Downstairs Bathroom ‘Get the Look’

Bathing beauty

Bathing beauty

The last time I did a ‘get the look’ post I got a lot of love for it. Like I said before, I AM a journalist so research is in my DNA. Its one of the things I love about renovating (and oddly one of the things that other people cite as the reason they don’t do it – “who has the time to look for tiles blah blah”)

Its where other blogs are invaluable too as blogging is a way for those of us who love searching down bargains and unique ways to decorate to share our wisdom. And I often wonder what would I choose for my homes if I could choose anything. Where would I start if money were no object. For me the starting point of any room is usually based around some money saving necessity and I take it from there usually via Ebay!

In the case of my downstairs bathroom the bath was the thing that had to stay. It was in the room when we moved in but had slime and quite possibly an ecosystem living in it. There were vines and creepers growing through the window of this room and it had a concrete floor and falling down walls.

A hot water tank. Which means - HOT water!

A hot water tank. Which means – HOT water!

This picture above was how it looked AFTER we’d cleaned it up a lot. But thanks to a lack of funds, Peter decided that the bath had to stay. And I rather liked its little metal feet so I said OK. And as you can see – the floor had been accessorised with a rather nice piece of cardboard that we had to step on so floor tiles were needed asap. So we visited B&Q near our house in London and found some slate tiles a bit like this that were on sale. So for only about Β£100 we had enough to cover our floor and do a skirting board in them too.

Colours Excellence Pack of 5 Black Slate Wall & Floor Tiles (L)300 x (W)300mm

B&Q slate floor tile

Most places do slate tiles like this. And I love the look. I could have spent more and got these ones from Topps Tiles

Or really blown the budget and gone to Fired Earth who do these brilliant rectangular tiles which I think give a lovely country feel. In fact am now wishing I’d pushed the budget a bit. Maybe when its time to re-renovate and I’ve turned this blog into a moneyspinning enterprise with my own TV show I can make Fired Earth rather than B&Q my home.

And on our walls we went for Cornforth White by Farrow and Ball – I can’t even remember how or why we got to this colour but it may have involved my friend and colleague Oonagh who knows every F&B colour by heart. I suspect some nights she dreams of Farrow and Ball. Her alltime fave BTW is Light Blue which isn’t really blue at all but grey. But maybe she suggested Cornforth to go with the slate – either way it works and I am really happy with it.

Cornforth White

Farrow and Ball Cornforth White

The bathroom suite itself (and I use the word suite loosely as the dodgy old iron bath was staying, all I needed was a loo and a sink) came from a local bathroom centre in Greenwich. Well, Charlton technically. Lets go for West Charlton. Its called Gem Discount Bathrooms and sells pretty much any type of bathroom you would want but the ones you can get for really knock down prices are the ‘traditional’ look ranges. Everyone does them and they are always on sale because no one likes them anymore. Or at least they don’t like them in their wipe clean, modern, limestone tiled London bathrooms. (And I don’t really either though I did just do up my bathroom at home and went for something in between)

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My new London bathroom!

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More London en suite bathroom

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Savoy toilet from Bathstore.com

Anyway I digress…. Victorian style bathrooms feature on most people’s sites and are often on sale. Ones I love include this bathstore.com old school cistern at the top loo.

It is part of their Savoy range which looks like this. Perfect for French Country homes. Or English Country Homes I suppose. But maybe not in downtown Dalston!

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Winchester Suite from Victoria Plumb

bathstoresavoyOr Victoria Plumb often have things on sale. This bathroom suite is currently only Β£168 for the loo and sink!

And after that I just added things found at Vide Greniers. A lovely vintage picture which remains one of my fave ever finds. A storage cupboard from a local brocante (which Peter had to tie to top of car and drive home).

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Moustache mat from Primark

But my favourite recent addition is my moustache bathmat from Primark (who FYI do some great bits and pieces of homeware!) Ta da! And only Β£6 I think. Bargain.

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The smallest room in the house

I haven’t shown you around our top floor yet. Largely because it is derelict. Or it was. We had been so busy doing up the bits of the house we needed to use that we left the third and top, attic floor well alone. Our cleaner, Madame Landauer refuses to go up there on the grounds that it makes her Peur (scared) – she is convinced there are bats living there or worse (can’t think what would be worse than bats really – lions? Crocodiles?)
But we had by now bought an enormous chandelier to light our way up there. It is made up of hundreds of wine glasses which seemed rather appropriate for our French home. Though ironically, it came from a danish website whose name I just can’t remember. But if you google ‘wine glass chandelier‘ they come up I think. It is a grand hallway to a shabby set of rooms.

