WORDS Patricia Moore
This small and outdated bathroom was stripped out to make a clean slate for a brand new modern bathroom – all without even requiring a building consent. Find out why.
When Caroline and Roger down-sized to a two-storey ‘cottage’ in Wanganui, the bathroom was something of a problem: “It’s an unusual space – a sort of attic-y type room,” says Caroline, “and one of the first things we did was get a builder in to push the ceiling up a little – we actually had to duck to get into the shower.”
While that solved one problem, the space was merely functional and, not too many years on, it was time for a major update. Having ‘been there and done that’, Caroline had no desire to go down the DIY track again, opting instead to work with local interior designer Rachel Brandon. “She designed the bathroom and made it all so easy! Getting professional advice really is worth it.”
Rachel’s clients were after a ‘wow’ factor in black and white for their new-look bathroom, and they’d set their budget. “As the designer, my challenge was to create a stunning bathroom within that budget. We actually brought the project in a little over, but they were comfortable with that. Underestimating how much a bathroom renovation can cost is one of the biggest mistakes I see people making.”
But doesn’t ‘wow’ come with a hefty price tag? “It needs to be creative, not necessarily expensive. Unfortunately items that are a little different often have a higher price tag. It takes a clever pair of eyes to be able to mix the expensive with the inexpensive and pull off a wow bathroom within a set budget.”
Resene SpaceCote Black White was used for two walls, and the remaining two papered in Resene Caravaggio 46601, chosen for its depth of pattern. “We achieved our black and white theme but also have texture and pattern which add to the sensory journey which I believe is essential in a bathroom.”
The floor tiles, from Mitre 10 Mega, are a mix of grey and white and are also used on a back wall of the shower: “I felt the space warranted something more sophisticated than a standard dark tile. These add an element of interest and complement the black and white scheme.”
The light fittings (The Lighthouse) and mirrors (made to order, Trendy Mirrors) were chosen because they add a classic glamour, says Rachel. “They also soften the space which is often what catches people out when they’re doing a black and white scheme.”
A bathroom may seem a small space but there are a lot of components that need to come together when renovating, says Geoff Davies, whose team was responsible for the re-build of Caroline’s outdated and inconvenient bathroom.
“We cleared the bathroom and started afresh. It’s a small space with an A-frame type roof structure so the ceiling is low,” he says. “Because it was a case of replacing like with like – fixtures were replaced but not actually relocated – it wasn’t necessary to get a permit for the project.” Had they been changing the floor structure to put in a level entry shower it could have been a different story. “It pays to check with the local building consent authority.”
But there was one major challenge: “Getting the bath up the stairs without damaging anything on the way.” Other than that it was a relatively simple project, he says, “and thanks to Rachel Brandon everything went according to plan.”
Getting everything right is hugely important, says Geoff. “The plumbing, electrical work, tiling, waterproofing – qualified professionals know what needs to be done and mistakes like a slow leak inside a wall can come back to haunt you,” he says.
The cottage is a one-bathroom dwelling and every effort was made to get the shower up and running as quickly as possible. “As it was in the same position, the tillers were able to get in there and get it operational within about three days.”
“People tend to overlook the amount of time it will take,” says Geoff. “It can take two, three or even four weeks by the time all the tradespeople involved have completed their part of the project and the homeowners can use the facilities again.”
The result of the Wanganui project is a bathroom that’s both stunning and tranquil. Rachel prefers to stay away from trends. “They come and go and if you have a completely on-trend bathroom one year it will date very quickly. I prefer to see great use of the available space and a bathroom that’s unique to my clients.”
Under Rachel’s watchful eye – and in spite of a few hiccups – such as a vanity which arrived damaged and a month’s delay before the replacement arrived, the project was delivered on time and Caroline is now considering an update for the kitchen. “Bathrooms and kitchens are the two areas that take most money in a makeover – but they’re also the two that most impress buyers if you decide to sell.”