Modernising a bathroom

Using their DIY skills and eye for a bargain, Hilary and Geoffrey English have transformed their bathroom into a colourful contemporary space complete with classic white bathroom suite

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A few years ago after our two eldest sons left home, Geoffrey and I decided to move on ourselves. We wanted the challenge of a new project, so we were pleased when we came across a Victorian cottage that needed renovating.

‘That was two years ago now and we have been refurbishing the cottage ever since. We knew one day we would tackle the bathroom, with its dated patterned walls and floor and mushroom-coloured suite that included a rather odd shallow bath. It was all very 1970s-style.

‘The layout wasn’t to our liking either, but we were realistic knowing we wouldn’t have a huge budget to spend on doing it up. Luckily, Geoffrey isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty and has always loved the challenge of planning and doing things himself. That’s why we decided to do most of the work ourselves and, with my eye for a bargain, I hoped to keep us within budget.’

Fact file

The owners: Hilary English, an IT consultant, and her husband Geoffrey, who is a civil engineer, live here with their youngest son Tim, 17

The couple ripped out the old-fashioned bathroom suite and set about redesigning the layout as they felt the previous one made the room feel cramped. There was another reason why they didn‘t like it. ‘When you opened the door, the first thing you saw was the WC,’ says Hilary.

Hilary and Geoffrey drew up several new layouts on paper, before coming up with their new-look bathroom.

‘We wanted to create more space, but couldn’t afford to relocate the plumbing too much as we knew that would impact on our budget,’ Hilary explains. ‘We pressed on though, only employing one tradesperson and that was to connect the pipework because Geoffrey felt he needed expert help for that particular job.’

As a separate shower wasn’t possible within their budget, the couple put a new bath under the window and installed a hand-held shower in the highest spot, so everyone could take a shower comfortably. They moved the WC to a far wall, so it would be out of sight until you stepped further into the bathroom, and placed a basin with a vanity unit opposite.

‘We chose our vanity unit for both its stylish looks and function, as there was virtually no storage in the bathroom,’ says Hilary. ‘I like everything to be tidied away, apart from having a few toiletries on display in my favourite bright yellow – it has made the bathroom look much neater now.’

Having chosen a white bath suite and contemporary fittings, the couple felt that the space needed a shot of bold colour to create contrast.

‘I asked a friend, Sue Roberts, who owns an interior design company, Roberts Fleming Designs, for advice,’ says Hilary. ‘I really wanted blue, but was afraid it would make the room feel cold and uninviting. Sue showed me a shade that she felt would work – a vibrant turquoise.’

Hilary agreed and, having settled on the colour for the feature wall, she started looking for tiles to go with the white ones they had already chosen. ‘I wanted to add some blocks of turquoise to match that wall,’ she explains. Using a paint sample as a guide, she found the perfect tiles.

The project was trouble-free, until they came to lay the floor tiles, which they had bought on two separate shopping trips. Although the tiles were the same colour and had the same code number, they had somehow ended up with two different sized batches of tiles.

As Hilary explains, ‘While the difference in size was minuscule, it made them difficult to lay. We could either pull them all up and start again, or put slightly more grout between the second batch of tiles, which is what we eventually did.’

Although Hilary and Geoffrey did most of the work themselves, their new bathroom took only six weeks, with few disruptions.

’We’re really pleased with it,’ says Hilary. ‘Geoffrey has done a brilliant job fitting the bathroom himself – and we managed to keep within our tight budget.’


Fixtures and fittings£635
Vanity unit, mirrored wall cabinet and accessories£107