Converting a loft into a stylish en suite

For Clair and Simon Wills, transforming their large loft space into two bedrooms with two en suites was always part of their larger-scale home extension plan

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‘We’d always earmarked this space as a potential shower room when we converted our loft several years ago, but while we saved up the money to fit it out, it became something of a dumping ground for things such as suitcases,’ explains Clair. ‘After three years of not using the space properly, it was starting to irritate me.’

Clair and husband Simon had bought their detached house at the end of 2009, knowing it had huge potential, but also that they had an enormous job ahead of them to turn it into their perfect family home.

‘We were attracted to the area because of the schools, and, after just missing out on another house, we were tipped off about this one by an estate agent,’ says Clair. ‘It was in a bit of a state, but we could see it could be a lovely home. There was some existing planning permission in place, and other houses in the street had also been extended. The loft was also ripe for converting.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Clair Wills, a medical PA, and her husband Simon, a music company director, live here with their son Archie, nine, and daughter Lola, six
  • The property: A six-bedroom detached house built in the 1940s
  • The location: Ewell, Surrey
  • What they spent: The couple’s bathroom project cost around £7,500

Planning extensions

As soon as they moved in, the couple ripped up all the carpets and painted every room a neutral colour, before having plans drawn up for the various extensions. Their ambitious ideas for the property would involve more than doubling the size of the house, but Clair remained unfazed by the process. ‘It didn’t worry me at all,’ she says. ‘Plus, Simon is a very enthusiastic person, so I’m used to his go-ahead attitude.’

As Simon’s brother Paul is a builder, and Clair’s father a structural engineer, they already knew who they were going to hire to complete the work. Simon did a lot of preparation work to get the plans drawn up, using a free, downloadable version of Google SketchUp. ‘It gives you a good idea of how everything will look, as you can add in items of furniture, windows and doors,’ says Clair.

After putting together his plans, Simon checked everything with Clair’s father and took them to an architect, who then drew up the plans to be submitted to the council for planning permission. A meeting with a planning officer beforehand provided the couple with valuable information on what was likely to be given the go-ahead, so they didn’t waste precious time or money.

The plans were approved in the standard timeframe, and the build started in May 2010, with a large double-storey extension added at the back of the house, a garage conversion and finally a loft conversion.

Loft conversion

The loft space was particularly big, so the couple had plenty of options to choose from when it came to planning the internal layout. ‘As we have friends and family staying with us on a regular basis, we decided that the loft would make the perfect guest suite. There was enough space to create two bedrooms, each with its own en suite bathroom,’ says Clair.

‘We were thinking about how we might use the house in the future, too. At the moment we all have bedrooms on the same floor in the house, as the children are still quite young. Long-term, however, they might like to move up to the top floor so that they can have their own space away from us. With that in mind, we thought it made sense to have the two bathrooms up there so that they can have one each when the time comes.’

The build project continued throughout 2010, and the family only had to move out for eight weeks to live with Simon’s father during the worst of the work. When they moved back in on Christmas Eve, the house was little more than an empty shell.

With such large costs involved, the couple decided they would finish the ground and first floors first, and shut the door on the converted loft until they could afford to furnish and decorate it properly.

‘During the summer of 2013, we finally had the funds to be able to finish the loft space,’ says Clair. The bathroom at the back of the loft conversion, which has views out to the garden, was earmarked as a shower room, while the other one would have a bath in it.

Storage space

‘As we had lost all our storage space by converting the loft into bedrooms and en suites, we had to think about how we could still incorporate some storage up there,’ says Clair. ‘We eventually decided to sacrifice a small section of the shower room to create a separate cupboard area for suitcases and other items we don’t use very often. It was a fairly oddly shaped slice of space, which you couldn’t have done anything with anyway, so taking that out of the room has actually given us a straight wall.

Bathrooms

Having both loft bathrooms fitted at the same time during the month-long project meant it cut down on costs. ‘We also opted for similar fittings in both spaces to create a sense of continuity,’ explains Clair. ‘I found everything I needed on the Crosswater website – there are three different brands on there offering a wide range of products, so it was easy to find what I wanted and see it all in inspiring room sets, which I found useful.

‘The dark wood-effect vinyl flooring was the starting point for the scheme,’ she adds. ‘We had some left over from when we did the kitchen, and as we like it so much in there we decided to use it in the loft en suites, too. It’s really hardwearing and practical for a bathroom space.’

Interior design

The couple had also spotted some dark grey slate tiles, which bring both colour and texture to the walls, and, to give interest to the scheme, a row of mosaics has been added along the top of the false wall that hides the pipework for the WC and basin. ‘I absolutely adore the mosaics,’ says Clair. ‘Every little tile is different, and as they’re iridescent they shimmer in the light and perk up the entire scheme.’

Simon then spotted a dark wood-effect vanity unit, which went with the floor and the mosaic tiles. ‘The room was starting to get a sort of “rainforest look”, which we liked, but, as it’s not an enormous room, we realised that having any more dark colour on the walls would make it feel oppressive,’ says Clair. ‘To brighten things up, we painted all the walls in a bright white matt emulsion, creating a contrast to the darker colours.’

Clair’s favourite buy is the vintage-look chest of drawers, which was a great find on eBay. ‘It fits perfectly under the roof window and lightens the whole scheme,’ she says. ‘It’s also a really practical, roomy place for storing towels and toiletries.’

With the loft rooms finally finished, Clair has ensured that family and friends have a stylish space to use when they visit. ‘It’s such a lovely bathroom, I even pop up here myself to have a shower sometimes.’

The costs

Fixtures, fittings and appliances£3,200
Labour£3,000
Walls and floors£880
Furniture and accessories£325
Fees£1,100
TOTAL£7,405