Archives for posts with tag: Bathroom

Do you remember when I dared you to consider a bathroom suite that isn’t white? Well now all the building work is finished on my little ‘Pampas Project’ and my client is very happy with her soothingly calm-hued bathroom. I thought I’d share the pictures here with you, so you can appreciate what happens when we follow the path less ordinary….

This project was unusual not only because of the dusky green bathroom suite, but also because the family were turning one medium-sized bathroom into two small but perfectly-formed spaces. A family of four, including two teenagers, it’s unsurprising to discover that morning ablutions had become rather stressful. Now the traffic has been halved, and everyone gets where they need to be each day on time. I’ll show you the shower room another day, but suffice to say, my client decided on a completely different style for that room. Back to the Pampas: it works really well:

Naturally matched; tiles and floor complement the Pampas suite

Naturally matched; tiles, furniture and floor complement the Pampas suite

As you can see the shade of the suite is subtly picked up by the limestone-inspired tiles. They proved harder than expected to match – too pink and the suite looked garish, too green and the Pampas turned from soft sage to sludgy. We shopped around various sources for the furniture, but kept to a theme of cream paintwork (skirtings, door frame and bath panel) and bamboo-toned wood to tie all the elements together: there’s a mirrored wall cabinet just out of shot above which is edged in bamboo, and the little floor cabinet and the blinds are also bamboo. Even the floor is Amtico Bamboo.

Narrow spaces call for inventive solutions

Narrow spaces call for inventive solutions

There was very little space for a floor-based cabinet so in the end we went for one which is meant to be hung on the wall (wall cabinets are generally around 10cm deep so plenty narrow enough), and popped a couple of Ikea (Godmorgon) legs on it. Together with the curved glass corner shelves above the sink, the storage in this little room is actually rather capacious, and clutter is held at a minimum.

Neat and harmonious

Neat and harmonious

A large chrome ladder towel radiator fills in the wall space between floor cabinet and door. Always go for the largest towel radiator you can fit in. It keeps the bathroom nicely heated, and there’s enough space for a family’s worth of towels, too.

We had a few hiccups with the shower screen over the bath. It has a fixed panel and a fully pivoting door which provides a good long length of splash protection, but was frustratingly leaking at the hinge. The rubber finned seal at the bottom of the door didn’t quite cover a gap between the door and the hinge. However we managed a nifty and cheap fix by cutting the gripper of the rubber seal where it attached to the door, and shifting it along so that the outstanding fin covered the tiny leaky gap. It worked perfectly, and was very simple to do.

Reclaimed door and a cosy radiator

Reclaimed door and a cosy radiator

The door was a serendipitous gift from neighbours: they happened to be remodelling their house at the same time, and were happy to donate to my client the bathroom door (original) that they no longer needed.

So, the result — one relaxing bathroom carved out of a small space. The colours blend in together in a way which seems up-to-date, reminiscent of Farrow and Ball paints. There are no dramatic clashes or gold-tap blingerie (not that this might not have its place in a certain context) — because when you’re being bold, you need to know where to hold back.

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I would say that generally there’s a rule about bathrooms, which is that should someone move to a new home, and find within it a bathroom suite that is not white, the introductory tour to friends would go something like this:

“And here’s the bathroom! Of course, we’re going to get rid of that avocado suite as soon as possible!”

And if I was asked to advise on updating bathrooms in that situation, I’d assume that the home owner was in the right.

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers' dilemma

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers’ avocado-based dilemma posed in “Good Questions,” 2009

So I was initially surprised by a recent design job where my client wanted to Keep The Suite. The shade was one called Pampas, and actually, when I started to consider it, would fit in unobtrusively amongst the Farrow and Ball ‘Greens’ collection.

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

It’s pale, and reminiscent with its sage tones of a lot of the upcycled furniture that populates eBay.

This cabinet is painted in vert de terre from F&B -- one of many reconditioned items to be found for sale

This cabinet is painted in ‘vert de terre’ from F&B — one of many reconditioned items to be found for auction online

With this in mind, creating a design around the suite was actually quite satisfying. These pale greens look too stark set against a brilliant white, they fit in more snugly with cream or natural woods. Any paintwork we do will be cream, and the overall effect we’re aiming for will be restful and calm.

