Vintage-style family bathroom

Sarah and David Bird have designed a space that combines unique features with practical details

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‘Renovating our family bathroom was part of the first stage of a whole-house project,’ says Sarah. We’d bought the property in February 2014, but it was in far too poor a state to move into right away.

‘David and I had to camp out with our sons Alfie and Teddie for nine months in the adjoining annexe – which was tiny – at the side of our home. It had a kitchen, bathroom and a living room that we all slept in, but the kitchen was so small it wouldn’t even fit a chair.’

In the main house, the existing 1980s bathroom was dated. ‘It had a black-and-white colour scheme, with a white suite, black tiled floor and white tiled walls with a black-and-white mosaic. The room is rectangular and quite big, but the colour scheme and the layout made it feel like a long, narrow tunnel. A lot of the space wasn’t being used,’ says Sarah.

‘The only structural work we did was to replace one of the walls because it had dry rot. Otherwise, we only needed to redesign the layout and replace the suite.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Sarah Bird, a teacher, lives here with her husband David, a company director, and their sons Alfie, five, and Teddie, two
  • The property: A five-bedroom detached Jacobean house with later additions
  • The location: Repton, Derbyshire
  • What they spent: The couple’s bathroom project cost around £8,000

The bathroom

Sarah already knew exactly how the new bathroom was going to look. ‘We’d saved up for 10 years to be able to buy a property that we could turn into our dream family home, so we’d had plenty of time to design our perfect bathroom space,’ she explains. ‘I had bought accessories ready for the time when I would finally be able to use them; I knew that I wanted a romantic, warm, period look that was stylish and of good quality, but definitely family-friendly enough to cope with the children.’

Original bathroom before work

The design

The plan was to complement the age of the house by creating a visually interesting room with a practical layout that maximised the space. ‘The bathroom is at the side of the property and is the only room without a great view, so we needed to make it all the more interesting to compensate,’ she explains. ‘As the space is rectangular in shape, we chose to install a plinth to create a focal point, embedding lights within it to create a luxurious, glamorous feel, and curving the platform to soften the look. We chose mosaic tiles to add interest and colour, but they are also practical because they give a good grip for bare feet.’

The large basins and the high cistern of the WC also combine looks and practicality. ‘The basins are ideal for children because they prevent water from being splashed all over the floor,’ says Sarah. ‘I love the look of the high cistern, but it also gives a really good flush, ideal for when the children put too much paper down it!’ The bath and the walk-in shower are positioned on either side of the radiator so that they both get direct heat from it.

Vintage inspired sanitaryware

Working to budget

Compiling a list of builders from the internet, the couple received several quotes before choosing a contractor for the first part of the renovation project, which included all the work in the bathroom. Sarah sourced all of the products herself, looking for well-made items at a price she and David could afford. ‘This bathroom has got to last, so we wanted quality,’ she explains. ‘We didn’t want to have to change it in five or 10 years’ time as a result of it growing shabby or worn. It needs to look good for a long time to come.’

When it comes to shopping, Sarah admits that she drives a hard bargain. ‘Our budget dictated that we needed to shop around for quality as cheaply as we could get it,’ she admits. ‘We can’t afford to pay through the nose so I have to be a savvy shopper: my friends call me the bargain queen.

‘Creating the look that I wanted meant a lot of hard work and shopping around, comparing prices, and haggling – politely and pleasantly – with retailers.’

Shower cubicle with vintage style grandmother clock

Interior design

One of Sarah’s most inspired touches is a white grandmother clock. As well as being a distinctive, period addition to the room, the clock illustrates Sarah’s desire to create a romantic, yet practical, room. ‘We needed to fill a space and when I saw this clock I realised how well it would go in the bathroom,’ she says. ‘It’s very pretty and also keeps us running on time, which is very useful when we’re getting ready in the mornings. Not only that, but it provides us with a place to store our toiletries.’

Another individual touch is a painted robin on the glazing above the door. ‘The original window was old-fashioned and rectangular so we decided to replace it with an oval, painted window,’ explains Sarah. ‘We were quoted £500 and it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, so we bought a pane of plain glass for £60 and I painted the robin on it myself. It’s decorative but also a bit of fun because of our surname — we have bird decorations dotted about the house.’


The bathroom itself took a month to complete, but Sarah admits that it would have been quicker if she had not changed her choice of floor tile halfway through the project. ‘I’d picked a pale cream style for the flooring but when we’d laid half of it, I realised I didn’t like them. Tonally, they weren’t right and didn’t match the mosaic and duck-egg-blue walls, so we took them all up again. We then tested out white samples, but they were too cold. In the end, we went for a grey shade, which is perfect.’


A waterproof television was also on the couple’s wish list. ‘I’d always dreamt of being able to watch TV while relaxing in the bath,’ says Sarah. ‘The problem is that it needs to hang at the correct eye level, but David is 6ft 3in and I’m 5ft 1in, so it had to be adjusted to suit the children and me. David can watch it; he just has to sink deeper into the bath to be able to see it!’


The underfloor heating system has been a challenge to get right. ‘We chose electric rather than water because it was cheaper, but we’ve had problems in that it doesn’t function properly and, with hindsight, we should have gone for a wet system.’

Underfloor heating aside, there is nothing Sarah would change about her new bathroom. ‘It’s so pretty and feminine yet robust and practical, good-quality and timeless — just what I wanted,’ she says. ‘It is a true family bathroom, with room for long, luxurious baths, speedy showers, and enjoyable bathtimes for the children.’

Visitors like it, too. ‘A friend of mine had asked if she can come and have a soak on her birthday as a treat. You can’t beat that for a compliment, can you?’

The costs

Wall cabinets£270
Grandmother clock£200
Glass over door£60
Window blind£60

The contacts