Victorian-style bathroom

Enlisting the help of a design team, Sarah and Omar Al-Nuaimi maximised the space in their bathroom and completed the project with a Victorian-style bathroom suite and fittings.

Feeling uninspired by the initial plans for a new bathroom, Sarah and Omar Al-Nuaimi chose a new design team to create their dream space.

Fact file

The owners: Sarah Al-Nuaimi, a former employment lawyer and now a full-time mum, and her husband Omar, who is a banking lawyer, live here with their children, Max, six and Laila, four.


We’d had our eye on this house for some time before it came on to the market, because our friends already lived next door,’ recalls Sarah. ‘They told us that the owners might be selling up as they were planning to build a modern new home for their retirement, and after admiring the architecture of the house from outside, we knew that it would be perfect for us.’

Sarah and her husband Omar were already living on the outskirts of the pretty Monmouthshire village of Shirenewton, but they wanted to move closer to the centre. ‘We also liked the idea of taking on a project as we planned to make our next property our “forever home”,’ says Sarah. ‘As soon as the house came up for sale, we moved quickly to buy it.’ Their bid wasn’t the only offer for the property, but the owners were keen to sell to a family. ‘We were therefore thrilled when they chose our offer over the other one, even though we hadn’t yet sold our own home,’ Sarah adds.

The 19th-century former rectory was generally in good condition, although it was in need of some modernisation. Sarah and Omar planned to make the changes over a period of time, gradually updating each of the main rooms. Once they had finished redecorating the living room and laying solid oak flooring throughout the downstairs space, they turned their attention to the family bathroom and an adjoining shower room.

‘The bathroom had a large hot water tank, which took up a great deal of space,’ recalls Sarah. ‘There was also a bath but there wasn’t enough room for a shower, and the fittings were very dated, with thick lino on the floor, yellow and mint-green wallpaper and floor-to-ceiling tiles.’

There was a long, narrow shower room in the adjoining space, which the couple planned to turn into an en suite for a guest bedroom; they also wanted to relocate the hot water tank to this room to give them more space in the family bathroom.

As Sarah and Omar had a reasonably clear idea of what they wanted, they approached a bathroom supplier to come up with a more detailed design. ‘But they didn’t really offer us any suggestions and simply went along with our ideas for the layout,’ recalls Sarah. ‘I had to find a company that would fit the new bathroom for us, and it was during my research that design-and-build team Project One Wales was recommended to us.’

As the couple were not entirely happy with the initial design, they thought it would be worth contacting Project One Wales to see if it had any alternative solutions for the space. Designers Dorian and Babette Bowen arranged to visit Sarah and Omar. ‘The difference in the two bathroom companies was instantly clear to us,’ says Sarah. ‘They came up with so many exciting ideas for the space that we felt incredibly inspired after our first meeting with them.’

‘We wanted to design a bathroom that reflected Sarah and Omar’s personalities,’ explains designer Dorian. ‘For the budget they had allocated for the work, they deserved a more individual space than the design put forward by the first company.’

With Dorian and Babette involved in the entire project – from the initial layout planning to researching fixtures and fittings and overseeing the building work – Sarah and Omar were more than happy to put their trust in the two designers. As the couple wanted a large shower in the family bathroom, Dorian suggested recessing the cubicle into the adjoining new en suite. ‘We were redesigning this space at the same time to turn it into a guest en suite, as well as moving the hot water tank in there, so it was a great idea to steal some space from that room,’ says Sarah.

Sarah and Omar wanted a Victorian feel in the redesigned bathroom, with elegant panelling and a roll-top bath, but they were also keen to include some contemporary touches. ‘As this is a north-facing room, we had to ensure our colour scheme didn’t make the space look too cold,’ explains Sarah. ‘We chose grey because it’s a very on-trend colour, but we went for quite a dark shade so that it would add some warmth.’

When Project One Wales’ build team arrived to strip out the old bathroom, they sealed off the entire area to minimise the dust, plus they kept the couple briefed about what was planned for each day. Four days into the project, the family went away on a two-week holiday to escape all the building work, but Dorian emailed them on a regular basis with photos and updates on its progress.

The wall between the family bathroom and the new en suite was knocked through and rebuilt to include the recessed area for the shower cubicle. The old floor was taken up and some of the joists were built up to create a level floor. All the pipework for the hot water tank was moved, the electrics were updated, the walls were re-plastered and reproduction cornicing was installed.

‘Dorian did a great deal of research for the fixtures and fittings to ensure we achieved our dream look within budget,’ says Sarah. ‘I was very impressed by his incredible attention to detail. While we were on holiday he came on site to see how the wood panelling looked, but he felt it wasn’t the right height for the proportions of the room. He decided that it needed to be taken down and re-made, but this time 20cm higher.’

The finished panelling has built-in niches for storage, while to the left of the basin one of the raised panels is actually the front of a concealed cupboard that houses all the children’s bath toys. ‘Although the idea was to create a luxury, grown-up feel, it also had to work for two young children,’ explains Sarah.

One of the most striking features of the new bathroom is the flooring, which was sourced by Dorian and Babette. Although it looks like traditional wood marquetry, it is made up of non-slip ceramic tiles, which makes it a very practical choice for this family space.

‘Our friends are amazed at how this bathroom was transformed in just five weeks,’ says Sarah. ‘It’s the first room in the house that I show off to guests. It works so well – there’s plenty of space for us all to get ready in the morning, while in the evening it has quite a calming feel, which is great for the children’s evening bathtime routine before bed.

‘I’m so glad that we didn’t go ahead with the first bathroom design,’ she continues. ‘By putting our trust in Dorian and Babette, we now have an incredible space that has the wow-factor we had been looking for.’

The costs

Building work£7,000
Fixtures and fittings£3,000
Bathroom design£2,000
Project Management£2,000