The floor was the first thing I felt we had to pin down, and I was looking for a light, yellow-based wood effect. We found a wonderful vinyl by Amtico called Bamboo:

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

The next challenge was the wall tiles. Lynne likes limestone with nice geological markings, so we set out to find a match for the floor and Pampas colour.

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK...

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK…

It was surprisingly hard to get a complementary shade: too dark and the room would have looked murky; some tile colours looked great with the Pampas but terrible with the floor; others were too busy, or too grey, or too pink. Finally we found a lovely stone effect tile called Legend Marfil which had just the right amount of detail, a pale colour and even at a good price (around £15 a square metre).

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

The Seventies-design taps needed updating from the ubiquitous squat and dated basics…

WARNING: WE WILL DATE YOUR BATHROOM. IMMEDIATELY.

WARNING: WE’RE CHEAP BUT WE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR BATHROOM

… to some classy crossheads:

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose/ Coniston bath taps by Victoria Plumb

And at the windows a natural wood effect slatted blind will be fixed, to filter the light.

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Another important issue was the bath side, which back in its heyday would have doubtless sported a creaky plastic Pampas panel. We intend to bring it gently up to date with wooden cladding instead: so much more solid.

Like this, but just the bath side - so much more solid than a bath panel

Like this, but just the bath side/ photo from bighouseholidays: The Lookout House, Thorpeness

If there is room for storage (we’re going to have to wait and see after everything has been installed), we did find a fantastic range from Victoria Plumb called “Camberley.” It has cabinets in what seems like a matching shade:

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage from Victoria Plumb

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage tall cabinet from Victoria Plumb

Whether it is or not remains to be seen. If we’re feeling lucky we’ll order one up and check. Otherwise there are handy options in other stores, such as this bamboo and chrome wall shelf…

Tesco's bamboo wall shelf

Tesco’s bamboo wall shelf

… this cool locker cabinet…

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

… or this ladder storage:

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

If the Camberley range works for us, we can opt for their mirror and wall cabinet:

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Camberley mirror

Camberley mirror

Otherwise a wood-framed mirror and possibly a cream-coloured cabinet would work ok. We’re also toying with the idea of paint colour-matching the Pampas shade, buying a cheap wooden cabinet, and simply painting it.

Work is already in progress, it shouldn’t be long before I can show you the room in all its peaceful perfection.

In the meantime, since starting this job, I have been mulling about daring interior design – where you leap for what you love and see where that takes you – and the contrasting blandification of houses which don’t scare estate agents but equally don’t give anything away about the character of the people who live there.

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in designer Luke Mortimer's home/ house tour by Design Sponge, 2012

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in Australian designer Luke Mortimer’s home. House tour by Design Sponge, 2012

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

I know which side I lean on. How about you?

Rather a long time ago, when Tim and I renovated our first home in West London, we heard about a new little company which had a very different attitude to vinyl flooring. If anyone had mentioned the word vinyl, in fact, I think we would have run for the hills, since our experience of the material thus far had been (generally sticky) ginger-coloured false tiles in desperately cluttered and dark kitchens, or perhaps some peeling mould-ridden offering abutting the shower in student lodgings. Instead, this company, which turned out to be Harvey Maria, marketed themselves as ‘No More Boring Flooring’ (complete with url) and used new exciting techniques to print photographic images onto floor tiles.

We were rather smitten, and opted for a bold water image for our tiny bathroom:

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles - they don't make them (exactly) like that any more

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles – they don’t make them (exactly) like that any more

You can still get a version of this tile from them now, called Pacific. I think they work best when set against a bright white, with not too much else going on — remember you’re after a dreamy Maldives holiday vibe, not Brentford Leisure Pool.

Water is not the only evocative image: you can go for grass, or even some good old Brit beach pebbles:

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria 'Stones" vinyl tile

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria ‘Stones” vinyl tile

Although I have to admit the soles of my feet ache just looking at all those knobbly cobbles. I think I’d have to wear flip flops.

