Three years after we finished renovation works on the rest of the house, we finally decided to sort out the master and ensuite bathrooms upstairs.
These were in a pretty dire state (see my previous posts on them here), having progressively deteriorated over the course of this period: there were tiles were held together with tape, regular leaks, a suspicious squelchy feeling underfoot (most likely water under the linoleum) and water kept mysteriously gushing out of the ensuite window – I still have no idea why this kept happening.
Tackling each of the bathrooms in turn, we decided to do both in roughly the same style and went for a look that I’ve seen in a lot of bathrooms in modernised mid century homes: square basin, 10×10 square tiles with contrast grouting, terrazzo-style flooring and a wall-hung toilet.
We did avoid one design cliche, however: black tapware and accessories. It’s not that I don’t like it (I do) or think it’s a passing fad – it was more the hassle of finding the more obscure items (waste and bottle taps etc) in the same finish as the taps and shower unit. As such, we ordered all of the fittings in standard chrome.
The other key differences between the two bathrooms are the bathtubs (my partner insisted on a larger L-shaped tub in the main bathroom even though this doesn’t leave a huge amount of room to actually climb in, given the fixed panel) and the basin/storage combination (under sink storage in the main bathroom and a large medicine cabinet with under-lighting over a wall-hung basin in the ensuite).
One thing that I really wanted was a Japanese-style washlet in each of the bathrooms. Having grown up with a continental-style bidet, I’d long dreamed of having the next generation version installed in our home. They used to be obscenely expensive (and still can be – a top of the range model from Toto, the Japanese brand most associated with washlets is about £10,000) but we managed to find a more basic model (with all of the functionality built into the seat rather than the pan) from a Victorian Plumbing for just under £500.
We asked the same builders who did the rest of our house renovation to do these two bathrooms and they did a good job for a reasonable price. It did take slightly longer than expected, however: around 3-4 weeks per bathroom due in part to the relatively small size of the wall tiles and general fussiness on my part.
- Orchard L-shaped shower bath with 6mm shower screen from Victoria Plum
- Orchard bath filler set from Victoria Plum
- ENHET / TVÄLLEN wash-basin cabinet from IKEA
- Grohe Essentials toilet roll holder from Victoria Plum
- Bianco Wall Hung Smart Toilet with bidet wash function and dryer from Victorian Plumbing
- Terrazzo floor tiles in Cori Grey from Victorian Plumbing
- Spellbound Matt White 10x10cm wall tiles from Walls and Floors
- Mode Spa round thermostatic shower set from VictoriaPlum.com
- SVENSKÄR wash-basin mixer tap from IKEA
- Orchard Square edge straight shower bath from Victoria Plum
- Aqualisa Midas mixer shower with bath spout from Victoria Plum
- Roca Senso Square wall-hung basin from Victorian Plumbing
- Bianco Wall Hung Smart Toilet with bidet wash function and dryer from Victorian Plumbing (as before)
- String pocket shelving in black and white from SCP
- Spellbound Matt White 10x10cm wall tiles from Walls and Floors (as before)
- Terrazzo floor tiles in Cori Grey from Victorian Plumbing (as before)
- Hudson Reed three-door mirror cabinet from Victorian Plumbing with under and over-strip lighting from Amazon
- Delabie toilet roll holder from QS Supplies
After not having posted anything in over a year (and not having been anywhere in over 18 months), the end of lockdown has meant that I’ve been able to get out and about to actually generate content for Modernist Pilgrimage.
In addition, the shabby bathrooms that we left out of our house renovation project for budgetary reasons have packed up after three years (the ensuite is currently being held together by tape) so I’ll be documenting the renovation of these as well over the coming months.
Thank you to anyone still reading Modernist Pilgrimage!
Updated 1 July 2020
Having prioritised doing up the house when we moved in, we pretty much left the already pretty ramshackle garden that we inherited from the previous owner to run wild for over a year (as my previous blog entries on the garden from April and June last year – see below – demonstrate).
We were finally forced into taking action when a large tree at the end of the garden fell down during a storm, crushing the row of tall bushes that previously divided our garden and the communal green behind it. While this did mean we no longer had any privacy from any neighbours using the communal green, we quite liked how the garden now felt a quite bit longer and brighter.
We factored this new absence of dividing line between our garden and the communal green into our plan: in the back, we would replace the dirt patch with turf (which wasn’t possible previously, given lack of sunlight), levelled with the communal green so that when looking out from the house, there would be the illusion of a continuous grassy lawn as far as you could see (or at least to the back of the communal green).
