A bathroom mixing old and modern styles

Paula Church has combined modern design with vintage items to create a spacious en suite in her Edwardian home that was formerly a dental surgery

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‘An en suite bathroom had long been on my dream wishlist, so when I bought my home in 2011, planning to renovate the whole property, it gave me the ideal opportunity to create one,’ says Paula. ‘I had already taken on several renovation projects and was keen to start another. While searching for potential properties online, this one caught my eye.’

Located in the seaside town of Hove, it had once been a dental practice and came with a large, secluded garden. Paula was also attracted to the house because it was within walking distance of the railway station, the beach and all the buzz of nearby Brighton city centre. There were good local schools, so it was perfect for her teenage twins Billy and Ruby, plus the garden offered plenty of open space for their two dogs and cat to roam around. ‘It’s called Cedar House,’ says Paula. ‘Years ago, its owners planted cedar cones that they had brought back from Lebanon, and now there is a magnificent tree at the bottom of the garden.’

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The owner: Paula Church, an animal portrait artist, lives here with her 14-year-old twins Billy and Ruby

Paula and her children lived in their old home in nearby Ditchling while local builders carried out the renovations, so that she could check on progress regularly and ensure the project stayed in budget. The previous owners had organised change of use for the building, which was structurally sound, and with no planning permission needed for the work, the builders spent four months transforming it back into a family home. ‘It was a shell,’ Paula recalls. ‘There were no bathrooms, only cloakrooms, and all the plumbing and wiring had to be replaced. The boiler was really old, too. All the ground-floor rooms had been dental surgeries, while the first-floor space was used for offices and storage, as well as a communal kitchen.

Paula had chosen the largest room at the back of the house to be her bedroom, with its feature bay window overlooking the garden. ‘Billy and Ruby didn’t complain as they both had good size rooms,’ she says. ‘I wanted the room adjoining my bedroom, which had been the communal kitchen for the dental practice, to be turned into a luxury en suite – the children could then share the family bathroom.’

Once the old kitchen units had been ripped out, the builders set to work, re-plastering, re-plumbing and rewiring the space. The floor was sanded back to the original boards and varnished by a local company. A floor-to-ceiling cupboard, made from softwood, was built in and painted to provide storage. ‘If you are planning to renovate a house, forge a good relationship with your builder, liaise closely on costs and check progress regularly,’ Paula advises.

When choosing the sanitaryware, Paula went for traditional designs, all supplied by local bathroom showrooms. ‘I wanted the pieces to complement the period features in the rest of the house, so I chose a classic-style WC and a double-ended roll-top bath with ball-and-claw feet – which is my favourite feature,’ she says.

To maintain the mix of vintage and contemporary style, Paula bought a distressed painted cupboard from an antiques fair and teamed it with a modern ceramic basin, with subtle linear gloss tiles as a splashback. The twin-entrance wet room shower combines luxury and functionality with a streamlined glass screen finished in silver and chrome. The builders fitted the sanitaryware, shower and a cast-iron radiator and laid the tiling. Paula spared no expense on silver-coloured nickel taps and shower fittings. ‘They were probably the most expensive items in the bathroom,’ she explains.

White and grey shades were used for the woodwork and walls in the en suite and bedroom, to create a visual link between both and for a sense of calm. ‘I particularly enjoyed visiting the website paleandinteresting.com for inspiration, as well as getting ideas from homes magazines and TV interiors programmes,’ says Paula. ‘In both rooms, the Edwardian fireplaces were unearthed and restored and, luckily, they were in good condition. There are a few tiles missing in my bedroom, but in the bathroom they are in good shape. Their teal colour couldn’t be better for the room scheme.’ Above the fireplace sits a mosaic bust commissioned from a local artist friend. ‘It’s feminine and fun!’ she adds.

One of the most stunning pieces in the new en suite is an antique French-style mirror measuring 1.82 metres, which Paula bought at a local antiques fair. It has been positioned against the original doorway to the landing, which is no longer needed as Paula has direct access from her bedroom. Not only beautiful and practical, it also reflects light. An antique chandelier is another focal point. ‘I found it in a small shop in The Lanes in Brighton,’ says Paula. ‘It was sitting there surrounded by lots of bric-a-brac, but I knew it was a one-off and I had to have it.’

With the project completed on budget within four months, the space has been transformed. Paula has cleverly combined the range of classic and contemporary elements. ‘Don’t be afraid to mix old and new, as it can work if you are careful with colour schemes and don’t go overboard,’ she says.

‘I love my en suite,’ she adds. ‘When I’ve had a long day, there’s nothing better than retreating to it for a hot bath – bliss!’