Since then further advances have been made in vinyl floor technology. The company Murafloor offers a bespoke photographic flooring service, not unlike the wall murals I was telling you about a few months ago. Browse their website for inspirational images, like this lunar aspect:

One small step for man... 'Full Moon' flooring from Murafloor

One small step for man… ‘Full Moon’ flooring from Murafloor

Submit your room size and shape, and they’ll create a sheet of flooring exactly to fit. If their broad range of ideas isn’t enough for you, there’s always Shutterstock for the full gamut of stock photos. Of course, this all comes at a price, and whilst it is certainly eye-catching and individual, it’s not the budget way to create a glamorous room.

And so we reach the third and final episode in my tour of vinyl flooring. Pattern. It’s not pretending to be wood or stone, and it’s as vibrant or as plain as you need. 

How about this Friesian print tile, which makes for a quirky alternative to a cowhide rug:

I herd you had a new floor... it's udderly brilliant... a mooving sight... /stowed may need to go and have a lie down after thinking up all those cow jokes

I herd you had a new floor… it’s udderly brilliant… a mooving sight… (stowed heads for a lie-down after dreaming up all those bovine gags)

To break up the pattern a little, a plain wood strip frames these cow tiles into groups of four. It contains the random splodges of black and helps to structure the floor space. 

This technique works for any busy design, so if you’re thinking of being daring with your flooring, but need to keep the craziness in check, that’s where having a vinyl floor can really help. You’re essentially achieving a mixed-materials look with just one material. This example below looks at first glance like a patch of ceramic tile surrounded by a dark wood: 

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

 

Once you have got to grips with the potential in this mixing and matching, a world of colour, texture and pattern is open to you. Take a look at this eye-catching suggestion from Amtico, using slashes of bright orange set against a fabric texture and a darker relief. The resulting pattern is full of energy and depth:

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico's Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico’s Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

There are of course some patterns which don’t leap out quite as dramatically. This spotty offering by Cath Kidston seems at close range to be a little eye-boggling:

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

But installed in a small space and viewed as a whole, has a pleasingly simple and regular format. 

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Why not add some texture with this rubber flooring featuring retro spots:

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

It might look a little like living on Lego bricks (though obviously not as painful if you tread on it in the dark).

On the subject of textured floor you can also consider the treadplate pattern — we have a very low-budget version from Carpetright which has been incredibly good natured and hard-wearing in the boys’ bathroom:

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

You can’t buy it from there any more, but a quick internet trawl has brought up Flooring Supplies Direct who supply something similar, and the firm LSI who make a version too (the aluminium shade is called Armour).

Another texture to get the vinyl treatment recently is leather. 

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Strong and dark furnishings show this one off the best: it wouldn’t do so well with chintz. 

Just as encaustic and highly decorated ceramic tiles are blossoming on the walls and floors of many a fashion interior, so vinyl is following. Check out this magical two-tone tile from Murafloor, which looks stunning set against a bare concrete wall:

Morocco from murafloor

Dark arts/ Morocco by Murafloor

Or this from Zazous, channelling retro charm:

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

Do you dare? It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Finally, for the room which just needs a splash of colour, why not put down your paint brushes, give the walls a rest, and treat your floor to a bold and bright shade instead? 

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

So many options, so much flexibility. I hope you’ve enjoyed my flooring tour, and that it’s given you some new inspiration.

Remember: vinyl is no longer the ugly sister of the flooring world — maybe now it’s her turn to go to the ball….

[As you might well know, this is a concluding statement so wildly at odds with my daily life that it is akin to speaking a foreign language. Nevertheless, sometimes only a princess metaphor will do. Just sometimes.]

 

The Metro tile: ubiquitous wall decor for any Scandi-chic kitchen, or retro bathroom, or pretty much any other style in between. This handy little brick-shaped slip of ceramic has stacked itself neatly into thousands of well-appointed homes, and love for its understated simplicity does not seem to be abating any time soon.

A few years ago, in the first forays, you mainly saw them bravely displayed with industrial rawness, alongside austere metalworks and stark monochromes.

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

Since then, we have softened and warmed their settings, with woods and colours, making the most of their unobtrusive blankness to provide a backdrop to a thousand different styles. Essentially, these are neutral, easy-to-clean brick walls. Familiar pattern, simple elegance.

It is natural, then, to declare that your splashback or bathroom scheme will be ‘metro tiles,’ but this is in fact still quite a long way from a decision. Thankfully I have stepped up to this job and done the research for you, so you can read this and simply go ahead and order.

