Creating a larger en suite

After finding a leak, Emma and Mark Vale made it a priority to update their en suite, and took the chance to increase the room’s size

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‘We bought this house with the idea of gradually refurbishing it, but we weren’t planning on updating our en suite quite so quickly,’ recalls Emma. ‘However, when we discovered a leak in the kitchen from the shower above, it became a priority.’

Emma and Mark bought the house in June 2011. They were living locally at the time but had outgrown their previous home. They liked the area, though, and didn’t want their children to move schools, so they were delighted when the property came on to the market.

The move wasn’t simple, but went to plan. The couple sold their house and, not wanting to lose their buyer, they managed to negotiate a short-term rental on a nearby property while the sale of the new house went through. ‘It was a bit of an upheaval, but the rented place had a garage so we stored a lot of our stuff in there and unpacked only what we really needed,’ explains Emma. ‘Although it wasn’t ideal, at least we didn’t lose the house.’

Fact file

The owners: Emma Vale and her husband Mark, who owns a manufacturing company, live here with their children, Cameron, 17, Laura, 14, and Tazmin, 11

It was the space and layout of the property that appealed to the Vales. Painted in neutral colours throughout, it only needed redecorating. The couple had finished updating the living room and were planning on refitting the kitchen when they discovered a leak from the shower. ‘It was annoying at the time, but it meant we had to tweak our plans. In fact, we decided to update the en suite and the adjoining family bathroom at the same time to get all the mess out of the way in one go,’ says Emma.

The en suite had been fitted when the house was built around 20 years previously, but the fussy scheme was old-fashioned. On the recommendation of friends, Emma and Mark asked Martina Landhed of Oxford-based Instil Design (0800 677 1040, to visit them and suggest some ideas. ‘Finding reputable tradespeople who you feel you can trust can be a minefield, and when you are spending a lot of money it’s a big risk,’ says Emma. ‘So that recommendation was perfect for us.’

The en suite didn’t flow properly, but the couple knew that it could be fixed with the right layout. ‘It felt awkward – you had to walk around the shower to reach the basin,’ explains Emma.

The adjoining master bedroom had a run of built-in wardrobes that backed on to the en suite bathroom, with a doorway in the middle. The bedroom was a good size, so Emma and Mark decided to steal space from the built-in wardrobes to create a larger en suite, knowing there would still be plenty of room in the bedroom for new wardrobes. ‘It wasn’t much of a sacrifice as the wardrobes weren’t very attractive; they were only a run of studwork wall with white-painted doors,’ says Emma. ‘Using the space for the en suite meant we could have a large whirlpool bath and a luxurious walk-in shower built in.’

Bathroom designer Martina’s brief for the new en suite was to create a contemporary space featuring understated shades of brown, cream and taupe. The couple wanted to keep the scheme neutral as they hadn’t decided on a look for their bedroom. ‘By opting for neutral tones we can easily change the bedroom décor without it clashing with the en suite,’ says Emma. ‘It won’t date quickly either and I can freshen it up with different accent colours to link it in with the bedroom.’

Gaining the extra space along one wall meant the couple could also move the wall adjoining the family bathroom on the other side of the space by 20cm to make the other bathroom a little bigger. ‘As well as moving it slightly, I designed the dividing wall to be 20cm thick rather than the standard 10cm so that it would incorporate the frames for wall-mounted WCs in both bathrooms, as well as the related soil pipes and wall-mounted storage for each one,’ explains Martina.

Mark wanted a hi-tech feel with lots of luxury fittings and the latest gadgets to make the en suite a relaxing place to unwind after a hard day at work. He had already seen his dream bath on the internet, so he ordered it himself. ‘He wanted the biggest one he could find,’ laughs Emma. ‘It has 18 whirlpool jets and 16 air jets, plus LED lights and two pillows – it really is quite amazing.’

Mark also invested in a KB sound system with 6.5-inch speakers in the ceiling and an iPod docking station to stream either radio or music from an iPhone to give the new space a high-end feel. As part of the design, he asked Martina to include a large overhead rain shower in the ceiling above the walk-in shower, along with four additional side jets. Emma wanted a hand-held attachment too. ‘The overhead shower and jets are great if you‘re looking for an invigorating shower, but not so good if you don’t want to get your hair wet,’ she explains. ‘It’s worth having a hand-held one – it’s also perfect for cleaning the shower.’

Local builder Kevin Robertson and his team did all the necessary building work and installed the en suite bathroom, completing it in only four weeks. ‘We were really pleased with their professionalism and attention to detail,’ says Mark. ‘They also ensured we had a working shower and WC throughout the build, which was essential with a family of five.’

With its sound system, electronic taps, luxury bath and ambient lighting, the new space has been designed for pure escapism and is the ideal retreat for Emma and Mark. ‘It was supposed to be a “no kids zone”, but it hasn’t worked out like that,’ says Emma. ‘It’s such a great room that everyone wants to use it now.’

The costs

Fixtures and fittings£15,237
Building work and bathroom installation£10,000
Sound system£479