Bathroom renovation on a budget


subway tiled bathroom, new york subway tiles,

Anyone who has renovated will know that there are a few bumps along the way and the bathroom gave us some sleepless nights. From a disappointing tiling job which resulted in us having to rip the whole lot off and start again (that's as much as I will go into about that...these things happen...) to leaking pipes, to Chris falling through the floor & his legs dangling through the living room ceiling (I helped after laughing uncontrollably for 5 minutes) was an interesting journey...but totally worth it.

The beginning:

This is the bathroom in all of its glory before. Whilst it may be a delight to some (I did read recently that pastel suites of old are back on trend...) it just wasn't to our taste. And it was barely functional. All of the fittings were old and not reusable, so everything needed to be replaced. The cupboard to the very right of the photo housed the existing water tank. This is the only bathroom in the house and we really wanted to create more space. Where we live, our source of fuel is Oil (no gas supply in this part of the outback...) so this gave us the opportunity to have an outdoor combi-boiler meaning that we could get rid of the water tank from in here and banish the cupboard for good! We began by ripping everything out ourselves and making the space into a blank canvas. We were both very hands on during the renovation...okay, so maybe Chris did most of the painting...because I hate it...but, I found knocking the tiles off the walls in here a bloody good stress relief! I'm a dab hand with a crow bar these days.


The design:

As we cleared out the room, and after the ceiling had unexpectedly caved in, we could visualise the space better and we started thinking about the design. We wanted to create a simple, traditional style bathroom. My dream was a freestanding claw foot bath and Chris wanted white metro tiles. When planning the design and layout of the bathroom, we tried to see if we could fit in a freestanding bath and a separate shower area. We went along to the usual bathroom stores who helped us to consider different designs. We realised that to have a separate bath and shower area would mean sacrificing far too much space and there would have only been a mere postage stamp of space left over in the middle. I wanted to create a relaxing sanctuary not a claustrophobic cupboard...and maybe do the occasional bathroom, unfortunately, I had to let go of my freestanding bath dream. I am aware that it's possible to create an over bath shower on this style of bath, but (for once!) practicality won over aesthetics. I feared I'd be cleaning up overspilled shower water for days and the placement of a sturdy ceiling shower curtain rail was proving somewhat problematic. It just wasn't meant to be this time around...hopefully next time...

This process also helped us to realise was how EXPENSIVE it was going through a company/store to design and install a bathroom. It was insane - thousands and thousands of pounds for a complete bathroom. Being on a modest budget (you will hear that a lot on here...) we started to look at creating the space ourselves by sourcing all of the components individually and tradesmen separately (plumber, joiner, tiler etc). And by doing this, we saved a fortune. 

I was glad to discover that my dream of a freestanding style bath wasn't entirely extinguished when I found a corner claw foot bath that attached to the wall - hooray! A perfect compromise with both style and practicality. We went for a sink, toilet, taps and fittings from the same range as well, keeping the design nice and simple. The over bath shower options from the same range were ridiculously expensive, so I found a one that matched the rest of the suite perfectly for a fraction of the price. We also opted for a traditional style radiator/towel rail that fitted with the theme. Ahhh it's exciting when a plan comes together!

If I can give you any advice from our bathroom renovation it's this - find what you want and then search the hell out of the internet until you find it cheaper. I printed off what I had found online (bathroom suite, shower, all taps, fittings and waste pipes etc) and then took it to a local bathroom supplier and asked them if they would price match it all. They did even better, they actually beat the price. I appreciate that this isn't perhaps a convenient option for some - it's way easier and much less stressful just getting one person or company to sort out the whole job - but if you are looking to save some money, then I definitely wouldn't rule it out as an option.

Once all of the components arrived (I never thought I'd see the day that i'd be so excited about receiving taps...) Chris and the plumber cracked on with the installation of the suite and fittings. 

I was so excited to be finally at this point!

