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Retro Renovation

Upgrading to a Vintage Bathroom

My husband and I are not your typical first time buyers. When we began house hunting in 2015, we knew we wanted a period property, something which we could grow into with bags of character; something which we could truly make our mark on. So in October 2015, we bought a Grade 2 listed, 6 bedroom Georgian property in Gorleston, Great Yarmouth, built in 1775, complete with a WW2 Air Raid Shelter in the garden. We looked at this property and this property only. From the moment we walked in, we knew we had found our dream home. The house had been lived in by the same family for the last 50 years and although dated, was in a fantastic condition. We looked past the pink carpets and the textured wallpaper and envisaged ourselves in a beautifully renovated home; a subtle mix of modern convenience and period style. I love 1950s fashion, but when it comes to interior design, I adore period style. This place was a blank canvas waiting to be restored to its former glory and we couldn’t wait to get started!

After we bought the house, the first 18 months were all about dealing with the boring stuff. The boiler was ancient and inefficient, so this was replaced and relocated from inside the fireplace in was residing in! The electrics were downright dangerous, so the whole place was rewired, top to bottom. The windows were draughty and rotten (and in one instance, didn’t even close!), so these were renovated. We were keen to start from the bottom up and get the basics right, before we started any ‘fun’ stuff. We intend to live in this property until one of us pops our clogs, so we want to get everything right, first time and make a good job of it. Once these jobs were done, we could start on the fun part – decorating!

We started with the bathroom as we didn’t have a shower. So for the first 18 months, we used a shower attachment on the bath taps, sat down and hosed ourselves down every morning! After a while, we got used to the arrangement, but guests would often be confused as to what exactly they were supposed to do with such an ancient set up! We persevered, as we knew the end goal would be worth it!

The house had 6 bedrooms, one of which was next to the bathroom, on a slightly higher level up two steps. Our existing bathroom was under a pitched roof, so there was no way a shower would fit. So from the outset, we knew we wanted to knock through from the bathroom, into this adjoining bedroom, to create a bigger space and to allow room for a shower and separate bath. We had the space to create something with the ‘wow factor’ and we knew that if we could pull this off, it would be a truly unique space.

However, we knew that we would need to employ an expert to help create the bathroom. Not only was it a massive under taking, with a lot of building work, the age of the house and the potential unknowns that that brings, were also a concern. We hired Interior Designer Rebecca Coulby and her team at Coulby Interiors to do the job. She has experience with Listed Building renovations, so she seemed the perfect choice. She project managed the whole thing from start to finish and brought in an amazing team of very skilled trades.

We created a mood board for Rebecca which was heavily influenced by Victorian style – black and white tiles, free standing bath, heritage taps and fixtures and house plants…lots of house plants! We wanted a space which would work for us practically, but also looked the part. We poured over every detail, from the skirting boards and radiators to the cupboard door handles, ensuring that every part was in keeping with our period vision. As the house is Grade 2 listed, we also had to apply for listed building consent from the local council. We have a great relationship with them and after discussing the designs, we managed to get approval to start the work.

The renovation took a little over 6 weeks and was possibly one of the most stressful things I have ever had to endure. Would the roof fall down? Would we find out that our plans were just not possible due to some unforeseen issues? Would we like the end result? The pressure on us was constant, but Rebecca and her team did a superb job. We didn’t need to worry, she performed nothing short of a miracle.

We wanted a dream bathroom and that is what the Coulby Interiors team created. Walking into the bathroom now, past the ‘His & Hers’ sinks set into a solid oak worktop, the Victorian style sconces and antique mirrors, you get the ‘Wow Factor’ as you look right, up the two oak steps and into the next room, where the freestanding black bath sits proudly under a chandelier by the huge sash window. Turn right again past the period style towel rails and you see floor to ceiling subway tiles with classic black grout in a cubicle with a heritage rainfall shower.

Once the project was finished, we dressed the bathroom and again, every detail was considered. Wall art, plants, soap dispensers, decorative items. Everything was thought out to the point of obsession. But without this obsession over detail, we wouldn’t have achieved what we can honestly say, is our favourite room in our house!

The next project is our living room, which presents its own set of unique challenges. Renovating a period home is a learning curve, one my Husband and I are learning more and more about the more we do in our house. But I couldn’t image doing it with anyone else. We are a great team and are thoroughly enjoying the experience. It is challenging, but the uphill struggle to get to where we want to be only makes the end result more rewarding.

Lisa Harrison

Lisa Harrison

Lisa is the Deputy Editor of Vintage Life Magazine and Publisher at Dragoon Publishing. She is avid bookworm, collector of vintage homeware, loves travel, lazy weekends away and eats way too much cake!