re-route piping for a bathtub? It would be so much better for our son to be able to roll his wheelchair in the bathroom, with the tub on the other side of the bathroom.

  7. Your bathroom is cute! I am re-painting our little bathroom after we fix a plumbing issue this weekend. May as well, since we’ll be ripping out half the walls, right? I think I’m going to go for a light grey, that way I can change the color scheme any time I like with a different shower curtain, bath mat, and towels, without having to paint every time.

  8. I really love the little details in the decor! You have a great sense of style for decorating. You mentioned that the plumbing was the most bizarre your plumber had ever seen. What was so crazy about it?

  9. That is a really nice bathroom, I especially like the tiles you put on the walls. I want to do mine the same way, except maybe make the top wall a different color. It would probably make showers more relaxing.

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