The tiles:

We sourced the white metro tiles from Walls and Floors. After the initial tiling job mishap, Chris fancied giving it a crack himself. Not that I doubt his abilities, he did a marvellous job of the pantry using the salvageable tiles that we had to take out of here. But, given that there isn't a straight wall in this rickety old house (pointed out by most of our exasperated workmen...I like to refer to it as 'rustic charm'...) and at risk of the nuclear scale fall out that would occur if it did go tits up, we found a fantastic tiler who worked his magic. He did try to talk us out of using black grout because it is insanely messy to work with, but I'm glad we couldn't be persuaded otherwise. It finished it off perfectly. 

The flooring:

The wooden floorboards were in great condition. We toyed with the idea of tiling the floor but given the number of leaking pipes that we had already encountered throughout the house I was terrified that if I laid any beautiful patterned tiles another leak would happen and we would have to rip the whole lot up. We had an amazing joiner who was helping us with all of the joinery around the house and I talked to him about my indecision to leave the floorboards exposed...his response? " are made out of wood and they have no bother..." fair point my experienced friend. So, we kept the floorboards exposed and sanded, dyed (with Colron Wood Dye Jacobean Dark Oak) and sealed them with a matt varnish. I'm so glad we did. It gives the room a classic charm and although it required lots of elbow grease it massively reduced the cost. It's not impractical and we have had no problems at all. Also, referring back to my aforementioned fears, a pipe leak did happen and we had to lift up some of the bathroom floor. As I watched the floor boards being ripped apart before my eyes, I was very glad about our decision to not tile it...

After a few ups and downs, falling through floors and heated discussions, the suite and fittings were all in and the tiling was completed - happy dances all around! We painted the walls white to keep the room nice and bright against the dark floor. Then came the fun part - styling! 



Personally, I don't like shower screens - absolutely no offence intended...hear me out. Why? mainly cleaning them. And the price of them. But also how they seem to divide a space and we don't have the biggest bathroom to start with so this wasn't something we wanted to do. So, we opted for a shower curtain. I like how they can be easily changed to update a room, they are affordable and can be tied right back to keep the space open, especially when enjoying a relaxing bath. AND! It ALMOST feels like a freestanding bath when I'm in!

Unable to find a shower curtain rail that was suitable, we got creative with what we already had and made a rail from metal conduit that was left over from the kitchen fittings. Easy peasy and wonderfully inconspicuous.

I added pops of colour and patterns to the room using accessories and storage baskets. Baskets are a great space saving and stylish way to stash toiletries. Most of them were from TK Maxx.

An over bath shelf accessorised the bath nicely. This one was from Dunelm. It also does a fantastic job of holding the ipad and a tipple when I really mean relaxing business. Houseplants brought the space to life and added a cool botanical vibe. IKEA, Homebase and B&Q are aways winners for me for reasonably priced houseplants. The mirror and bamboo shelves were charity shop finds and were the costly sum of £5.00. I sprayed them matt black to match the bath feet and bath shelf. I added some quirky door hooks from ebay which come in handy for extra hanging storage space. We went for a classic glass light pendant with a cool black and white flex which alongside the metal conduit adds a subtle industrial edge.

I added a wonderful print from Design by Kinship. Ideal for the bathroom I think...

The final image is how the bathroom looks today. With the absolute beauty of inexpensive accessories, art and textiles, the vibe and style of this room is constantly changing and it will most probably change again!


Would I have done anything differently? Absolutely. Chris had the idea of creating a sink with a reclaimed basin on a wooden structure with exposed piping, but I was a bit too impatient at this point after a few things had gone wrong and couldn't be bothered with the extra faff. But I love this idea now! Again, maybe we will explore this option next time...

And that's the story of our bathroom renovation! I hope it has offered some insight into how we created this room on a budget. With a bit of thinking outside of the box, It is entirely might just take a couple of extra gin and tonics (or whatever your poison/non-poison of choice is) to get you through the renovation...

What do you think? Please feel free to ask any questions! And thanks for reading - Sara x


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