Large bathroom from two spaces

Elaine Avery and Paul Reid have created a spa-like bathroom design in a contemporary palette

‘When I first viewed our 1960s home, I couldn’t see anything good about it at all,’ remembers Elaine.

‘The whole house was dreadful. It was stuck in a time warp and everything was dated and falling apart.

‘I thought my partner Paul had lost the plot when he said he wanted to buy it, but once he explained his vision and we had the plans drawn up, I started to feel really excited,’ she continues.

‘It was the first big renovation project for both of us, but we just jumped into it head first.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Elaine Avery, 46, a full-time mum and landlady, and her partner Paul Reid, 42, sales director of an insulation company, live here with their daughter Olivia, five, and Elaine’s son, Alexander, 17
  • The property: A five-bedroom, early-1960s detached house
  • The location: Whitley Bay, North Tyneside
  • What they spent: The couple’s bathroom cost around £13,000

The property

Elaine had lived in a lot of places before meeting Paul, so this time she was looking for a ‘forever home’. The house was on a sought-after street and had a large plot, and the couple knew that they could add value by completely reworking the layout. They built an extension to include a large kitchen/diner, garden room and utility on the ground floor, plus two extra bedrooms and a home office on the first floor.

‘We sold our previous home quickly, and so we decided to move into rented accommodation during the five-month project,’ explains Elaine. ‘Around three-quarters of the house was knocked down and there was no water or electricity for a while, so it wasn’t feasible to live there.’

The bathroom

The original bathroom was a world away from the contemporary spa-like retreat that they now have. There was a small bathroom with a separate WC next door, which wasn’t conducive to family life, so the builders knocked down the dividing wall to create one large space. As the staircase was being turned around as part of their renovation plans, they were able to incorporate some of the landing area into the new bathroom. They also took some space previously occupied by the dated fitted cupboards along one wall, and from the extension on the opposite side.

‘The bathroom hadn’t been updated since the 1960s, and had a pink cast-iron bath with matching toilet and basin, as well as carpet on the floor,’ says Elaine. ‘I didn’t like having a shower over the bath and a big, high window near it. It definitely wasn’t to our taste, although my five-year-old daughter loved it as she said it was just like Barbie’s!’

pink bathroom before work

Fixtures and fittings

While Paul focused on the structural side of the extension, Elaine was responsible for the overall look of the space. ‘It was quite hard to visualise, as it was going to change so much,’ she says. ‘I had to rely on the plans, so I found my mood board invaluable. I knew the style I was going for, as I’d looked through a stack of magazines for inspiration, and had an idea of the colours I preferred. Our previous bathroom was beige and cream, but this time I wanted grey, white and charcoal.’

The two essential items on Elaine and Paul’s wishlist were a freestanding bath and a wet room-style walk-in shower. ‘I wanted a freestanding bath from day one, but a modern style rather than a traditional roll-top,’ says Elaine. ‘It had to fit all the way to the floor rather than having legs, so that it won’t gather dust underneath and is easy to clean.’

After visiting various showrooms, Elaine found a beautiful egg-shaped bath at local store Your Home Improvements. ‘They gave me the idea of raising it on a plinth with recessed lights,’ she says. ‘We had plenty of space, and it adds an extra dimension and really showcases the bath.’

The couple were also inspired by the displays at nearby Domani Bathrooms. ‘Although I didn’t buy everything from there, only the basin console and chrome support arms, it gave me lots of ideas, such as having the double basins,’ explains Elaine.

Contemporary shower head with black tile

Tile designs

When it came to the tiling, a local tile showroom gave Elaine and Paul advice on which styles would work together. They decided to mix a range of four different designs, with large-format square floor tiles alongside rectangular wall tiles. ‘The tile company suggested a dark charcoal design by the shower and bath, with a stripe to highlight the twin basins, a pale grey everywhere else, as well as complementary mosaic tiles on the floor to demarcate the shower. We didn’t want a shower tray.

‘We were careful to use the charcoal-coloured tile in the right proportions, as we were conscious that it was quite dark. I think it worked really well to have the bath and shower area darker than the rest of the room, as it gives a nice contrast.’


Polished-chrome radiators and a storage unit next to the basins finish off the space perfectly. ‘I decided to position a radiator under the window and have two towel rails, as it’s such a large room and I hate being cold,’ explains Elaine. ‘I was worried that three heaters might be too many, but it works well and means there’s always a towel within easy reach.’

Contemporary bathroom with black tile

The finished project

The couple’s project went slightly over budget, mainly due to the cost of removing asbestos from the cupboards, but they tried to absorb any overspend by making savings elsewhere in the property. ‘I knew that if I spent a little extra on the bath, then I would be able to sacrifice having a wine cooler in the kitchen for instance,’ says Elaine.

Although the house still looked like a building site only weeks before they were due to move in, everything came together just in time. ‘I admit that I was getting worried, as we had to leave our rented accommodation,’ says Elaine. ‘The tilers were finishing off the bathroom after we moved in, but fortunately we were able to use our en suite for those few weeks.’

While admitting that she would never tackle such a big project again, Elaine loves spending time in her spacious new bathroom. ‘I’m proud of what we achieved, and we got a lot for our money,’ she says. ‘When I look back at the pictures, I can’t believe the transformation.’

Contemporary bathroom with double sink

Project notes

Elaine Avery shares her tips for designing a new bathroom

What I’ve learnt

‘Using several different suppliers helps to keep down costs. We shopped around to find the best deals, and compared prices online, as well as getting several quotes from plumbers for the fitting.’

My best advice

‘Plan ahead and always make mood boards. For mine, I cut out pictures from magazines, took photos of hotel bathrooms and collected tile samples to make sure that it would all work together. Remember to take your mood board with you when you visit showrooms, too.’

My dream spot

‘I love the deep, egg-shaped bath — it’s so luxurious. It’s great for Olivia as there’s lots of space for her to play, but I love having a long soak with a glass of wine and my Kindle. I made sure we created a recess next to the bath so that I would have somewhere for my glass!’

Favourite website

‘I’ve added to my bookmarked list of websites because it has so many fantastic ideas. I find the designs on there very inspiring, and there were so many amazing photographs of the exact style of bathroom I was looking for. I found the idea for our tiled shelving recess on the site — it’s the little details that add wow-factor. It was also helpful for showing how using different shades and textured tiles could give us a contemporary spa-style space.’

Essential buy

‘The walk-in shower area is brilliant. It’s great to have the handheld hose as well as the fixed overhead rain shower as it’s invaluable for cleaning. The discreet shower screens with a barely-there look were also a good choice and add to the wet room feel.’

If I did it all again…

‘…I would perhaps add more lighting over the shower. The space is a little dark as we had to block up one of the windows to build the extension.’  

The costs

Showers and screen£820