If the bevelled edges of the original Paris Metro are still your dream, then take a look at Topps Tiles Metro White at £23 a box (covers a square metre) full of 20cm by 10cm tiles.

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Or instead, if you visit the branch I do, you could pop next door to Al Murad. They come in at 20cm by 10cm and will set you back only £14.99 per metre. Choose between a plain and simple matte finish or a more reflective gloss.

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Al Murad's version is comparable but competes on price

Al Murad’s version is comparable but wins on price

Online stores also offer cheaper versions (Tile HQ are selling at a price-busting £9.22 per metre at the moment…).

You may however have a desire for a flat and minimal effect, but keeping the brick design. Fired Earth have some inspirational examples of both the bevelled and the flat in their Retro Metro range. The flat are slightly smaller at 15cm by 7.5cm: the white is called South Kensington and demanding high-end prices at (a currently reduced) £63.73 per metre. The glaze is crackled and adds to a vintage vibe, and I have no doubt these would look stunning in most settings.

Fired Earth's wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

Fired Earth’s wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

This flatter version was the style of tiles my friend Emma wanted for her kitchen. After she described it to me, I found a useful picture on the front of my trusty Living Etc magazine which confirmed the overall look.

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc's front cover

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc’s front cover

I went searching and came up with Walls and Floors’ White Chapel Tiles at a cool £19.75 per metre. They are gloss and flat little tiles, simple and perfect to cover any wall.

Walls and Floors' White Chapel tile

Walls and Floors’ White Chapel tile

We appointed our builder and I chose the grout. The details on a little job like retiling make a huge difference. While tiles are for the most part good tempered and wipeable, the grainy material between is quite another story. Inevitably white turns to a brownish sludge at best, at worst becomes patched with orange or green.

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source's Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source’s Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

Most tile retailers offer a massive selection of antibacterial grouts and cleaning solutions, but in fact current trends work in our favour here. Grey is, as we’ve seen, most definitely colour of the moment, and between the tiles is no exception. The shade does define the tiles more, like a subtle web of pencil outlines, but where the little accidents of life occur — the blender rebels riotously over the walls, a kids’ biscuit-icing session goes off-piste, spatters of tomato paste make their livid way inexorably onto every surface you ever had — you have a forgiving base to which you can return with a wipe of a cloth. So BAL’s Micromax Smoke it was.

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Emma’s kitchen was a little dark between cupboards before — you can just about see the moss-green tiling scheme in these pictures:

Before: Emma's greenish wals....

Before: Emma’s greenish walls…

But now the perky little metro tiles have been fitted, this space is bright and fresh.

After -- a light and bright space

…and after: a light and bright space

And in the evening cosy lighting

In the evening, cosy lighting

She was so happy with it that she styled a photoshoot in it for a new favourite range of homeware. Check it out on her blog here.

Meanwhile, on a roll, I have continued to clock how these little tiles are being used in new and exciting ways. I think my favourite variation on the theme so far has to be these marble brick tiles from Original Style. Stockists are dotted around the country and you’d need to contact them for prices, but what a great combination:

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style Viano White Honed Bevel Marble

I suspect that the little brick tile is only just getting started. Materials and treatments will be expanded this year, and I can’t wait to find out how.

I had a great week last week setting up a friend’s kitchen makeover. I can show you photos, we’re both really pleased with how it turned out — more on that very soon. But it almost didn’t happen at all.

As we chatted before Christmas, she admitted that she’d love a change in her kitchen, but that it would probably cost too much, she couldn’t bear the hassle and simply didn’t have time. Working full time, with a family and many other pressing commitments besides, the prospect of wading through product research, builder-selecting and overseeing a project was an incredibly unattractive one. So we talked through what she’d like, ideally, and what would induce her to go ahead. And as we discussed it, I realised that a lot of people feel the same about making changes to their homes.

I know the look I want but I don’t know how to get it

Sometimes you know exactly what you want done to your kitchen.

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

You have seen the perfect bathroom in a magazine, and you only wish you could snap your fingers and have it.

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

You might know that you like a certain style: ‘I live in a Victorian house so I would like to have classic styling in my bathrooms.’

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Maybe it is simply that you prefer things sleek and don’t want to have all your cookware on show.

