Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Wife of Bath(room shenanigans)

 If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know we've been putting some work in on the House of Robots. It's an old house and was ex-rental when we bought it, and we always knew lots of it needed work. Well, now we're contemplating one of the big jobs: redoing the bathroom.

To be honest, our bathroom needed replacing when we moved in about 15 years ago; there was a crack in the bottom of the bathtub and a whopping great chunk knocked out of the sink. But we had no money to replace these things, so we simply filled the holes with rubber sealant and lived with them. Now we can replace them, and you know what? I've been staggered by how much I dislike most modern bathroom options!

Half the problem was that I had a vague idea of a style I wanted, something influenced by Spain, the southwestern US/Mexico and our travels, with lots of warm, earthy colours balanced with turquoise and cobalt, and a strong 'handmade' feel. This was partly because Mr Robot really wants to keep the terracotta colour that's on the walls at present. Now, modern bathroom fittings are available in any colour as long as it's white. Boring! I thought that as a lot of older Spanish interiors feature white walls and very dark wood, the white would be just about workable if we had the right cabinets to go with it, something dark with a fairly textured, natural feel... only that was asking too much too, it would seem; flat and featureless with long handles is the norm.

So. Faced with nothing but streamlined and modern, I decided to turn my ideas upside down. If I couldn't get the look I wanted, what look could I create from what was available? Streamlined, modern... art deco, no? I dug out two of my 1930s books containing home design advice. Modern Decorative Art by Maurice SR Adams was no good. It's a great thick volume, produced in 1930 by the furniture-manufacturing firm of Maurice Adams. It's got lots of lovely plates of very high-end interiors showcasing their furniture... and not a bathroom in sight! Just a brief mention tacked onto bedrooms. However, it was clearly written for the very rich of 1930:

"Each principal bedroom probably has its own bathroom with hot and cold water supplies and shower... Appropriate luxury in bathrooms is now the vogue. The bath itself will have marble enclosure or other of similar character. The walls will be lined with marble, mosaic or glass."

I was pretty sure this was out of my price range before I reached the suggestion for a domed ceiling 'painted to resemble a clouded blue sky'! But then, what did I expect from a book that contained fold-out models of rooms aboard a yacht at the back? (If you're ever furnishing staterooms on a 1930s yacht, let me know...)

So, time to take a step downmarket - though not too far. The Bride's Book, which I think was from about 1936, always gives me the impression of something aimed at Nice Gels who suddenly found themselves married and running their own home without servants. It's got advice on everything from choosing gloves, dresses and riding habits to how to clean things and even pregnancy. This had two whole pages devoted to bathrooms - as much space as it gives to cocktails!

"Even a bathroom that is not very modern can be greatly improved if a bit of ingenuity is brought to the problem. Walls can be repainted a pale colour. A coat of black enamel on the outside of the tub, an application of black varnish to old and discoloured woodwork, and bright red curtains at the window, will help to transform such a room into a much more pleasing place."

A tad more helpful, then, but still not quite what I was hoping for. In the end, we went to spend my birthday garden centre vouchers today, and stopped off at a local department store on the way back. We found a white cabinet with louvred wooden doors, and reckon we can varnish the doors darker for more of a Spanish look. They also had a better choice of tiles than I found in a lot of the DIY places. Not quite what I was hoping for, but way better than I'd feared we were restricted to. So, it looks like I might get that Spanish-influenced bathroom I was hoping for, albeit with some compromises.

At least I didn't have to compromise on flowers...
Have you had a good weekend?

33 comments :

  1. Good luck with your bathroom!

    I quite like plain white suites as they allow for lots of possibilities and even the cheap ones don't look so cheap in white.

    I had an avocado 80s suite in this house when I first moved in 25 years ago. Prior to that we had champagne coloured one in my marital home. I always longed for a white one.

    If you get the right tiles and colours for the walls etc I'm sure you'll get the look you want despite the white suite!

    Veronica
    vronni60s.blogspot.com

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    1. That is a very good point about cheap white suites - and we're going for Wickes' budget option. The current broken set is champagne, which I really like, it's warm without being an intrusive colour.

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  2. White can be a bit boring but it does go with a lot of stuff. There is a fab wee shop in Stockbridge in Edinburgh (my old stomping ground) which stocks decorative Mexican tiles. It is not too dear and they are nice. I bought some for the risers on the back steps but I don't know if they would last outside. The shop is called Caoba and they have a website http://caoba.co.uk/edinburgh/. You would love it. I have to be practically lifted and carried out when I visit, they stock fabric as well *swoon*. I love the sound of your dream bathroom and I am sure you will know what is for you when you see it. Have you tried things like Gumtree? My brother got a 19th Century set for his place through there from someone that was modernising a house. Xx

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    1. Oh, ta for that.

