Soap Suds & rennovation – The Halfway point in our bathroom makeover

January 23, 2014

Black white monochrome bathroom

We are just over the halfway point of our bathrooms makeover with only the flooring left to do so I thought I would share some of my thoughts along the way. Bathrooms are one of the hardest spaces to style, they have a very particular, expected and often pedestrian finished look. From luxury to boutique hotel, stark and modern via rustic and Manhattan loft, no overall bathroom look captured my imagination. Our bathroom is pretty tiny (certainly in comparison to the footfall of the flat) and as there was no overriding look that grabbed me I was quite loathed to fork out much of our precious resources on making it over! In some ways we were very lucky as we inherited an almost completely white space with a nice sink and only slightly horrible beige flooring!

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One of the very first things I did upon moving in was to address the sink area and make a feature out of the sink itself which I actually rather liked. The under sink storage unit was a particularly cheap looking walnut veneer. However, our laundry basket fitted perfectly underneath it and the storage inside the drawer was actually pretty decent so I decided to simply paint over it with a pastel shade I really like – Farrow and Ball’s Pale Hound. Having already painted kitchen cupboards in our last flat I knew that this would be a simple job using melamine primer followed by either eggshell (though floor-paint is better advised in kitchens) with a gloss roller. There was a ubiquitous cheap and uninspired mirror above the sink which I replaced with a ship style slightly deco round mirror that we had had in our previous flat and I bought a £4 scissor shaving mirror from IKEA to compliment the thirties feel of it.

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In a small space such as our bathroom, I thought it was important to make the big details work. So, the first thing I actually purchased for our new bathroom was the shower curtain since it takes up so much of the eyes view in this small room. There are so many lovely curtains on the market these days but I found one that was absolutely perfect in America by vintage inspired company Izola which had a sweet apothecary print. I managed to track it down in the UK from Design 55 via notonthehighstreet, I believe it is more commonly available now. It was a little pricey at £35 but well worth it to screen off the least pleasing area of the bathroom. I bought vintage style curtain rings from the same company, pulled the curtain to hide some of the woven style white tiling and simply forgot about the bathroom for many, many months!

Monochrome bathrrom

This was fine for a while, we had enough things that had freshened up the space to distract from its lack of coherence and as bathrooms are one of the great decoration money pits I thought for a long time about how to replace the furniture and tiles. After much thought, I decided that with so much left to do in the flat a bathroom re-fit wasn’t going to be the priority. So it became more a question of how to work with what we had. My good friend Lucy has a very small downstairs bathroom in the basement of her very fabulous Georgian house which is painted in a very dark heritage blue. This really messed with my acceptance of the logic that small rooms need light paint to increase the perception of space as it really worked in the smaller area. I was really wowed by the depth this blue lent to the space so I tried out a couple of blues on the wall of my own bathroom but none of them drew me into them so I wondered about painting the walls even darker – perhaps even drastic black. Two of the walls are already tiled with white so it would only be fifty percent of the space that was darkened and as I have always been really drawn to monochrome spaces I started to look around for monochrome bathroom inspirations. This one from Pinterest (above) was my very favourite, it is bold, sleek and accented by colour pops of fun.


With the start of a new year and thoughts of home redecoration, renovation and reorganisation, I bought Farrow & Ball’s Railings on a whim crossing my fingers and hoping that this wasn’t going to be a giant mistake. To my almost-surprise I was in love with the effect of the black, it is almost jewel like and feels infinite making the space seem somehow wider and a lot more sophisticated. I styled the walls with a knock-off version of a very expensive £700 industrial mirror with a smaller version picked up for under £20 at Next Home. I wrote a piece on my favorite wallpapers some months ago and found a purpose for my much loved Columbia Rd design by Custhom framing these samples (above). The yellow in the design really popped out against the monochrome accents of the room and as I have a bit of a thing for yellow used sparingly I bought some inexpensive yellow chevron and morroccan patterned towels from H&M home to complement it.

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Now the bath surround looked hideous in its out dated and tired not quite white shade.  So, I painted it with the leftover Pale Hound eggshell used on the sink (taking the opportunity to coat the sink unit again to freshen it up). I absolutely love the power of paint to achieve dramatic transformations with relatively little expenditure of time or income, even the undercoat can make something tired look bright and fresh. Cats input as sink dwelling voyeur optional extra.

Before and after painting bathroom furniture with Farrow & Ball pale Hound Eggshell

To Dan’s immense boredom, I am a tester pot spendthrift and will buy at least 10 varieties before I opt for the exact shade I want in any given room. They are usually Farrow & Ball as its so readily available and slightly cheaper than other heritage brands. Still the cost adds up and I have a veritable colour chart of potted hues in the cupboard under the stairs. I often find paint colour looks far darker on walls than on charts, even if you take the extreme measure of cutting them away from their white borders as I do and sticking them to the wall. However, they also always look several shades lighter on wood, so several found the perfect re-purposing as colour choices for the awful mounding wicker baskets we had inherited as wall storage in the bathroom. Painting wicker is not the easiest surface, especially when it is slightly old and softening but several hours and a few coats of acrylic varnish later there was no longer an eyesore that linked the beige bath with the beige floor with the beige baskets!

Wicker storage baskets bathroom - painted pastel tester pots

I have had a clear out of bathroom clutter (putting the hundreds of beauty samples I appear to have amassed in a jar on the sink to encourage myself to use them!) this means I now have space for ornaments on the bathroom shelf, hooray! In an attempt not to re-clutter the space I have edited it down to these three objects, but if I buy a bottle of Acqua di Parma this summer the gorgeous yellow box it comes packaged in would look perfect as a further yellow colour pop in the setting. I have also bought a stunningly packaged Portuguese toothpaste that is now on permanent display on the wall next to the sink. But that is soon to feature in a design crush so I won’t reveal here… I am also contemplating a display of vintage hand vanity mirrors on this wall, after seeing several very effective uses of the them in bathrooms.

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Now, we have just two things left. Firstly the floor which will probably make the biggest change to the space. I have ordered samples and was considering this gorgeous black and white tile design (below). However, I think it will be too busy and possibly overpowering on the small floor space so I am opting for the simpler white hexagonal tiles (below, again) set between black grout, both are from wallsandfloors.

black-and-white-hexagon-matt-mosaic-floor-tilewhite hexagon floor tiles

Finally I have a small craft project in my sights for the light pull. I am hoping to drill a hole in one of these vintage animal figurines from my childhood (below) paint white and attach as a light pull to the cord of the bathroom light. All in all I think we will have decorated the bathroom for less than £500 (with the tiles taking the majority of this) which is pleasing enough to wash the soup out of anybodies eyes!

Schleich Style Animal Figurines - elephant, horses, hippo, wild boar