What do you mean, it'll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

What do you mean, it’ll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

It’s a big jump from these statements to finding the right products, at the best prices, to fit in your rooms. Wouldn’t it be good if there was someone who knew exactly where to look for the special deals, could discuss the pros and cons of different items, and could ensure that everything fitted together properly?

I don’t know a trustworthy tradesman

Sadly cowboy builders are not unheard of. Most people can recount horror stories of jobs left half done or how poor fitting led to leaky ceilings, wonky cabinetry or worse. But there are plenty of fantastic craftsmen out there who work hard, and create beautiful homes. A good professional recommendation is so valuable.

I don’t have the time to get quotes, let builders in, keep an eye on the work done, or ensure that everything is done properly

If you are working and/or out of the house in the daytime, a simple building job can be a huge pressure. You need the time to talk through the job and get quotes, then be ‘on site’ throughout to check on progress, and keep works on track and to schedule. Imagine if someone took all these pressures out of your hands!

I’m not the sort of person who has an interior designer

Most people think of an interior designer as someone who swans about in houses making airy decisions about fabrics, colour ways or recommending expensive luxury furniture. They seem the preserve of the rich, not those with limited budgets seeking practical solutions.

In fact, if you recognise some or all of the sentiments I’ve mentioned above, it’s almost certain that you can save your time, money and stress by employing someone to take these jobs on for you. Sourcing, tendering and project management are all areas of building work that are often bewildering and exhausting. It is not surprising that most people are nervous to undertake new projects, but if they could save on the cost of products, have peace of mind on their choice of builder, and not get embroiled in the minutiae of the job, maybe they’d feel differently.

So if you’d like to spend less, not more, you probably need to come to stowed for some skinterior design.

Very excited to learn last weekend that the fab Apartment Therapy blog has featured our boys’ bathroom in their Room for Color Contest 2013! I just popped it into the competition at the last minute, so didn’t get a chance to beg you all for votes, but nevertheless it was a nice surprise to find it up there.

Bathroom exposure

Bathroom exposure

Our Elmer the elephant-inspired tiling....

Our Elmer-the-elephant-inspired tiling….

Apartment Therapy is a great interiors website from the US, highly addictive reading for those of us who are always on the lookout for new ideas, and prolific in its production of interesting posts and insights into quirky, brave and beautiful homes.

If you’re searching for ideas, go and have a look!

A few months ago my lovely friends Phill and Lindsey asked me to help them come up with some good ideas for a shower room in the eaves of their gorgeous South Manchester home. They explained that it was currently a junk room but had originally been a bathroom, so all the services were ready and waiting. Brilliant. I got going on some ideas and we chatted through likes and dislikes. After checking out the room, which had become an easy place to “store” things in the journey to their final resting place in the loft, we decided on a layout, and started selecting the right elements for the room. Lindsey liked an uncluttered spa-like look, and so we went for a simple wall-hung sink with the pipework displayed.

Baring all: Riva 80 basin from Victoria Plumb

Baring all: Riva 80 basin from Victoria Plumb

Slate-effect tiles would provide an elegant flooring, and the walls would be painted white. I felt that it would be good to have some wood as a relief from the black and white cool, so we agreed that the windows would have some wooden slatted blinds, and a similarly coloured wooden storage unit could complete the room. The door to the room is stripped pine, and so we used that as a match point for the other woods. I just want to take you back now, to way back in the room’s past, and when Lindsey and Phill first bought the house. Yes, there was a bathroom in there, but my goodness, I could see why they wanted to rip it out. The following pictures are best viewed with slanty head and frowny eyes….

So many alarming features

So many alarming features

No words needed

No words needed

I did warn you. They created a sweet nursery instead, which served them well.

Sighs of relief all round

Sighs of relief all round

But now their boys are all huge, and showers are a much needed resource for the hectic mornings. The black and white (with a little wood) theme was all very well, but we did feel that it was lacking some character. Lindsey said how she’d love to have some mosaics, somewhere, and started researching designs. We thought the shower tray could be a good place as it’s not a huge surface area, and would work well with the small tiles. You need to have a slope built in to your shower tray, to allow the water to flow towards the drain. If you use smaller tiles, you can arrange this sloping more effectively and smoothly. The one drawback to designing a mosaic was the cost. If you buy individual stone tiles, you will pay huge amounts both for the product and for the specialist to fit them. Lindsey had found her Roman design – a maze.