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The two attic rooms in my mind will one day be a dorm for loads of kids and the other a lovely master suite with roll top bath in middle of the room but for now they look like this…

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And in between them was a horrid little room with the ceiling falling down and damp rot everywhere….

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We desperately needed another loo – so that while one person showered the other, up to, 13 people didn’t have to cross their legs! And this bathroom could be used by all sleeping on the second floor in it’s various interconnecting bedrooms.

So we decided to make our rotting, top floor hovel, middle room a bathroom. with a curved, walk in shower, a loo and the original sink, salvaged. We plastered, we painted and we caulked. Peter replaced the ceiling and the floor and then we tiled and we painted some more. And we drove our floor tiles all the way from here as I’d found them on the Topps Tiles website and had nowhere in London that they would work but in France? Somehow ok. They are the Henley range and I love them.

So here is our top floor bathroom now! Jolie non?

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Renovation recap

So where are we at with this house? We’re having people to stay so it must be quite close to being done right? Well. Here is the thing. Bits of it look nice. The bits I’ve shown you. The kitchen, one bathroom, two and a half bedrooms and the barn now has a floor. (Mr Landauer the gardner came with gallons of cement, tonnes of gravel and excitingly for the male members of the house – a digger/tractor thing *technical term)

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Le Tracteur thingy

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First put down ten tonnes of gravel

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Then pour on gallons of concrete…

And we have a table tennis table, swingball (another great 80s throwback – Pete and i dress up as John Lloyd and Chris Evert while playing for authentic feel) and a massive hammock for the garden. But inside? There is A LOT still to be done. And when friends come to visit we feel bad making them holiday and DIY, so work slows down. And if we have friends to stay then we feel bad going off and painting or plumbing, with a casual ‘help yourself to a slice of Brie’ so work slows down. So I must at this point thank Stuart for his Herculean efforts while technically ‘on holiday’ as he did spend an entire day, with Peter painting the ceiling in one of our dingiest rooms. And to our friend Mr Candy for his mini-break with Peter to install top floor windows in the early days. It was, and is, MUCH appreciated. And now that bits of the house are habitable, Peter can’t really justify heading over alone (or with Mr Candy) to ‘make essential advances in wiring’. So things have slowed. Considerably. And as this blog is being written in the past I thought it might be good to have a recap. Its roughly May 2011 and here is where we are at…

ROOMS THAT ARE FINISHED AND LOOK NICE

1.kitchen

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Vic began to wonder if her lamp choice made her a basket case?

2. Downstairs bathroom

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Wouldn’t you just die without the Metro tile?

3. Master Bedroom

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It was time to clear out the dead wood

4.boys bedroom

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La Carte SVP

5. Upstairs hallway

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ROOMS THAT STILL NEED A LOT OF LOVE
1. The top floor!

On our top floor are two massive attic rooms. My goal is to make one a master suite with freestanding bath. The other is to become a ‘dorm’ for our younger guests. But right now they both look like this

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Nice for bats!

2.The entrance hall

Not exactly Southfork is it? This is first thing you see if you enter via the enormous front door. Pete has done some plastering and some painting but there is still quite a bit of work needed.

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3.The downstairs bedroom

This is going to be a guest room. It has the finished bathroom attached to it and at the moment you have to walk through this to get to the bathroom. Note it DOES have a radiator. Not quite hooked up yet. I might let Pete explain the heating to you all – it is beyond me! This room once had a loo in the corner of it so at least that has gone to the dechetterie (french for tip) and it has had a coat of white paint by this stage – it WAS worse than this at one point!

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Its all white really

4. The grand ‘salon’

We rather pretentiously refer to this room as the ‘salon’ because sitting room just doesnt seem right. It is huge. It is grand. And one day it will be a salon. But right now it looks like this…. we did around this time have Mr Landauer come in and concrete the floor so we could at least walk through here without stepping on a mouse or rat or some such scurrier. But I thought I should give you the ‘basic’ picture.

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Its all gone a bit ‘kings speech’

5.The worst room in the world (indeterminate eventual usage)

Look at this! Truly the ugliest, dirtiest room in the world. This is pretty much the worst room we had to contend with with a horrid huge water tank that took hours of sawing and yanking just to get it off the wall. And incredibly when we first visited the house this is the only sink we had and we used to USE it! But reader – this room will in about a years time from now become awesome. Just wait!

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Cup of tea anyone?

6. The Dining Room

But not one you’d really want to eat in. All these not so nice rooms are connected to the nice rooms so even if you are sitting in the lovely kitchen having a glass of rose – if you need to wee in the lovely bathroom you have to walk through any two of the above to get there. Which is where flip flops have become essential items.

