Changing the layout of an en suite bathroom

Julia and Paul Noakes replanned their bathroom to make it an integral part of a contemporary bedroom design. The new layout has given them more space and transformed the en suite.

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‘When we walked through the front door for the very first time, the house immediately had a lovely spacious feel,’ says Julia, who moved in to the property with her family eight years ago. ‘The previous owners had built a double extension at the rear of the house, which created space for a kitchen/ breakfast area and utility room downstairs, plus a generously sized bedroom with a substantial en suite bathroom upstairs.’

After moving in, the couple decided against starting any renovation work on the property for a year so that they could get a sense of the space and give careful consideration to how they could make best use of it. The first change they made was to replace the dated, traditional farmhouse kitchen with a more contemporary style.

When it came to redesigning the master bedroom, the couple admit that they struggled a little as it felt big and empty rather than cosy and homely, and although the en suite was a good size, it was poorly planned and looked neglected. ‘We had the space to make a statement, we just had to decide on the best way to do it,’ says Julia. ‘The aim was to make the bedroom feel less like a long corridor and more like a hotel suite. To achieve this, we kept one end as a bedroom and created an L-shaped dressing area behind a stud wall with built-in wardrobes.’

Fact file

The owners: Julia Noakes (pictured right), a production manager for a pharmaceutical company, and husband Paul, an accountant, live here with their children, Sam, 14, and Alex, 10

When it came to the bathroom, Julia decided to call in the experts. ‘We needed help to make better use of the space,’ she explains. ‘We wanted the fixtures to be placed around the edge of the room to leave an area in the middle. As well as a bath, we wanted a large, wetroom-style shower, but we needed good advice about what was and wasn’t achievable.’

The couple visited the Ripples showroom in Brighton for inspiration and met with designer Alex Walmsley, who was able to interpret what they wanted and help them plan the design. ‘I like slate-grey and stone colours, but I was keen to move away from limestone and travertine and go for a different finish,’ says Julia.

The WC didn’t really work in the right-hand corner, and moving it to the other side of the room would free up the space Julia and Paul needed for the walk-in shower area. However, repositioning the WC meant the waste pipe would have to be moved, and this was going to be an additional, unbudgeted cost. Boxing it in under the window wasn’t an option as it would have made the walkway to the shower too narrow, plus Julia was keen to keep the room as streamlined as possible. The other option was to run the waste pipe along the width of the rear of the house, but this would have looked ugly.

To get round the problem, the Noakes were assured by Wayne Burberry, who installed the bathroom, that the existing waste pipe could be closed off and a new one installed from the new WC position into a different chamber in the garden. While this solved the problem, it added £980 to the budget, but Julia and Paul agreed to go ahead with it and are glad that they did. ‘It was a nuisance at the time, but it meant we could have the layout we wanted,’ says Julia. ‘Wayne was really helpful and also suggested changing our hot and cold water supply from 15mm pipes to 22mm so the taps and shower could run at the same time without affecting the flow.’

To make the bathroom feel more like a part of the master suite, Julia and Paul decided to remove the doors leading through to the space. ‘We wouldn’t be able to see into the en suite from the bed, and only Paul and I would be using the bathroom. We felt that by merging the spaces we could create more of a hotel feel,’ explains Julia. ‘The room seems so much lighter now it is opened up.’

When it came to finalising the design, Alex advised the couple against fully tiling the space in order to keep down costs and add character to the room. ‘I asked Alex to include some mosaic tiles when designing our scheme and she showed me some beautiful shell tiles. I fell in love with them and they shaped the rest of the scheme,’ says Julia. ‘The colours range from blue and grey through to brown and they change with the light.’ Alex also suggested opting for a curved bath to soften the sharp edges in the room.

With the overall design coming together, Julia was keen to find an accent colour to inject some life into the muted scheme. ‘I went out and bought lots of flannels in different colours to see which would work best,’ she says. ‘I loved the zesty, citrus-green instantly, and the real beauty of our new space is that we can effortlessly update the look with a simple change of towels and a few accessories. Burnt orange, raspberry and turquoise all work really well, too. In fact, in only a couple of months’ time, the scheme might look completely different.’

The costs

Installation and building work£9,380
Fixtures and fittings£8,815
Walls and flooring£3,495
Lighting and radiator£1,665