Rita and Jim Valdez chose a combination of bespoke furnishings and bold tiles when they redesigned their teenage sons’ bathroom.
The owners: Rita Valdez (right), who is a full-time mum, and her husband Jim, a lawyer, live here with their children Sam, 14, Kai, 11 and Ryan, five
We’ve taken quite a journey with our home, and you could say that it’s undergone a huge transformation since we first moved in,’ recalls Rita. ‘Initially we bought two maisonettes on the ground and lower levels of a large Victorian building, bringing them together to form one home. We had always wanted to buy the flat above us and began a five-year negotiation with the owner. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and we were close to giving up and walking away when, suddenly, a sale was agreed in June 2011.’
Although the couple had refurbished their existing home, they had ambitious plans to amalgamate the flat with their maisonette to create one property.
‘Rather than rushing into a massive renovation programme, we chose to take a year to get a design team on board and to rethink the whole layout,’ Rita explains. ‘At some point in its history, this would have been a large family home, which had later been subdivided into separate dwellings. It was important to reconnect the spaces, but we wanted a layout that would suit our lifestyle.’
The couple met up with architects and designers, searching for the combination of skills that could bring their plans to fruition. ‘I was looking for a designer who was conscientious but also creative,’ explains Rita. A friend who had recently had her home renovated recommended Claire Nelson of Nelson Design. ‘I loved what Claire had done with my friend’s house, and she impressed me with her suggestions for a new layout and how to approach such a big project cost-effectively.’
Living in a Conservation Area of west London, the couple hired the Development and Planning Services department of estate agent Savills to liaise with the conservation department of their local authority, which was involved with the building work from the outset. ‘Savills helped obtain permission for the renovation work and enabled us to move forward with all the plans we had,’ explains Rita.
When Nelson Design took the reins of the project and moved in with the team of builders in January 2012, the family relocated to a nearby rented property. ‘The maisonettes and the flat above were completely gutted back to a shell, so you could look up from ground level and see right to the top of the building,’ recalls Rita. ‘The major work took 11 months in total and Broseley, our builders, did a fantastic job with all the major construction work that was involved.’
With the structural work done, the family moved back into their newly remodelled home during November 2012, and the project was finally completed in April 2013. Nelson Design progressed with the interior design, liaising with Rita on each room in the house, including her eldest sons’ space.
‘They wanted the independence of having a floor to themselves and chose the two bedrooms at the top of the house,’ says Rita. ‘They were both involved in deciding the themes for their respective bedrooms, but I took charge of their shared bathroom.’
Dated and uninviting, the old bathroom was not a pleasant environment, with cork tiles on the floor and faded white tiles on the walls. ‘The only thing it had going for it was the fact it was a very large space,’ says Rita. ‘There was no shower, which is an essential addition in a teenage boys’ bathroom, but there was plenty of room for a double basin, which allowed them to have their own areas.’
As the size of the bathroom was more than adequate, no major structural work was required, although Rita decided to remove the covered roof storage area in the ceiling, raising the ceiling height by another metre. ‘I liked the idea of a very open room,’ says Rita. ‘We also included underfloor heating to ensure that the bathroom always felt cosy.’
With Claire’s help, Rita chose the sanitaryware and accessories, taking great care not to opt for a childish scheme that her sons would quickly outgrow.
‘The colour I have running through my house is grey, and I included that in the bathroom, using soft grey bath panelling and countertops, with a matching splashback behind the twin basins,’ says Rita. ‘I see the bath as more of an indulgence, whereas the inclusion of a shower was a necessity. Both my boys play sports at school, and showers are not only quicker, but also more efficient with water.’
To reflect the boys’ street-style bedrooms, Rita included masculine-style lights either side of the mirror to inject a subtle industrial element to the bathroom. ‘The boys have a skateboard theme to their bedrooms, with concrete-style flooring, so I wanted the bathroom to pick up subtly on that feel. I spent a lot of time researching, getting involved and visiting stores. Claire would show me up to 20 alternative products and we narrowed them down and made a decision together,’ says Rita. ‘I kept to a budget so that the bathroom costings didn’t run away from me, and always tried to steer clear of anything that was hugely extravagant.’