      When we go to Spain later this year, we'll be spending a few days in Seville, and I plan to visit the ceramics factories there. Triana - the gypsy district over the river - is home to the potteries, so I'm hoping to get some stuff shipped to the UK from there. (We're basically on a souvenir haul, as we're hoping to get a frame for a mirror for the dining room in the marquetry workshops of Granada!)

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  3. I got a little shiver of excitement when Veronica mentioned an avocado bathroom in her comment. Oh, for a 70's bathroom. Be still my heart.

    Anyway,

    That said, I live with two white bathrooms (but our place was built in 1968 so it makes sense) that I've dressed-up with interesting stuff on the walls.

    My first apartment was in a 1920's building and the tub was like an inverted pyramid where you could sit at the top, or down a step deeper for a soak. At the very bottom you couldn't stretch out and it was like bathing in a bucket! The walls were painted a pale mint green and the mouldings were shiny black. It was all very Art Decco and streamlined, and the mirror I believe was if not original, perhaps from the 30's. The light fixtures looked like sconces. So what I'm thinking is-a modern tub would be a great improvement over the things people had at the time, but you could certainly use mirrors, lighting, and stencils to your advantage. There are a number of Dover publications that deal with Art Decco design in a general way that might give you ideas for getting creative with paint. The other thing that springs to mind is using vintage fabric to make a curtain for covering the bottom of the sink/vanity/cabinet. It was a popular trend for dressing tables (at least going by the old movies) and you could change it out easily when you feel like a new look.

    Good luck with the remodel-you'll find something you like eventually.

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    1. One of my old workmates lived in a rental place that still had a bright orange 70s bathroom. That one really was Too Much. I'm kind of surprised avocado hasn't made a comeback though.

      I *think* with what we've seen today we can get close to the style I wanted, though with paler colours.

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    2. Goody, if you ever want an avocado corner sink and toilet we'll be ripping ours out at some point!!

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  4. I'm just glad I have flush toilets here in Nepal! (Truly a luxury.)
    I built 3 houses when I lived in California, bathrooms were always the most challenging part of the build.
    Spanish/Mission/Mexican/Arts & Crafts style tiles were readily available in California, perhaps it's just not in fashion in the UK?

    calmlycookingcurry.blogspot.com

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    1. To be honest, the only reason I know about that style is because my husband's aunt and uncle lived in El Paso for some years (he ran the Phillips plant at Juarez). Most of the stuff available over here is ultra-modern and streamlined - think anonymous four-star hotel bathroom - or vaguely nodding, but not too hard, at Victoriana (eg claw-footed baths). In my head the look I want is vaguely centred on Southern Spain, which means I'm not averse to taking in ideas from Spanish-American design, or from Morocco, which had a massive influence on southern Spain. It'll all come together somehow...

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  5. Like Goody, I wouldn't mind an Avocado bathroom, and like you, we have been living in our house for many years without doing anything but a few cosmetic tweaks. In a previous life, I lived in a rented apartment with an original 1930's bathroom, which I am mourning until this day. No chance to ever replicate it here in our house, as our bathroom is tiny. Hope that you find what you're looking for in the end. Good luck!

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    1. Wow, that bathroom must have been fab!

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  6. I think with fun touches while will be nice. I dream of a pink 1950s bathroom but remodeling is not in our budget now.

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    1. I read Retro Renovation and some of the pink bathrooms they feature are amazing. But bathrooms are so expensive to redo...

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  7. I can recommend Caoba for the tiles. We bought some which we put in our fireplace. They are handmade and hand-painted and cost £1 per tile which I thought was really good. Plus I think the carriage was free. Just be aware when tiling, because they are handmade, they are not all exactly uniform. But I love them. I shall be very interested to see what look you end up with. We have a 1930s house and bought our bathroom from the Bath Store. I feel it fits in well. Mind you there was a yellow suite which I rather loved when we bought it, but my boyfriend hated it. I love pink and baby blue suites. So pretty. It's all very exciting, this house renovation business. Xxx

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    1. Yes, coloured suites are really polarising. I suppose that's the only problem with coloured suites - and so many people look at housing as a constantly-changing thing, rather than something to live with, that when they remodel they go for something easy to sell rather than something they love.

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  8. The only time I've deviated from a white bathroom was when I first moved in with Jon and his Victorian terrace had a hideous peach bathroom suite the old owners had installed during the 1980s. That soon got ripped out and replaced.
    Indian bathroom suites are invariably maroon (as are their fridges!)
    Those books sound ace. xxx

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    1. Interesting, I had no idea Indian bathrooms were maroon! I always imagined loads of marble, like Spanish hotel bathrooms.