Roman maze: there must be a way

Roman maze: there must be a way

We had a plan

We had a plan

I realised that the cheaper way to buy mosaics is on a webbed grid, which you can then attach directly to a surface and grout. But there is no reason why they need to stay on the grid. We checked with the bathroom installer and he was happy to provide a mat to attach the design to. The product we used was the Mazurka range at http://www.mosaictileshop.co.uk – the black Onyx sheet at under £12 per sheet and the white Mastic at just under £10. We spent a confused morning counting exact numbers of black and white on the above plan, then working out how many sheets of mosaics were needed to fill the shower floor space. But we got there, and the order was made. And one morning, I received this exciting email:

"It was a late night but we did it!"

“It was a late night but we did it!”

And in it went! A bespoke, clever, stylish piece of design which didn’t cost the earth and is exactly what they wanted. Here it is adorning the floor of their shower.

Your starter for ten. Make your way to the drain before the water does.

Your starter for ten. Make your way to the drain before the water

And the rest of the room looks equally sophisticated, unfussy and calm.

Super storage: John Lewis cabinet completes the look

Super storage: John Lewis cabinet completes the look

Stylish shower room

Stylish shower room

I wouldn’t have ever thought of using mosaic tiles in this creative way, but now I would happily encourage clients to go for it. Sheet mosaics are comparatively inexpensive, and provide plenty of opportunities to go bespoke. Inspired? Let me know if you decide to do this too.

We love having guests to stay. The spare room is tucked away from the rest of our bedrooms so that any inhabitants can remain distant from the early morning car races, stair jumping record-breaking attempts and other such normal boy activities.

It does feel like a haven. The stripped wood floors are a nice feature, and the bay window is very characterful (rebuilt out of the rotted wood walk-in bay which hovered precariously over the kitchen roof before).

Peaceful perch: our new bay with seat

Peaceful perch: our new bay with seat

At the moment I’ve kept it very simple in there with a few of our furniture pieces and plain white walls. We’ll get around to putting pictures up at some point, but the monastic white walls and rustic-looking flooring seem to work well together, so I won’t make many more changes.

Retreat chic: simple guest bedroom

Retreat chic: simple guest bedroom

The bird and branch curtains are made from one of my favourite fabrics from Prestigious, feathered in a purple hue which I matched to a similarly coloured lamp shade for the overhead light.

Avian fabric: Berkeley Square (Damson) by Prestigious

Avian fabric: Berkeley Square (Damson) by Prestigious

The guest bathroom design started with a free-standing bath, and the fact that I wanted to use some vinyl flooring which I’d seen a while ago and think is fantastic. Harvey Maria is the name of the company, and they supply a mixture of tiles and planks. There are photographic images of water, pebbles and grass, as well as some geometric patterned designs. The wood effect planks are realistic, down to the grain, and of course a no-brainer for a bathroom where you want the wood look without the warp.

Inspiration: Harvey Maria's Azure tile with a wood effect

Inspiration: Harvey Maria’s Azure tile with a wood effect

Now our little bathroom wasn’t anything like this size, but I liked the concept of the bathmat. After perusing their wood effect tiles I plumped for one which looked a bit more “driftwood”-like, and was called Tan.

Overhead light here reddens the wood/ Harvey Maria Tan and Azure

Overhead light here reddens the wood/ Harvey Maria Tan and Azure

Light off. Wistful cat is not a permanent fixture

Light off. Wistful cat is not a permanent fixture

The resulting flooring is striking, colourful, and gave a starting point for the rest of the room’s features.

I wanted to have some glittery blue mosaics in the shower. In fact, I wanted them throughout the entire shower cubicle so that it felt like you were having a shower amongst a lot of tropical fish. But when we worked out the cost of that, we thought that a statement square would do just as well. The star shower head keeps the look light, and the white tiles surrounding are actually threaded through with a line of glitter, too.

Shimmering shower

Shimmering shower

With a room full of blue and white sparkles, the dark wood basin cabinet was a good grounding point, found as an ex-display Roca model in a local showroom.