We would lay a new back patio (concrete slabs with gravel poured in between them) and the sloping dirt path running down the side of the house would be fitted with stepped sleepers, paving stones, gravel and new planting. We would re-lay the wonky paving stones out front and install a large box planter, to be planted with herbs, behind the fence next to the old shed (which was just too full of crap to even contemplate getting rid of). Finally, the dirt patch in front garden would be completely filled up with new plants and shrubs to frame the cherry blossom tree in the centre.
In a bit of very fortunate timing, we hired a team of landscape gardeners to carry out this plan at the end of February which meant that they had just finished work as lockdown began at the end of March.
On the whole, we were really pleased with the end result and it’s been really nice to witness everything blooming and flowering (lawn aside, which always seems to look a bit brown in places) over the past three months spent at home.
There are, of course, a couple of things we might have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. For instance, whilst the gravel/slab combo we used for the back patio would have been great in Palm Springs (the source of inspiration) where there is practically no wind and the only vegetation consists of cacti and palm trees, it has proved pretty unsuited to a windy English garden with the sorts of trees and plants that shed on a daily basis – I find myself constantly having to kick dislodged gravel back into place and picking debris out of the cracks like food from between teeth.
We also probably wouldn’t have given total control over to the landscape gardeners when it came to the planting: due to a lack of knowledge and confidence on our part, we just handed them a sum of money to purchase whatever plants they thought would look good and would have the best chance of survival in our garden. It just so happened that the landscape gardener had a thing for rhododendrons (which admittedly have done pretty well thus far, even under the canopy of a huge tree of heaven out front) and so we have ended up with… quite of a lot of them.
The same goes for the herbs: due to the landscape gardener’s selection, we seem to have a lot of mint (which we don’t really use and also seems to grow like a weed) and not much of anything else. This, however, may be also be down to the family of foxes which seems to have installed itself in our garden, though it’s entirely possible that they have been here all along, camouflaged in the overgrown mess that our garden used to be.
In terms of finishing touches, it would be nice to get some smaller pots and planters for the back patio to soften it up a bit. We also recently bought a Tolix-style metal circular table (aka a knock-off from Swivel UK) and some stools to accompany the loungers on the back patio just in case we have a socially distanced barbecue before the end of summer.
23 June 2019
Given that we have no appetite for a full-on landscaping project this year (we did call in a gardener to remove weeds and anything that was clearly dead/rotting but that was the extent of it), we decided instead to make a few additions to make the garden a little more inviting for when we have guests over this summer.
Inspired by this photo of the rooftop garden in the Berkeley Hotel in London that I saw in a magazine, we decided to get a pair of budget-friendly Applaro loungers and the matching side table from Ikea and cover them with sunshine yellow pads and cushions from online store Maison du Monde. We also bought a simple Dancook barbecue and hung up some solar-powered lanterns and some Ikea outdoor lighting.
This limited window dressing does not conceal the fact that the garden is still a bit of a ramshackle mess (I still want to re-landscape at some point, adding bit of grass and more planters/beds containing a variety of different plants and shrubs) but it’s going to have to do for now.
22 April 2019
Given that both my partner and I have lived in flats for all of our adult lives, neither of us have any experience of looking after a garden.
This meant that we were at a bit of a loss when it came to dealing with the quite mature front and back garden that came with our new house – we had no idea what to do with it or when so we just left it to its own devices (save for removing a rusty old washing line and getting the builders to straighten out the wonky wooden fence in the front garden) while we concentrated on doing up the house itself.
Six months and two season changes later, it feels like we should do something about it. All the dead leaves and mulch that accumulated in autumn and winter have formed a crispy brown dirt bed everywhere, interrupted by spiky-looking weeds which have started springing up at an alarming rate in the last few weeks.
The trees, plants and shrubs that aren’t weeds (which it was quite nice to witness sprouting out of the ground in unexpected places at the start of spring, especially the little tree in the front garden which unexpectedly turned out to be a cherry blossom which flowers in mid-March) could also do with some attention before they get even more overgrown and out of control than they already are.
We’ve called in a gardener to carry out this haircut in the next few weeks so I’ll update this entry if there is any discernible difference worth reporting on. In the longer term, it’d be nice to carry out some slightly more adventurous landscaping. The wonky paving stones leading up to and in front of the house could definitely do with being re-laid and while the ground is too uneven for a lawn in the back garden (and I don’t think I could face maintaining that every week), I like the idea of cultivating a few planters or beds like some of our more green-fingered neighbours.