A monochrome scheme for a windowless en suite

June Russell and Andrew Laing created a stylish scheme on a budget for their windowless bathroom

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June Russell and Andrew Laing rose to the challenge of creating a stylish scheme for their windowless space on a tight budget.

Fact file

The owners: June Russell (right), owner of a secondhand bridalwear shop, and her partner, Andrew Laing, a property developer

With several bathrooms to install in our penthouse apartment, cost was always going to be an issue,’ explains June. ‘However, I wasn’t prepared to compromise on style when it came to fitting out our own en suite.

A blank canvas

‘I knew I wanted to create a strong, dramatic look in here, with two basins and a double-ended contemporary bath,’ she adds, ‘but in order to get everything we wanted within our budget, it was clear we had to do some extensive research to find the perfect designs at the right price.’

When June and Andrew bought their Edinburgh penthouse apartment in 2011, the company that owned it had bought it out of receivership and were keen to sell, so the couple got it at a great price. With their past experience of renovating houses, they were keen to take on the challenge of completing the apartment and turning it into a home.

‘I previously had a business in Cheshire renovating houses, and with a diploma in interior design from Guildhall in London, too, I was fairly confident in what I liked and disliked from the start,’ explains June. ‘Normally houses dictate the décor, but as this apartment was a completely blank canvas, the challenge was going to be how to put our stamp on it.’

Monochrome scheme

With such a large, empty space to decorate, it was important to June that a cohesive look was created throughout the apartment. ‘We wanted every bedroom and en suite to work well together, but they also had to fit in with the look of the rest of our home,’ she explains.

With this in mind, June and Andrew settled on a predominantly monochrome scheme for their home featuring black, white and grey, with the occasional bold feature wall to add colour and interest.

When it came to fitting out the en suite, the couple had to plan the space from scratch. ‘When we bought the apartment, all the bathrooms were empty shells with just a hole for the drainage, and pipes for the plumbing hanging out of the wall,’ says June. ‘To save money, Andrew re-positioned all the plumbing before installing the fixtures and fittings. He did need help with the electrics, though, so we hired someone who could not only show him how to do the work, but who was also able to sign off everything for the necessary Completion Certificate.’

Maximising light

The biggest challenge that June and Andrew faced with the en suite was how to make the windowless internal space feel light and airy, while still sticking to the strong, masculine style of the rest of the apartment.

‘To maximise the light, we chose two large mirrors on one wall, while semi-matt tiles on the walls and floors also help to bounce additional light around the room,’ explains June. ‘I felt that matt ones would have absorbed the light, and if they had been too glossy they would have been hard to keep clean.’

Fixtures and fittings

As the couple were on a strict budget, they were thrilled to find exactly the sort of statement fixtures and fittings they wanted at their local DIY store, with June choosing a pair of white porcelain basins and a double- ended bath for their contemporary look.

‘Although it is an internal bathroom, it is quite a big space, so we had room to fit two basins against one of the walls,’ she says. ‘Not only are double basins a practical option when there are two of you sharing the same space, but they also help to make the layout look more balanced. Positioning the bath in the middle of the opposite wall also adds to the room’s symmetry.’

The combination of large black tiles for both the floor and the walls adds drama to the space, while strips of mosaic tiles help to break up the wall coverage. ‘We liked the tiles for the wall because they look like long, narrow tiles, but they are in fact a large tile with a scored line across them,’ explains June. ‘However, as they are scored rather than sealed, we discovered that the lines in the tiles in the shower were going red and wouldn’t scrub white. Andrew had to grout every single scored line in the whole bathroom to solve the problem, which he wasn’t very happy about! Thankfully it worked, though, and the tiles are back to being as good as new.’

Interior design

To enhance the feeling of space and keep the room free of clutter, the couple chose two mirrored bathroom wall cabinets that hang side by side at the end of the bath to hide all the bathroom essentials, such as soaps and toothbrushes. Andrew also fitted a soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower, eliminating the need for bottles of shampoo in the shower tray. ‘I hated it initially as it reminded me of being in a hotel rather than our home, but I’ve grown to love it,’ says June. ‘It’s a really simple but clever idea as it keeps the shower clear and tidy.’

Although Andrew and June initially planned to have low-energy LED lighting in their en suite bathroom, they found that it was dark and slow to come on once installed. ‘In an internal bathroom, it is essential to have bright lighting for visibility, so after a few weeks, we switched to halogen bulbs, which has made all the difference,’ explains June.

Despite June and Andrew decorating the space in darker colours to harmonise with the rest of the apartment, by adding white fittings, lots of mirrors and good lighting, they have managed to design a spacious and welcoming bathroom.

‘We have created a look that we both love and kept within our tight budget,’ says June. ‘We’re thrilled – it couldn’t have gone any better.’