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Pink to make the boys wink

7.The Top Floor bathroom

Yep. Check this baby out? Holes in the ceiling. A bucket to collect the water that pours in up here and no floor whatsoever.

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Can I have a pee please Bob?

So thats it. Nice right? Want to come for a visit yet? Maybe leave it another few months? And see what we get up to?

I’d quite like a bathroom now please….

Who wouldn't fall in love with this?

The house that belongs to the ‘King of the Village’ but what would my mother think?

It is one thing entirely to fall in love with house with holes in the roof and a snake living in the utility room. To see beyond the rats nests and broken toilets yourself. And to then exist in a little bubble of contentment, reassuring yourself that ‘one day’ it will be a palace. It’s rather like falling in love with a boy – you love him despite his habitual refusal to close a drawer after taking something out of it, his manky Ramones t-shirt and his love of You’ve Been Framed. And so it is with a home. You see BEYOND! Mice scurrying away in the room next to your bedroom? Ah, yes that would be the ‘at one with nature’ feature! The inability to have both cooker hob AND the kitchen lights on at the same time? Cooking by candlelight – how romantic! An old tin bath and no shower. POTENTIAL! But when others enter your heavily blinkered world – you begin to see it via their eyes and suddenly you have a broken old house and a holiday that only weird intellectuals wanting to ‘test’ themselves would go on. Club Med it was not. And so it was with my parents impending visit – would they love it? Would they see it’s charm? Thank god parents don’t judge – right?

A hot water tank. Which means - HOT water!

Not the kind of en suite my mother is used to

We needed a bathroom. And we needed one fast. One that not only had a bath, a loo and a hot water tank but maybe a floor. Some tiles perhaps. I’d already optimistically purchased some Missoni towels and a bathmat – oh and a lovely Cowshed soap and handcream dispenser – optimism you see – it even says on the Cowshed website that this set is a MUST for any kitchen or bathroom!

The rotting wooden ceiling in our bathroom needed all the gaps filled and each bit painted at least three times with eggshell. Our arms grew tired from reaching up to paint and our hair, faces and clothes were permanently splattered with tell tale droplets of white paint. Our friendly local pizzeria patron (also called Serge – confusing!) grew used to us turning up in search of les pizza royale (ham and mushroom) exhausted and looking as if we were an installation in Tate Modern so indelibly splattered were we.

Got to be time for a tea break lads?

Got to be time for a tea break lads?

I think from memory – Peter must have gone again by himself and driven the actual bathroom over to France because although we salvaged the original cast iron bath, the loo and sink were bought at a discount bathroom specialist near where we live in Greenwich. Luckily for me – most people don’t want traditional looking bathroom suites any more – they want Stark toilets that hurt your bum when you sit on them because they are square and your bum is not. They want fancy open spout waterfall taps and don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff too in my London home. In fact, watch out for my spin off blog ‘we bought a wreck in south east london’. But for rural France, I needed rustique, homely and ecclectic. One of the major allures of this renovation project was that I could decorate and furnish this home with lots of things I wouldn’t have in London. I wanted it to feel a little bit countrified and traditional. I wanted wallpapers, pretty light fittings and faded antiques. So, I got myself a Victoriana bathroom suite – unwanted by London urban sophisticates – snapped up by me for a couple of hundred pounds including taps. And the tiles – well B&Q’s finest (cheapest) slate floor tiles and good old white metro tiles with dark grey grout completed my modern country theme.

progress......

progress……

When we first went to look at our house – the bathroom was DISGUSTING – like the onewhere Ewan McGregor falls down the loo in Trainspotting – only with Ivy growing on the inside. It was dark, gloomy and almost impossible to enter. But I could always imagine how it would look. And now it does. The walls we painted Cornforth White by Farrow and Ball and then we had just a few finishing touches to add. A cracked mirror and old painting were found at local Vide Grenier’s – I’m going to do a post dedicated to all the tat (interesting local artifacts!) we have bought over the years at Vide Greniers – I just need to photograph it all! Held on a Sunday they are like car boot sales but much much better – and they usually have wine at them even at 10am in the morning! And a cupboard was found in a local Brocante shop and tied to the top of our car and driven back slowly.

Time for a soak

Time for a soak

IMG00675-20110419-1428So, our bathroom was finished. We were finally able to retire that bucket! Although by the time we actually had a working toilet, the boys had got so used to peeing in the garden they were a bit loathed to go back to using sanitaryware. And you know what – I was kind of fine with that. Just not while Gran and Grandad were around!!!!

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