Basement bathroom renovation

Making the most of some tricky features and a problematic layout, Patsy Holdsworth brought a 1980s bathroom into the 21st century

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‘When I first came to view this apartment, I loved its wide entrance hall and high ceilings, but the damp smell was so overpowering that it caught the back of my throat,’ says Patsy. ‘I knew that the only way to beat it would be to gut the place back to the bare brick and damp-proof the walls and floors.’

It was going to be a lot of work, but the apartment’s spacious, light rooms and historical setting won Patsy over and she decided to buy it, with the sale completing in September 2013.

‘It was a probate sale, so it took a year from first viewing to the completion date,’ she says. ‘My surveyor said that it was uninhabitable, even though the previous elderly owner had lived there for years, so I didn’t move in until the work had been finished. Luckily I was able to stay with a friend until then.’

Fact file

  • The owner: Patsy Holdsworth, an interior designer
  • The property: A two-bedroom garden flat in a Regency building
  • The location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • What she spent: Patsy’s bathroom project cost around £13,000

Renovating the property

The property isn’t listed and Patsy didn’t need planning permission as she wasn’t doing any structural work. ‘Gutting the flat meant that I was able to install new insulation, wiring, pipework and heating, and the walls were replastered,’ she says. ‘The ceilings are also new. Underfloor heating was fitted in the hallway, kitchen, utility and bathroom, beneath new travertine floors.’

The whole renovation took only six months, no doubt helped by the fact that Patsy is an experienced property renovator and has made a career as an interior designer. At the latest count, she says she has rescued 30 properties for her own business, and many more for her clients.


Patsy created the vanity unit herself. Above, the magnificent mirror, sourced by Patsy’s interior design company Shaded White, fits the alcove perfectly, and complements the natural finishes of the room. Travertine tiles from Stone Traders are used as a splashback, as well as in the shower and beside the bath

Bathroom project

The bathroom had started life as two rooms, and two sections of the original dividing wall still projected out across two thirds of the room’s width. The layout and fittings had not been updated for 30 years and there was still a burgundy corner bath, WC and basin, as well as a large airing cupboard housing a water tank. ‘This took up far too much space and prevented the bathroom from looking its best,’ recalls Patsy.

The airing cupboard and tank were the first things to go, as they were no longer necessary with the new central heating system and combination boiler. ‘There was then plenty of space for a separate shower cubicle, and I’ve used the alcove where the airing cupboard was to fit an extra-wide basin,’ says Patsy. ‘The walls were all structural so, to avoid creating more work, I decided not to remove them, but I was able to replace two vented metal-framed windows with two hardwood framed designs that had opaque double glazing, custom-made by my builder.’

Maximising the layout

The two short sections of wall were structural and had to stay, but Patsy put them to good use by dividing the space between the bath and the WC on one side and the recessed basin area on the other. ‘They could have been difficult to work around, and were quite limiting, but I used them to create alcoves for the basin and bath,’ she says.

In a false wall designed by Patsy to be built behind the bath, she incorporated two shelving recesses for toiletries and ornaments. These are tiled and lit with tiny spotlights hidden in the top of the recesses for atmospheric mood lighting.

Interior design

Patsy chose a cream shade for the travertine floor and wall tiles, and did all the wall tiling herself. She bought a mix of expensive and bargain furniture pieces for the room, with a bath, WC and basin all from Duravit, and a vanity unit largely made up of Ikea components.

The basin fills the width of the recess, with an equally wide mirror above. ‘It had a fantastic rustic oak frame with rusty old metal bolts,’ says Patsy. ‘We couldn’t find a vanity unit that we liked, so joined together three cupboard units from Ikea, each costing £45.’ To frame the units and provide a base for the basin, Patsy had a beautiful piece of oak cut at a local sawmill to match the round mirror.


To improve the drainage in this basement room, the builders created a raised shower tray made from Italian marble inset with Granada Beige limestone, both sourced from Montpellier Marble. Try Matki for a similar shower and screen

The shower area

Not only is the basin wider than normal, but the shower area is also unusually spacious. The shower tray was created from a combination of Breccia Paradiso marble with a separate inset in hammered limestone. ‘It is raised so that it drains more easily,’ Patsy explains. ‘The waste has to be higher than the external drain, which is the same level as the floor in the basement. There would have been no use in digging up the floor to hide the waste, because the waste water would have had to flow uphill, compromising the damp-proof membrane below the concrete floor.’

Now that the shower area is finished, Patsy is thrilled with how it looks. ‘The open end looks amazing,’ she says, ‘but water does splash onto the floor outside the tray, so if I were doing it again I would choose a complete shower enclosure.’

That one slight modification aside, and despite all the logistical problems associated with renovating a basement room in a historic building, Patsy has succeeded in creating a calm and stylish bathroom with modern luxuries.

The costs

Suite and taps£3,063
Vanity unit£583