Kamla and Alex Millson took inspiration from a distinctive hotel suite to transform their space.
The owners: Kamla Millson (right), a contract officer for adult social care, lives here with her husband Alex, who runs his own joinery business
A renovation project
After five years of making do with an original 90-year-old bathroom, we were ready for a bit of luxury,’ explains Kamla. ‘But it wasn’t until we stayed in a hotel with a fabulous open-plan bedroom and bathroom suite that we knew how we wanted our bathroom to look.’
Having put their modern townhouse on the market, Kamla and husband Alex looked for a project that would give them more space, and creating an opulent bathroom was at the top of their wishlist. A detached bungalow they found on the outskirts of Leeds, dating back to 1928, fitted the bill perfectly. ‘The house was like a time capsule, and hadn’t been touched for years,’ recalls Kamla. ‘The old lady who sold it to us had been living there since it was built – in fact, her father had built it. The property had lots of potential and, as Alex is a joiner, we were keen to take on a big renovation.’
It was five years, however, before the couple were ready to start work on creating a new master bedroom and en suite, plus a small home office next to the triangular window in the gable.
‘We’d been to our friends’ wedding in nearby Harrogate, and the fabulous loft bedroom and en suite in the hotel gave us the inspiration to start work on ours,’ says Kamla. ‘Originally, we had planned to open up the loft to create two bedrooms, each with its own en suite, but the hotel suite we had stayed in made us rethink this. We thought it would be better to have one luxurious bedroom and bathroom space, with no door between the two areas.
‘We already knew that we wanted a dark bathroom, as we liked the idea of contrasting white sanitaryware with dark tiles,’ she continues, ‘but we decided that if we were going to use dark tiles, we wouldn’t want the space to feel confined.’
Before they could start thinking about the décor and fittings, there was some major work to be done in the roof space. With a background in design and boat building, self-confessed perfectionist Alex was confident about tackling the loft conversion himself. ‘By doing all the work, I could be sure that we got exactly what we wanted,’ he says. ‘Kamla and I had a shared vision and we didn’t mind putting in the effort because we knew we would get something great at the end of it.’
Planning the design
Before starting the project or ordering fixtures and fittings for the new bathroom, Alex used the online planning tool SketchUp to make sure he knew exactly how the space would look when it was finished, and to ensure that key components were in the correct position. Although not one to settle for an easy option, he explains that the high-gabled roofline made planning the loft conversion much simpler. ‘Most of the purlins were high enough to walk under, and we designed the space so that the bath was under the lowest beam,’ he says.
Alex did all the building work for the loft conversion and most of the plumbing himself, but enlisted the help of friends and other tradespeople when needed. ‘Putting up plasterboard is definitely not a one-man job,’ says Kamla, ‘so Alex got a friend to help him. In fact, I also helped before going off to work in the morning. There was no staircase, so it was just a question of me putting on my grippy gloves and passing up the huge boards into the void!’
Alex marked out the positions of pipes and electrics on the plasterboard, before laying tiles straight on to it. ‘You achieve a better fix that way,’ he says. A friend then plastered the ceiling and the couple employed an electrician. Kamla and Alex decided to position the rooflights directly above the bath – perfect for combining bathing with stargazing. All the work in the loft had to be completed before a spiral staircase went in, so Alex found himself running up and down a ladder with all the materials he needed, including the couple’s choice of dark brown wall and floor tiles. It took one month of working late into the evenings to finish the tiling alone. Besides looking stylish, the large-format tiles and tile spacers also had the advantage of limiting the amount of grouting that was required.
Decorating the space
With the dark tiles covering the walls and floors, Kamla and Alex wanted to make a contrast of colour and materials, and commissioned bespoke bookmatched walnut cabinets with three drawers to house twin basins. Finished with a red Silestone countertop, it makes a stunning feature and adds further interest to the space. Two angular basins are set into the countertop and a third basin is fitted in the separate WC area.
Coming in at around £1,500, the whirlpool bath, complete with massage jets and radio, nearly pushed the couple over their budget; they avoided any cash flow problems by completing one area at a time. Kamla also reasoned that they had managed for so long with the old bathroom downstairs that a touch of extra luxury was long overdue. Getting the new bath up to the loft, however, proved to be quite a challenge. ‘We wrapped up the bath in bubble wrap so it didn’t get damaged, and Alex and two friends had to carefully lift it through the void where the staircase was going to go. It was really heavy with the motor for all the jets and electrics,’ she explains.
The finished room
More delicate manoeuvring was required to get the shower screen in place. ‘We wanted just one solid piece of glass with no joins, so we ended up having to use the scaffolding to put it through the triangular window at the front of the house,’ explains Kamla. Happily, the glass stayed in one piece, ready for Alex to install the rainwater showerhead and hand shower. Last to go into the new space above the vanity unit were two mirrored bathroom cabinets, which have integrated LED lighting, creating a soft glow in the bathroom. This has proved essential for minimising disturbance at night, as there is no door between the bathroom and bedroom areas, although there is one separating the WC.
Now that their loft project is finished, Kamla and Alex are proud of what they have achieved. It has amounted to hundreds of hours of labour for Alex, but the couple have saved tens of thousands of pounds by doing the build themselves. Ever the perfectionist, Alex concludes: ‘You get the best results and the best finish by doing things yourself.’
|Bathroom fittings and fixtures||£8,843|
|Labour costs (electrics, plumbing and plastering)||£600|
Featured image: Rooflights by Okpol have been positioned directly above a freestanding back-to-wall Hydra Pro bath from Taps4less. A white tripod chair from Christopher Pratts sits perfectly against the dark interior