Bathe in peace

Bathe in peace

I just needed a final point to finish it off. I looked at dark wood shelves, but what I was really looking for was some sort of slatted framework on the walls, almost as decoration. The builders were dubious when I tried to explain and I couldn’t even seem to find photos when I did a near exhaustive web search. Then, miraculously, I found it – in the Outdoors section at Ikea – the Äpplarö frame and shelves which are meant to be part of a garden storage system.

Spa complete: slatted shelving

Spa complete: slatted shelving

The material for the blinds has colours from the Azure flooring (in a rather satisfying way). The material is from Scion, Flight from the Melinki range, and made into blinds by my skilled and amazing sister. The glamorous glass-beaded light is from Argos, a proper bargain at under £30. Who’d have thought it?

I am glad we’ve got such a soothing space for guests, but when they’re not around we do get to enjoy the spot too. We don’t have a bath in our ensuite, so every now and then, when I feel like getting away from it all, I can grab the bubble bath and a good book, and bathe.

Designing the family bathroom was very exciting: mainly because it meant I no longer had to share a loo seat with three boys (I do still have to maintain awareness among the troops of the basic rules of aiming etiquette but at least I don’t have to discover first hand whenever failure occurs). But from a more positive perspective (one I like to hold in the face of all the ballgames and cars) I could indulge a little imagination and colour creativity.

We converted it out of a tiny bedroom wallpapered in my favourite cartoon cat:

I would have killed for Garfield wallpaper when I was 13....

I would have killed for Garfield wallpaper when I was 13….

Spectacular nostalgic appeal here, but practicality, and the persuasive reasons I set out above, prevailed.

As you can probably see, the ceiling was low and papered in grotty woodchip. The doorway to the room was stunted because of the slope of the roof, so only really small or bendy people could get in without some sort of cranial accident. There were then two very steep steps down as a final balance challenge.

Our friend D who is a fantastic architect took a look at the plans and came up with a superb solution to this, whereby we stole a little bit of a bedroom to make a small lobby, and placed the doorway to the bathroom in the middle of the roof axis, so we could maximise on height. We then took the ceiling of the bathroom down and built the new ceiling into the roof space, to increase head-height in the room. A little bit of building control signing-off on the new doorway lintel, and we were set.

How to make a sensible doorway

How to make a sensible doorway

Now, I have a doctor friend who says that running Intensive Care in a hospital is easier than planning a bathroom. I’d beg to differ, but I do think there are a lot of things to consider and get your head around. Personally, I really enjoy it, and I think it’s better for everyone that I stay out of any medical procedures, so we’re both clearly in the right jobs. A bathroom design starts with identifying the items you need and recognising the immovables in your space that you need to work around. We had a cosy space with a requirement for bath, over-bath shower, loo, sink and copious storage. The boys wanted colour, and adore football. Tiles are a lot easier to clean than painted walls, but I didn’t want that generic “hotel bathroom” look of all-over neutral tiling. Neither did I want anything to look too cute, because despite the fact it’s a bathroom for kids, children do grow up and mine are already not babies any more.

I love the locker room style which has popped up in the last few years. I think it’s laid-back, and can look classy without trying hard. I was keen on this effect in the bathroom, and was searching accordingly for appropriate fittings. Then, I found the most brilliant sink, and I had the beginnings of pulling it all together.

What a magnificent goal! Orizzonte Latino Handbasin/ Meridiana Ceramiche

What a magnificent goal! Orizzonte Latino Handbasin/ Meridiana Ceramiche

The tiles are part of a set called Fusion by Topps Tiles. The boys saw them in a showroom in all their colourful randomness and wanted an exact replica. We used the white one as a wall covering around the sink and toilet areas: they’re bright and a bit textured and generally keep things looking fresh.

Fusion: Topps Tiles. Spontaneous ceramic placement

Fusion/ Topps Tiles. Spontaneous ceramic placement

Setting the tiles in a random pattern is actually harder than it might seem. I ended up colouring in a little drawing as a plan for my builder, who didn’t want the responsibility of not succumbing to the lure of a uniform pattern. Thankfully my brain is a lot less logical than his, and I managed it.

Running with the circles theme: bubble mirror

Running with the ball theme: bubble mirror

The little mirror bubbles bounce light around the room.

