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Our bathroom transformation – from Victorian water closet to modern family bathroom

We’ve always been so unlucky with our bathrooms. In our little old London flat, we had a tiny windowless L-shaped bathroom with just enough space for a bath, small sink and loo squeezed in. But I’m not exaggerating when I say; you pretty much had to keep the door open while using it to avoid feeling like you were trapped in a prison cell. So, when we planned our big move out to the country, we dreamed of having a big luxurious family bathroom that actually worked for our growing brood.

Sadly, when we found our dream home – this Victorian tile-hung beauty that we moved into just over a year ago – the bathroom that we inherited was even smaller than our tiny London one (albeit, at least it had a window this time). You see, being a Victorian house, it wasn’t built with a bathroom in mind, with its first owners likely making do with an outhouse in the garden.

Al fresco bathing

So, when the bathroom was eventually added to the floorplan about 70 years ago, it was a complete afterthought, wedged into the corner of the landing as a purely functional space. Completely impractical for modern lifestyles (and bath time with two babies)…

But we knew that with a little imagination (and a lot of rejigging of walls and a staircase) we could create the modern family bathroom that this house so desperately needed. So, while we were having a small extension done downstairs, we set to work knocking down and rebuilding walls, installing a whole new plumbing system, and creating a new, bigger space that we could turn into a proper family bathroom.

Keep scrolling to see how we did it!



New family bathroom - Tabula Ice Tile

Our first priority was choosing the right tiles. We knew that we wanted a clean white look in the bathroom, but rather than just have plain white walls throughout, we decided to make a big statement wall on one side of the room to add some texture.

After looking literally everywhere online, Rosie fell in love with these rectangular tiles from Topps Tiles (the Artisau gloss white tile) which are designed to look handmade with an uneven structure and bumpy finish. And rather than go for a standard horizontal look, we tiled the wall and shower surround from floor to ceiling in herringbone style – a kind of diagonal criss-cross formation – to give it all a little something extra (the tiler hated us but it was totally worth it).

New family bathroom - Artisau gloss white tile herringbone style
New family bathroom - Trafalgar Traditional Shower Package

Next up, for the flooring we loved the idea of a wooden floor but wanted something more durable, less absorbent and easier to clean. So again we went with Topps Tiles and got their Tabula Ice tile which replicates the texture and grain of real wood (a kind of limed oak look) but in a porcelain tile. And since we were re-doing the whole room from scratch, we also got a small amount of underfloor heating too (surprisingly good value) to take the edge off on those cold winter nights, which runs in a line under the tiles from the door to the loo.

New family bathroom - IKEA side table and Tabula Ice Tile

With the walls and flooring done, it was time to start filling the room. So, we made the most of the sales that seem to be on all year round at bathroom retailers, and ordered our suite from a few different places.

We always loved the look of a roll top bath but never had the space…until now! So we treated ourselves to this one from the Bathstore – called the Cambridge bath – with traditional black cast iron feet (black and white was a theme we decided to run with throughout the bathroom).

Roll top bath
Rosie handmade the curtains herself!

And to finish it off, we chose this lovely tap contraption with separate shower head (also from the Bathstore) which we thought was in keeping with the other Victorian period features of the house, offsetting the original leaded windows behind.

New family bathroom - Bensham bath shower mixer

For the loo, we loved the style of the original commode that was in the bathroom – one of those old chain pull ones with the cistern up at head height – but it was way beyond its best so had to go (although we kept the antique chain which now is the light pull in the downstairs loo). We ended up going for a similar style loo – this Savoy Edwardian WC – fit with a black wooden seat.

The towel rail took us ages to find, as most of the ones on sale are really small and would never accommodate all the towels of everyone in the family. So we were really pleased to find this extra-large, extra-tall wall mounted rail from Victorian Plumbing, which can comfortably fit five towels without looking silly. Such a find!

New family bathroom - WC and towel rail

Now, because we’d put so much effort into our big statement herringbone tiled wall, we wanted the shower to be as inconspicuous as possible (harder to do than you might think). But we eventually found one from a maker called Cassellie, which was basically all glass, with the minimum of chrome attachments to distract the eye, so it just blends into the background and doesn’t make the room feel smaller than it is.

Combining this with a lovely set of Victorian style shower accessories (the Trafalgar Traditional Shower Package from Victorian Plumbing), I love how this corner of the room has turned out. I’m a total shower man (Rosie’s all about the bath) so this is very much my area of the family bathroom.

New family bathroom - Cassellie shower enclosure

Similarly for the basin, we didn’t want a big bulky unit that would detract from the tiled wall, so we chose the large Burlington Edwardian basin and accompanying chrome wash stand, so you can still see the tiles in all their glory.

But perhaps my favourite item in the room, has to be our huge antique pharmacy cabinet, which we found in an online auction (a website called The Saleroom, which is amazing if you don’t know it). Because Rosie’s a bit of a clean freak (by a bit, I mean a lot), she didn’t want all of our toiletries on show all the time, so this huge cabinet has been amazing, and fits so much stuff. We had to have the wall reinforced to make sure it could support the weight of the thing, but it was totally worth it.

New family bathroom - pharmacy cabinet contents

So there we have it. Our new modern family bathroom, suitable for babies, toddlers and parents to bathe in at the same time!

New family bathroom - toy basket

I hope you’ve enjoyed having a nosey around our family bathroom and keep your eyes peeled for the next house renovation update coming soon!

*DISCLAIMER – we bought everything ourselves in the sales last year, but got a small press discount on the tiles!*


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