Creating an en suite in the attic

Jill and Robert Kellock came up with a contemporary design solution to maximise the unused loft space in their Victorian house.

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Jill and Robert Kellock came up with a contemporary design solution to maximise the unused loft space in their Victorian house.

Jill KellockFact file

The owners: , who is a specialist cake maker, lives here with her husband Robert, who is a sales manager

‘This house was originally a vicarage and had been empty for two years when we bought it,’ says Jill. ‘You can imagine how cold it felt when we moved in.’

The Victorian property was dark too, which was accentuated by a garish colour scheme. There were blue walls and red ceilings in some rooms, while others had green-painted walls and yellow ceilings.

‘We could see its potential, though, as it offered good sized rooms – we spent the next few months planning how to renovate it,’ says Jill. ‘Robert and I eventually decided to start at the top of the house. We felt that if we tackled the loft space first it would pave the way for the rest of the rooms.’

However, they changed their original plan of starting with the loft room first when they called in local builders for a quote.

‘We soon realised it would be easier and cheaper to tackle all the renovation work in one go, so we gave them the go ahead,’ says Jill. ‘The only room we didn’t plan to change was the conservatory, which was where we lived for four months while the structural work was being completed.’

The renovations included re-plumbing and rewiring the entire house, knocking through a wall to create a bigger kitchen, repairing the leaking roof and replacing all the windows as the wood was rotten.

Work began in the large loft space, which Jill and Robert were planning to turn into a stylish en suite bedroom for guests.

‘The loft had been the servants’ quarters in Victorian times, but as the years went by it was just used as storage space,’ says Jill.

Luckily for the couple, the original staircase still led up to the loft, so they didn’t have to create new access, plus the space was already divided into two rooms, which included a small bathroom.

‘Not surprisingly, it desperately needed to be modernised after all these years, plus there was an ugly water tank in one corner that we wanted to move,’ says Jill.

Once the loft had been cleared, including ripping out the old bathroom, they installed a false ceiling to house the water tank so it could be concealed out of sight, which freed up more space for the bathroom.

‘The flat ceiling had to be strengthened, though, with extra timbers to take the weight of the tank,’ Jill explains.

As the renovation work had included re-plumbing throughout the house, the couple’s plumber simply ‘chased’ new pipes into the wall and up through the floor to the points housing the new bath, WC and basins in the loft bedroom en suite.

‘We spent a long time planning the layout,’ Jill explains. ‘We had to consider the loft’s sloping ceiling and were restricted by the position of the shower as it had to fit within the highest point of the room, so everything else evolved from there.’

Although the bedroom floor was in good condition, the bathroom floor had to be levelled with plywood and screwed into position for the floor tiling. The two rooms were plastered, then the bedroom was carpeted to minimise noise and a bathroom radiator was fitted.

‘We replaced a rotting dormer window with a period-style double glazed design and put in new deep architraves in place of the original shallow ones that were often used in servants’ quarters. We left the original doors and fireplace intact,’ says Jill. ‘A small area on the other side of the loft stairs was fitted with a Velux window and turned into a dressing room.’

Jill wanted a light, clutter-free space in the two loft rooms, so she chose stylish modern fittings for the en suite bathroom. She created colour and focus in the bedroom with a bold accent wallpaper and bedding in her favourite colour, pink.

‘The room schemes in our previous house were rustic-style. This time we planned a more contemporary look – but we didn’t want it too modern, otherwise it would detract from the house’s period character,’ says Jill. ’It can be difficult getting the right balance, so I collected ideas from magazines and put them all in a file so I could use them for inspiration.’

Most of the couple’s old furniture has been stored in the garage because it doesn’t work with their contemporary new look and they’ve bought new pieces to suit the dimensions of their Victorian home.

‘I had to learn to scale up. Small lamps, pictures and furniture would have been completely lost in rooms of this size. I kept within budget by looking out for sale bargains,’ Jill explains.

‘This is a very solid house and I love all its original features like the staircase, the sloping loft ceiling and interesting angles, the deep cornices and skirting boards,’ she adds, ‘but I equally love the contemporary décor. The combination of old and new works really well.’

Now that the renovation work is finished, the couple are relieved to enjoy peace and quiet again away from all the noise and dust.

‘Our en suite project took around four months to complete – I know that sounds a lot, but the work was spread out among other jobs in the house,’ says Jill.

So, what do friends make of their new guest en suite?

‘It’s perfect. Guests have plenty of privacy and peace up there in the loft,’ says Jill. ‘It would have been a waste of space to use it for storage. I’m so glad we renovated it – plus we saved a lot of money by incorporating it into the main work.’


Labour and building materials£10,000
Fixtures, fittings and appliances£2,553
Walls and flooring£216