Bathroom makeover: ‘We swapped rooms for a family-friendly space’

Fed up with a small bathroom, Laura Harris turned an under-used bedroom into a modern, spacious washroom, complete with ample storage

Buying a renovation project can be a great way to upgrade to a larger property. And that’s exactly what Laura and Graham Harris did when they moved into their semi-detached, Berkshire home, with their daughters, Jess and Katy.

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Good idea! The couple fitted a simple, summer heating kit to a radiator so that everyone can enjoy fresh, dry towels even when the heating is turned off
Good idea! The couple fitted a simple, summer heating kit to a radiator so that everyone can enjoy fresh, dry towels even when the heating is turned off

‘As well as requiring a serious update, the house had four bedrooms, but just one cramped bathroom and I think this deterred a lot of buyers,’ says Laura. But the couple were convinced they could re-work the upstairs layout to create a more usable space.

Unfortunately, with more pressing renovations a priority, it was to be another two years before the couple could finally put their plan into action. The delay gave them plenty of time to ensure their idea of moving the bathroom into a bigger room was the right thing to do.

Laura was determined to keep the room’s original fireplace, while the addition of a vintage stool provides a handy spot to store clothes and magazines
Laura was determined to keep the room’s original fireplace, while the addition of a vintage stool provides a handy spot to store clothes and magazines

‘In the end, years of squeezing four of us into a bathroom with no separate shower outweighed any objections to losing a large but rarely used room,’ says Laura. Plus, the old bathroom would become a reasonable-sized office and bedroom, resulting in a more family-friendly, but still four-bedroom, home.

Laura wisely teamed her fixed overhead shower with a secondary hand-held model to ensure the enclosure can be easily washed down – an idea she repeated for the bath
Laura wisely teamed her fixed overhead shower with a secondary hand-held model to ensure the enclosure can be easily washed down – an idea she repeated for the bath

Luckily, the bedroom earmarked for conversion was right next to the original bathroom, so re-routing pipework and connecting to external wastes proved straightforward.

‘We decided to replace a rather draughty sash window with a warmer, double-glazed alternative and re-plaster throughout,’ recalls Laura.

The bath has been cleverly tied into the new scheme using ready-made panels finished in the same smart grey paint as the Shaker-style fitted units
The bath has been cleverly tied into the new scheme using ready-made panels finished in the same smart grey paint as the Shaker-style fitted units

The couple also took the decision to the keep the original fireplace that was in the room and Laura spent many hours stripping and polishing it. ‘Quite a few people suggested we remove it, but even though we had to work around it for our fixtures and fittings, I think it was worth the effort, as it adds real character to the room,’ says Laura.

A collection of holiday souvenirs and second-hand finds add a personal touch to this much-used room
A collection of holiday souvenirs and second-hand finds add a personal touch to this much-used room

While a generous bath, separate shower and plenty of storage were top of the couple’s wish list, Laura was also adamant the new room needed to be both stylish and as maintenance-free as possible.

‘It took ages to clean the old bathroom so, after speaking to a designer at our local Bathstore, we agreed that teaming streamlined, fitted units with a large, sleek shower enclosure and a panelled bath was the best option,’ she explains.

Laura chose fitted units that not only offered plenty of storage and display space, but also allowed for the toilet cistern to be seamlessly integrated
Laura chose fitted units that not only offered plenty of storage and display space, but also allowed for the toilet cistern to be seamlessly integrated

It’s a look that, although modern, works well in this Victorian home, thanks to the couple’s choice of timeless Shaker units and a fresh blue, grey and white scheme. ‘The classic, glossy-blue, brick tiles were chosen to add warmth and light, while easy-clean, wood-effect vinyl flooring offers a nod to the period floorboards still found in other parts of the house,’ says Laura.

Good idea! Practical, low-maintenance cushioned vinyl will prove softer and warmer underfoot than tiles and is an effective and easy way to replicate the look of real wood.
Good idea! Practical, low-maintenance cushioned vinyl will prove softer and warmer underfoot than tiles and is an effective and easy
way to replicate the look of real wood.

The couple wisely chose a fitter they had worked with before and he was happy to help when they decided to make a few changes to the initial design.

‘You’d think we’d have ample storage with all those units, but I couldn’t resist building an extra shelf behind the basin and adding handy storage niches within the stud walls for all our toiletries!’ laughs Laura.

Moving rooms enabled Laura and Graham to install a shower enclosure, while the addition of a vanity unit with generous storage, mirror and plenty of work-surface, has also proved a winning combination in this busy family bathroom
Moving rooms enabled Laura and Graham to install a shower enclosure, while the addition of a vanity unit with generous storage, mirror and plenty of work-surface, has also proved a winning combination in this busy family bathroom

Their growing confidence also resulted in the basin being switched at the last minute for a larger, more family-friendly, £47 sale bargain. Now that the room swap is finished, Laura couldn’t be happier. ‘I definitely don’t regret our decision to change rooms, as we all love the extra space and having a shower. Plus the girls now use the smaller spare room for sleepovers and homework, so we no longer have rooms going to waste!’

Shop the look 

Walls in Loft White Intelligent matt emulsion, £51.50 per 2.5L, Little Greene. Portfolio Classic fitted bathroom furniture in Thistle with solid surface worktops, £1,612.80; Portfolio Classic bath panels, from £170; Thermostatic deck-mounted dual-function bath and shower valve, £190; Metro shower handset kits, £75 each; Piano 250 round shower head with wall arm, £120; Round thermostatic three outlet shower valve, £290; Madeira single-ended straight bath, from £145; 1,400 x 900 Everstone shower tray, £320; Glasshouse shower door, £645; side panel, £395; Soho back-to-wall toilet, £150; Portfolio aluminium mirror, £150; Scuro radiator in Grey, from £120; Summer heating kit, from £50, all Bathstore. Tre Mercati Charleston mono basin mixer with pop-up waste, £115.45; Lloyd Pascal Bamboo Maze duckboard, £29.95, both Victorian Plumbing. Prismatics gloss tiles in Harebell, from £25.99 per sq m, Johnson Tiles. Camargue cushioned vinyl flooring, £22 per sq m, Leoline. Milano Windsor traditional triple-column radiator, £99.95, Best Heating. Wall-mounted extending bathroom mirror, £99; Croft Collection cotton knitted basket, £22, both John Lewis & Partners. Diamond Geo towels, from £6; Plain Egyptian cotton towels, from £5, both Next. Havern bath rack, £9; Flådis wicker belly basket, £13, both IKEA. Vintage bench, £35; Vintage-effect mirror, £30, both eBay. Wooden body brush, £2.99, Tesco. 

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This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?