A Vintage-inspired bathroom

Leanne Pearce and Gareth Billinghurst have cleverly upcycled auction finds and original pieces to save costs on their bathroom redesign

‘When we bought our home at auction we knew it would have to be completely gutted,’ recalls Leanne, ‘but, in retrospect, buying it was absolute madness as the house wasn’t really habitable.

‘While the major, disruptive work was going on it made sense for us to rent a property for four months, but there was still a lot to be done when we moved back in, including fitting three bathrooms.

‘It all happened in such a whirlwind that we had to make decisions fast, but that was good for me as I tend to procrastinate if I have too much time to think.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Leanne Pearce, a freelance creative practitioner, and her partner Gareth Billinghurst, managing director of an environmental health consultancy, live here with their children Josephine, three, and Boadicea, one
  • The property: A three-storey end-of-terrace home with five bedrooms, built around 120 years ago
  • The location: Gateshead, Tyne & Wear
  • What they spent: The couple’s bathroom project cost around £1,500

DIY approach

The couple had renovated a flat nearby during the previous year, and Gareth had other DIY experience, so they did most of the work themselves, except for the plumbing, rewiring and plastering. As well as stripping out fixtures and fittings, they knocked down walls and did all the painting, while Gareth also tackled the tiling and fitted some of the lights.

As it was such a large property, with seven bedrooms spread across the top two floors, Leanne and Gareth reduced the number of its bedrooms to five. One was sacrificed for use as a master en suite, while two small bedrooms were knocked into one. Another big change was to convert a warren of small rooms on the first floor into a large family bathroom.

Family bathroom

‘We’ve amalgamated two rooms and taken space from two other areas to make it work better,’ explains Leanne. ‘There had been a separate toilet next to a small bathroom clad in polystyrene ceiling tiles, wood panelling and old vinyl flooring, with a bath, sink and cupboard but no shower.

‘These have been knocked together and we’ve taken part of the bedroom next door to create a built-in shower as we didn’t want a cubicle jutting out into the space. This meant we could keep the room square. Gareth’s dad tiled the shower and we included a recessed area for toiletries.’

As the landing to the original bathroom and WC was unduly long, the couple moved the door further out. ‘It makes the corridor look shorter and gives a new entrance to the bathroom,’ says Leanne. ‘We used the extra space to fit shelving for towels.’

Finally, the sloping ceiling was opened up to roof height for a more spacious feel. ‘We’d wanted two large rooflights but it was going to cost too much, so we left the existing smaller one,’ Leanne explains.

To add character, they made the most of a brick wall where the basin is now sited. ‘The wall was in quite good condition after we took off the cladding, so our builder repointed it,’ says Leanne. ‘I love the exposed brick — it gives added texture and shows the fabric of the house.’

Bathroom after work was completed

The WC was a gift from Leanne’s father, who bought it from a reclamation yard. For a similar traditional style, try the Vitoria from Aquabliss Bathrooms. The Colours floor tiles are from B&Q

Interior design

When it came to the style and feel of the bathroom, Leanne and Gareth wanted to stay true to the building’s heritage with traditional fittings, but have added personality with their choice of vintage apothecary-style bottles, botanical prints, charity-shop books and 1930s printing blocks.

With a background in graphic design and illustration, Leanne has worked for an interior design company, as well as teaching textiles and crafts. Her creative talent meant she was easily able to plan a scheme. ‘The design evolved from the slate flooring, which I love,’ she says. ‘I’d seen a similar style in Fired Earth but found this for half the price in B&Q. Gareth was able to lay and seal it to save money.’

Traditional style

The traditional-look WC and basin had been lying in Leanne’s dad’s shed since he bought them at a reclamation yard, while the freestanding enamel bath was already in the house. ‘We cleaned it up with bicarbonate of soda and I used an enamel paint to give it a new lease of life, as well as adding new taps. I originally wanted to paint it black, but everyone said that it wouldn’t work, so I went for charcoal instead.’

Upcycling items

Keen not to waste anything, they also upcycled a ladder that had been left behind by the previous owners, and a shelving unit, which was part of an auction bundle. Both have now been painted to blend in with the grey-green walls and give a unified feel.

With the only new fittings the taps, radiator and shower, Leanne and Gareth were able to achieve their dream bathroom for the cost of around £1,500, including labour. ‘I’m glad that we recycled so much,’ says Leanne. ‘We also saved on labour by doing jobs ourselves.

Colour scheme

‘I could have gone in any direction with the colour,’ says Leanne. ‘I considered choosing an orange or burnt shade, then our daughter picked up this green paint pot in the shop and chewed the handle, so I bought it! I’m glad she did, as I love it.

‘As it’s a big bathroom with a high ceiling, I decided to go with dark colours because it makes it a bit cosier. I didn’t want the space to feel vast. Choosing a good colour can also make things look more expensive than they are.’

‘Although there were a few challenges along the way, such as when the plumber fitted the bath the wrong way round and we had to cover up the pipes, the whole project took under a month. We’re really pleased with how the bathroom looks and it’s a better family space now. Everyone says that it feels entirely different to the rest of the house, and I think that’s because of the bold paint colour.’

The costs

Building work, plumbing and plastering£600
Shower tiles£117
Bath and sink taps£80