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  9. I'm afraid I'm a sucker for white bathroom sets as the old coloured ones leave fill me with dread. We had an avocado one in the house I grew up in and nearly bought a house with a salmon pink suite, salmon pink carpet and salmon pink walls. Thankfully that one fell through! (The sale, not the bathroom!).
    I got all excited when you said you were going to do a 1930s one and was ready to go through my books to give you inspiration. However, I do think the Spanish look is very you.
    My bathroom is going to be what I would call French Art Deco chic. Lots of of black and white straight lines but with a little bit of Belle Époque influence. x

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    1. That salmon bathroom sounds like a whole lot of salmon - did it date from the 1970s, by any chance?

      Pete really didn't want to change the colour of the walls in the bathroom, and I'm really not convinced terracotta would work in an art deco colour scheme. I'm kind of resigned to the bathroom being a bit of a mishmash, and suspect it won't be my favourite room in the house.

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  10. So, so true!!! I'm old enough to have many a first hand memory of fabulous, vividly hued bathrooms (and kitchens) and am similarly put off by how few mainstream options exist on the more vibrant side of the colour spectrum.

    I think it's terrific that you're keen to keep colour alive, even if you have to compromise a bit on the styling side of things. Terra cotta sounds warm and inviting, but not entirely overpowering. I hope that you guys are able to keep creating a bathroom that you both really enjoy the look of.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. We'll get there! At worst we'll end up with one that doesn't have holes in...

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  11. My parents did a southwestern-themed remodel on their bathroom when I was in elementary school. At that point in time and in our area, it was particularly challenging to find pieces that worked with the theme. They eventually did find some authentic tile and a dark wood antique cabinet to drop their white sink into, and with some theme-appropriate decor, it works.
    What about looking around online? Seems like there must be endless options there for a southwestern/Spanish theme.

    The thought of remodeling a space is so exciting to me, but I can see how terribly frustrating it would be if you can't find the elements necessary to make reality match your dream. Good luck, and keep us posted!

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    1. Yeah, it's not such a thing over here. I'll have a good look in the ceramics factories of Seville when we're in Spain, though. I might just have to tone down my sense of drama ;-)

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  12. I'm with you on the bathroom dilemma. We too need to sort ours out. The suite is actually fine, it's white, but a sort of Edwardian style that works with the house. The tiles are a mixed bag, dark green ones on the bottom (like), a horrid border, and sort of paler ones on top (dislike), and the shower just needs replacing totally. I am also tempted by a freestanding bath... We'll see! I've saved up enough to do a proper job on it, so it will just be a matter of compromising with my husband and his own tastes. Good luck with yours, I'll be following with interest! x

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    1. A freestanding bath would make a massive difference to our room, but there aren't any flooboards underneath our bath! (So much of the work done to our hones was bodged before we bought it.) Our plumber reckons if we want, he can do us a tiled bath panel, which is something to consider.

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  13. Mim

    If you scroll down on this link you should see some coloured (!!) glass sinks for sale for £30.00 each. I don't know if it's the sort of thing you might be interested in for your bathroom. Hope the link works!


    https://www.facebook.com/groups/nottooshabbybeds/?multi_permalinks=1014135938658243&notif_t=group_highlights

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    1. Thank you! I think we're getting there with the planning now :-) It WILL get done.

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  14. A primrose yellow Art Deco bathroom suite would be my idea of heaven, but equally so, I do have a thing for 1970s orange and aqua suites. We've got a white suite, but I do like to browse this site just for the glorious sink colours: http://www.brokenbog.com/

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    1. Oooh yes, lovely primrose yellow!

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  15. Hello Mim.
    Happy Saturday.
    It's so great to see you and your darling are finally tackling on the tedious task: the bathroom. You should brace yourself for a whole lot of compromising; when it comes to all areas of this thing.
    "You can't always get what you want" is the mantra here. :)
    I, too, have had a dream bathroom, but when the time came to have the job done, we have realized that some things could not be fitted,other things could not be found (there is NO colorful sinks.. sadly).
    ..
    Try to stress out as little as you can.
    And prepare yourself for a LARGE expense (don't take this the wrong way, but bathroom always "eats up" much more than we have original planned - at least mine did).

    ....I can't wait to see the "work in progress" :)
    M.

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    1. Yes, it's going to be a costly job even though we're going for a cheap suite. But it will be lovely to have a bath and sink without holes in!

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  16. I HATE white bathroom suites with an almighty passion. We had a light blue one once, that was lovely, but then we moved to somewhere with a white one and I wasn't pleased. Now we have pale avocado and I love it!

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    1. Those both sound nice. I do wonder why coloured suites are so unpopular nowadays...

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