When we viewed this house, we were immediately attracted to its wonderful light rooms and big garden,’ says Anna of the Edwardian semi-detached home she shares with husband Simon and their two children.
‘It was also in an ideal location in south-west London.’
While the décor was in good condition and the house did not need any structural work, the couple knew straight away that they wanted to update the loft conversion to create a master suite with a spacious bedroom, dressing room and en suite.
‘Back in the 1970s, the loft had been converted into a basic home office, but it was dark and badly designed, and not what we were after,’ says Anna.
- The owners: Anna Barlow lives here with her husband Simon, a property developer, and twin daughters Alexandra and Kirsty, eight
- The property: A six-bedroom, semi-detached, Edwardian home
- The location: Barnes, south-west London
- What they spent: The couple’s bathroom project cost around £24,000
The couple bought the property in May 2013 and enlisted the help of a structural engineer friend, Peter Zussman, to draw up plans to extend the loft further into the pitched roof to create more space.
However, the couple immediately hit a snag when the local council refused planning permission because it disliked their plan for two dormer windows at the front, and argued that they would not be in keeping with the area. Anna and Simon appealed the decision and, following a six-month battle, were given consent.
On Peter’s recommendation, they hired Michal Michalski of Inspiral Construction to carry out the building work, and asked John Pidgeon of AJP Bathrooms to design and fit the new en suite. ‘Simon knew John through work, and I liked him as soon as I met him. He knew what he was talking about and I felt that we could work together,’ Anna explains.
Designing the bathroom
She admits that their brief for the new en suite was quite demanding. ‘It’s a big space, measuring 210x535cm, but we planned to fit a lot into it,’ she says. ‘While the look of the room was important, as practical people, we wanted a good-sized shower for Simon, who is tall; double basins, one for each of us; and a bath big enough to not look lost in the room, but not too large to fill or so that I feel uncomfortable when having a long soak and reading a book.’
In addition, Anna wanted to make sure that there was enough space in between everything, so it wouldn’t feel cramped, and specified two large windows to let as much light into the room as possible.
It was a tall order, but Anna was determined not to cut any corners. ‘We wanted to be happy with everything in here, with no compromises,’ she says. ‘Getting it right took time. We changed the 3D plans five times and spent two months creating the final layout.’
At one stage, Anna and Simon considered putting the bath in the bedroom instead of the bathroom. ‘However, we decided it would be too easy for us to just fling our clothes onto it and it wouldn’t get used,’ she says.
‘Instead, the bath and the twin basins have been positioned as eye-catching focal points from the doorway, with the WC discreetly hidden away at the end of the room behind the basins, and the dressing room door on the opposite wall.’
When it came to designing the décor, Anna consulted Stuart Wisbey at The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. ‘He had worked for us in the past and knew our taste,’ says Anna. ‘We showed him the plans and he suggested contrasting grey and white tiles, with grey on the floor and two walls, and white on the other walls. Grey would have been too much on all of the walls, while white would be too impractical for the flooring.’
Stuart showed Anna grey large-format porcelain tiles, which have a distinctive marble-like veining. ‘I liked them because of the different patterns and shades on each tile. In addition, the large size and rectangular shape reflects the proportions of the room,’ she explains.
The loft extension was carried out at the same time as the side garage conversion, with work beginning in April 2014 and lasting eight months. As the projects didn’t involve any other rooms, the family stayed in the house during that time. ‘To access the top floor, the builders went up a ladder on the outside of the house, so we barely knew they were working,’ recalls Anna.
‘The loft was sealed off from the rest of the house, but there was a door that I could use to go up there on a daily basis to see how it was all going and to answer any queries,’ she continues. ‘When the builders did the work to the garage, we made sure that we were away on holiday so there was minimal noise and mess, and it was all very smooth because it had been planned meticulously beforehand.’
Anna and Simon are pleased with the results of their no-compromise approach. ‘I still enjoy walking into it every day. It’s light and spacious, and has a sense of calm,’ says Anna. ‘It does everything we wanted it to and looks fantastic.’
Follow Anna’s advice on creating a stylish loft en suite
What I’ve learnt
‘It’s all about planning. Once the builder has arrived to start work, you don’t want to be changing your mind, as it will add time and cost to the project. You need to have worked out all the details beforehand. We went through five plans with John, the bathroom planner, before we got it right. It’s far better to be perfectly happy with everything than tofeel as if you’ve compromised.’
My top tip
‘Always look at what’s practical first, then at the aesthetics. Of course, the look of a room counts, too, but first and foremost, the layout needs to work for you on a common sense level.’
My best buy
‘The full-length Falper wall mirror by the bath. We had a space to fill, and John showed me this design. It fills the space perfectly and mirrors a glazed panel on the other side of the bath for a sense of symmetry.’
I couldn’t live without…
‘…the Fantini showerhead, which gives us a choice of water flow, and taps. They look so stylish.’
My favourite spot
‘This has to be the shower – it’s so spacious and the tiles are lovely. It’s also big enough for Simon, who is tall, to enjoy.’
What surprised me…
‘…is how spacious the room looks. I have absolutely everything in here that I wanted and yet it doesn’t feel at all crammed in.’
‘Make the most of the space available – we extended into the roof as far as we could go. And don’t give up easily – we appealed against the initial planning refusal and won in the end.’