A contemporary yet classic bathroom in a 15th century listed property

Jill and David Zackheim have transformed the dated bathroom in their 15th century listed home into a stunning new space while retaining its charming timber beam character. The new bathroom includes a freestanding bath and walk-in shower alongside classic varnished wooden bathroom furniture.

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Jill and David Zackheim have transformed a dated bathroom into a stunning new space while retaining its charming timber beam character. The new bathroom, in their Grade II Listed 15th century home, includes a freestanding tub and a walk-in shower.

Jill ZackheimFact file

The owners: Jill Zackheim, a housewife, lives here with her husband David, who is a financial consultant

‘Although our bathroom desperately needed updating, David and I were rather daunted about tackling it as this is such an old property. We had no idea about the current state of the plumbing,’ says Jill.

‘We kept putting it off, pressing on instead with other projects in the house, until we realised that the bathroom would have to be brought into line with the rest of our renovation work,’ she adds.

It was while she was out shopping in town one day that Jill found inspiration for a new-look bathroom, when she spotted a stunning suite displayed in bathroom showroom Ripples. She stepped inside and took a closer look.

‘I’d dreamed of having a classic roll-top bath and, once I was in the showroom, I couldn’t resist getting inside the bath to try it out for size!’ she recalls. ‘I loved it.’

Jill arranged a home appointment with one of the showroom’s bathroom designers, Helen Head, so they could talk through ideas. Although she had a clear idea of what she wanted in the new space – a luxury freestanding bath, twin basins, a shower, a bidet and plenty of storage, she was unsure how to put her wish-list together.

‘I wanted a traditional look to reflect the architecture of our Grade II-listed house,’ Jill explains. ‘The bathroom has beautiful exposed beams and timber framed windows, which have so much character. I thought wooden flooring would complement it perfectly.’

Bathroom designer Helen agreed that it was essential to retain its charming character but she was concerned that a wooden floor could be impractical, so she came up with the idea of introducing a contemporary element.

‘She suggested raising the floor level to create a contemporary but practical wetroom floor, with all the pipes concealed neatly underneath,’ says Jill.

Jill had loved the large-format travertine floor tiles in the showroom. She and Helen agreed they would look perfect combined with smaller mosaic tiles in a walk-in shower, providing a seamless finish.

‘I thought wood-effect tiles in the doorway would be an attractive nod to tradition, while a few lights fitted in the step up to the tiled floor would create added impact,’ says Jill. ‘Helen also suggested underfloor heating and a towel rail for a cosy feel.’

Although Jill had considered wall-hung basins, she chose travertine stone counter top basins instead set on a chestnut unit to complement the beams.

As storage had been another must-have on Jill’s wish-list, Helen designed a bespoke corner unit to go with the chestnut vanity unit for the basins.

‘Tiled recesses behind the bath and in the shower were factored in too, providing handy storage for toiletries,’ says Jill.

Once the remaining design features and fixtures had been finalised, Helen called in the installation team to start work on the six-week bathroom project.

‘We were lucky to be able to use another bathroom in the house while the work was under way, which helped minimize the disruption,’ Jill recalls.

After the old bathroom suite was ripped out, the main challenge facing the team was running the pipework for the underfloor heating and wetroom floor, and building new stud walls on either side of the bathroom to create a recess to conceal the electrics and plumbing.

‘The pipework was difficult enough, but the electrics were a very tricky problem,’ Jill reveals. ‘The walls were uneven, because of the beams, plus there were lots of wires sticking out – they had been boxed away in a corner until they were exposed when the corner cabinet was being installed. We replaced the wiring completely.’

Although the couple had set a budget, they encountered another issue as the bathroom project progressed, mainly because of the structure of the house, which meant they had to spend a little more than expected.

The original plan was to put tilting mirrors over the basins, but due to the final positioning of the furniture and basins it wasn’t practical with the posts and beams of the timber framed walls.

‘I came up with the idea of having the mirrors cut to fit around the timbers,’ Jill explains. ‘Helen arranged this with a glazier – and it worked out perfectly.’

There should have been a high-level cistern. When Helen finalised the plans for raising the floor, she realised that the height of the floor would be slightly higher than anticipated – because of running waste pipes etc – so there wasn’t enough room for a high-level cistern. A standard model was installed instead.

Despite these hurdles, the project went well, and Jill eagerly planned the room scheme. She thought a neutral colour palette would be best, creating a light and bright feel and concentrating the eye on the timber beams and chestnut furniture.

‘Our bathroom makeover was long overdue,’ Jill recalls. ‘Tiles had been placed on top of other tiles and, in hindsight, it all looked pretty hideous – but I think we’d grown used to it over the years.’

She and David are thrilled with the new space, as Jill explains: ‘It’s contemporary but classic too. I know it all started with that roll-top bath, but I equally enjoy stepping into the walk-in shower as it’s so spacious – it never feels cramped.’

The costs

Fixtures and fittings£11,690
Furniture and accessories£6,549
Walls and flooring£2,090
Electrical fittings£1,945