Storage hides behind here....

Storage hides behind here….

We built a false wall to hide the shower pipework. Behind this is an amazing set of floor-to-ceiling built-in storage shelves, where all our towels and bedding are stashed. Easy access, and hidden behind the bathroom door. On the opposite side, another tall set of shelves, for the excess bubble bath and bleach bottles (on separate shelves of course to prevent unfortunate accidents).

For the floor we decided against tiles which can be so chilly in winter (unless you have, as we do in our ensuite, a thermostatic electric underfloor heating system) and also so hard when you land on them at speed (not unheard of amongst certain members of the household). Wood, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, is warm and looks lovely, but doesn’t wear so well in a damp environment. To fit in with my locker room scheme I wanted a sort of aluminium effect, and found with delight that you can get lots of vinyl floor options like this. We went for a super-cheap Carpetright sheet vinyl which I love, is perfect for cleaning (no grout to get mucky), and fits the look exactly.

Wash not to like? Incentives to stay clean

Wash not to like? Incentives to stay clean

Other things I’m pleased about are the wood panelled bath side my joiner made, which is so much nicer than the plastic catastrophes which normally come with a bath, while being cheaper than a bespoke bath panel. And the useful shelf above the loo which has space for toothbrushes.

We did a secret clear-out of some of the bath toys when we moved, partly to embrace the new house aesthetic, and partly out of a need for better bath hygiene. Anything fun and squeezy for bath play inevitably ends up breeding alien slime inside after a few months, and this leeches out into the water. Actually, to be honest it usually ends up in someone’s mouth or hair, depending on the sort of game they might be playing. Despite the grossness, our boys tend towards excess sentimentality, so the clearance operations needed to be executed with absolute stealth and under cover of the school day. I think we got away with it by employing the new-for-old trick: since we bought the Olympic Ducks, no one has thought to ask for the seaside squirters or the farmyard basketball set.

Under starter's orders

Under starter’s orders

A note today about bathroom tiles. Last year, I was searching in vain for wood effect porcelain or ceramic tiles to create a Japanese look in our ensuite shower room. I’d seen a few peaceful bathroom images where wood was used to create a calm, ordered effect, but my builder warned me about using real wood in a damp climate where mould can set in so quickly. Not really the look I was going for. I had to accept that we do have slightly more rain here in Manchester than other places, and that hot, dry days are few and far between.

Japanese Bathroom Design

Well, I need a starting point for my inspiration (we don’t have views like this in Manchester)

I did get my Japanese-look shower room with a bit of ingenious tile sourcing…

Ecowood blinds, a wenge cabinet and dark wood floating shelves keep the look crisp and clean

Ecowood blinds, a wenge cabinet and dark wood floating shelves keep the look crisp and clean

 

Wood grain effect tiles in three different shades, white, beige and brown/ Pampus Tiles

Wood grain effect tiles in three different shades, white, beige and brown/ Pampus Tiles

… but I was really hankering after wood plank tiles, and there were none to be found, at least not within a tight budget.

However now the shops, online and warehouses, are full of them! I could have had a choice of smooth grained or rustic, and much more in between.

Parquet floors in your bathroom? Rovere/Walls and Floors

Parquet floors in your bathroom? Rovere/Walls and Floors

Aliso Cedro/ Ceramiks. Would I go for walls AND floors in this? I'm not sure but the plank is certainly realistic

Aliso Cedro/ Ceramiks. Would I go for walls AND floors in this? I’m not sure but the plank is certainly realistic

This year, I’m looking for real stone effect in porcelain and ceramic. I  have noticed a few in tile showrooms,

Krista/ Smoke. So lovely, like a watercolour painting. And ceramic too!

Krista/ Smoke. So lovely, like a watercolour painting. And ceramic too!

and some absolutely beautiful examples in this season’s new catalogues:

Alabastri di Rex/ Bamboo porcelain tile. Dramatic. And as it’s not real stone, practical too, though I just couldn’t put those two words in the same sentence.

Alabastri di Rex/ Bamboo porcelain tile. Dramatic. And as it’s not real stone, practical too, though I just couldn’t put those two words in the same sentence.

Hurry up, the UK market, and buy some in!

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