Modernising a dated bathroom

Updating the family bathroom with a versatile layout and new contemporary design, Emma and Mark Vale utilised additional space gained from updating the adjacent bedroom

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Emma and Mark Vale called in the experts to help them transform a cramped and dated family bathroom with clever planning and a stylish, modern scheme.

Fact file

The owners: Emma Vale (right) and her husband Mark, who owns a manufacturing company, live here with their children Cameron, 16, Laura, 14 and Tazmin, 11The property: A modern, detached five-bedroom house, built to a traditional styleThe location: Chinnor, Oxfordshire What they spent: The couple’s bathroom project cost around £18,500

‘Finding a colour scheme for a family bathroom for teenagers of both sexes wasn’t an easy task by any means,’ says Emma Vale, who moved in to her new home with husband Mark and their three children in the summer of 2011. The couple’s bedroom already had an en suite, so the main bathroom was going to be used primarily by the children. ‘While I wanted it to be practical and easy to clean, I didn’t want it to feel too masculine and soulless,’ she adds. ‘Plus, our en suite was being redecorated at the same time in pale, muted tones, so I wanted to be a little braver with this one.’

Set in the village that Mark grew up in and where they had bought their first home, the house was the perfect size in a great location, benefiting from a lovely established garden and views of the surrounding countryside. The couple’s original plan was to gradually make their way through the house, redecorating the rooms, and refitting and possibly even extending the kitchen. The refurbishment of both their en suite bathroom and the family bathroom was supposed to take place much further down the line, but this all changed when they realised that the shower in their en suite was leaking into the kitchen. ‘While we weren’t planning on doing the bathrooms so quickly, it made sense to do them both together as they are back to back, plus it meant we could get all the disruption out of the way in one go,’ explains Emma.

Emma and Mark asked designer Martina Landhed from local company Instil Design to visit the house, and, as they liked her ideas, plans were drawn up to update the en suite first, followed by the family bathroom. Although it would have been quicker to work on them at the same time, completing one after the other meant that they had a usable bathroom during all the work – essential for a family of five.

The old bathroom scheme was not only a little dated, but also a fully tiled shower cubicle took up a lot of the space in the room, as Emma explains: ‘The main issue we had was with the layout; the door opened straight on to the shower door as you walked in, so you had to open it, come in, and close it behind you before you could get in the shower. Plus, the shower was old-fashioned, with a thick stud wall, so it was dark and claustrophobic to use.’

Redesigning both the en suite and the family bathroom made the couple consider the whole of the first floor, and they realised that removing some built-in wardrobes in the main bedroom would give them extra space in both bathrooms. In addition, the dividing wall between the two bathrooms was moved over slightly to make the family bathroom 10cm wider. Martina also made the gap between the studwork walls wide enough to hide all the pipework and to recess the cabinet so that the mirrored doors sit flush to the wall. ‘Once the old shower and suite had been ripped out and the new stud walls were built, the room felt less cramped and much, much brighter,’ says Emma.

When it came to the layout, the bath stayed in the same position under the window, while the basin was placed in the centre of one wall, with the WC next to it on the far side. As a result of the space gained by removing the bedroom wardrobes, there was also enough room to fit in a larger walk-in shower with a glass enclosure, and builder Kevin Robertson set the glass panels into the wall and ceiling to make it completely frameless. To make access easier, the door to the room was re-hung to open the other way. ‘We did consider putting in only a large, teenager-friendly walk-in shower, as there is a huge bath in our en suite, but we thought having a bath as well would be a good selling point if we decided to move house later,’ explains Emma.

Not wanting the family bathroom to be a carbon copy of the en suite with its sandstone tiles and pale earthy tones, Martina came up with a design that included dark grey furniture combined with white and grey tiles. Underfloor heating was installed under the practical non-slip floor tiles, and a sizeable heated towel rail set into a recess means there are no excuses for teenagers leaving wet towels on the floor. For decorative impact and to prevent the room looking cold and austere, she also included shimmering panels of contrasting mosaic tiles in graphite tones. Continuing with this cool, contemporary theme, Emma added lilac accessories to appeal to the girls and soften the overall effect, including a plain blind at the window.

Niches for toiletries and trendy LED lighting help this family space to appeal to all of the Vale children and provide plenty of necessary storage. The shower is ideal for the morning rush when a quick turn around is essential, and the girls enjoy soaking in the bath in the evenings.

‘Both rooms were completed within 10 weeks, and the new space not only looks amazing but is very practical, too,’ says Emma. ‘It’s easy for the kids to clear up after themselves, and a doddle for me to clean as well.’


The costs

Shower brassware£2,238
Bespoke shower screens£1,274
Bath and basin taps£978
Wet floor and tanking£652