Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Family Bathroom and Stylish Solutions to Vanity Clutter!

I am blessed to have a big, beautiful bathroom in the new extension to our home that my talented 'owner-builder' husband built. I would love to share with you the ideas which we implemented, which make this bathroom entirely functional for a family of eight and a pleasure to use.
It is such a contrast to the original bathroom which was located off the dining room - nowhere near the bedrooms. When first time visitors would ask if this was the pantry, we would slide back the door to reveal the tiniest, dreariest bathroom. To 'queue for the loo' was an accepted part of family life for our first four years in this home and when we began to plan our new extension, along with the extra bedrooms, a big family bathroom and an en suite for mum and dad, went onto the list of requirements sent to the architect.

I have always wanted a claw foot bath and in this home, my dream was finally realized. We opted for a modern reproduction, it's lighter and does not require the floor to be reinforced, as would be the case with an old cast iron bath. It is also easy to clean and the shower head attachment is ideal for washing the hair of toddlers!

I'm so pleased we decided to pay a bit extra and order the largest size of bath in the range. The bathroom company actually made a mistake and sent out the wrong size bath, the smallest one, which we decided was only suitable for a jockey to recline in! The mistake was rectified and our longer bath is just simply wonderful to lie back in and soak away the worries of the week! So therapeutic, especially when I add some lavender oil to the bath water and the fragrance fills the room. I hope to find a wire bath rack to fit across but it has to be made from copper to match our taps and other accessories.
I personally, do not use the bath on a daily basis, it really feels more like a special treat when I do find the time to use my bath though! It is ideal for bathing the twins and it is not uncommon for the water to be reused by the older children. There is also a corner shower unit which is the preferred choice of the male species in the house!

The bathroom vanity is a result of my husband's 'kiwi ingenuity'. I wanted a large timber vanity with twin basins but the only ones which would do justice to the long wall it would sit against, were horrendously expensive - more than our budget for all the bathroom fixtures combined!
It is actually a DVD unit! The two cupboards at either end conceal the plumbing (just had to remove the top shelf to achieve this) for the matching ceramic bowls which were inserted into the holes cut into the top of the unit.

The drawers designed to hold DVDs are perfect for storing spare toilet rolls and tall bottles. The shelf where a DVD player would sit, transforms into a shelf for storage of extra towels which I roll up 'hotel style'. The vanity affords us plenty of storage, something which designers often overlook for family bathrooms. A tiny wall cabinet really is not even worth installing! The mirror with its wrought iron trim matches the unit and comes from the same range of furniture. Together the unit and mirror minus the bowls and tap ware cost us $800. The bowls were approximately $130 each and we purchased the copper taps on eBay.

When searching for copper taps on the Internet, I found out some interesting facts about copper - did you know it one of the most effective metals for germ resistance? There is a current research project underway in some Australian hospitals where they are trialling the use of copper for taps, basins and even door plates.
We chose copper because I have an aversion to chrome, we love its 'olde- worlde' look and its gorgeous, warm, burnished tones really do complement timber. We have not been able to find copper feet for our claw foot bath - they are made of brass but we will eventually change them to white.

And perhaps my most favourite thing in the bathroom is my free standing towel rail with its ornate iron work. I just love it! It was an anniversary gift from my husband. We bought this gorgeous piece from my favourite store 'The Complete Garden'. My husband says they should have a sign out front to warn men 'Do not allow your wife to enter this store unless you are prepared to wait for at least one hour!' By the way, 'The Complete Garden' is misleading, it does not just sell garden furniture but a wonderful array of home accessories, if you like French provincial style you will find it hard to resist this store. It sells lamps, wall plaques, picture frames, candle holders and urns. When we bought the towel rail it came with a bonus, a $20 voucher to be used the following month. My husband dropped me off with a ridiculous request - 'Don't be long!' I was looking for a wall candle holder for the bathroom but fell in love with this copper urn.

My husband liked it too but wondered what on earth I would use it for other than decorative purposes. I love items that are not just beautiful but also practical and I already knew what the urn would be used for. The bathroom vanity is often covered with clutter - soaps, tubes of toothpaste and bottles of tea tree oil (my teenage daughter's favourite skin cleanser!) The urn holds and disguises all of this bathroom paraphernalia and keeps it looking tidy. Everyday items are within easy reach, no bending down to search through drawers or cupboards and it makes wiping down the vanity top a breeze.

Before - vanity clutter ruins the effect!

After - into the urn it all goes to hide away! Hint - choose an urn with a lid!

I'm hoping to find coordinating candle holders for the walls - any excuse to return to my favourite store but I am prepared to wait until we have the funds to add these finishing touches.

This is one of the lessons I have learned from building - to be a patient renovator. There are lots of bare walls waiting for mirrors or the perfect picture or art work but rather than fill the space with 'make do' stuff I will wait until we can afford the 'right thing'. The bathroom window is yet to be installed, heavy plastic suffices for now but I will wait until we come across the perfect window for our bathroom - in a colonial style or maybe a lead light one, which is within our budget.
Not over extending ourselves in order to have everything finished and 'perfect' straight away is important. In the meantime, a cedar blind disguises the 'plastic window', purchased brand new at a garage sale for only $10. I was watching 'Home Made' last evening on television, a show in which two teams of designers compete against each other with a set budget to renovate a home within 3 days. One of the designers managed to totally revamp a dated bathroom with new fixtures and tiles but she overlooked the old window and left it untouched which the judges pointed out could have been easily disguised with an inexpensive roller blind. Sometimes the best solutions are so simple to achieve and do not need to cost a lot of money.

When searching for our bathroom fixtures, we attended 'homemaker' auctions and bought a frame less glass shower for our en suite bathroom which cost less than the shower unit in the main bathroom (the reverse is usually the case), we also found an upmarket toilet suite and at the same auction, lighting was on offer but no one was chasing lighting that day, except us. We were the only bidders and saved ourselves hundreds of dollars!

The white tiles laid throughout our home including both bathrooms, are seconds but you would never guess. We chose white tiles as our main floor covering (we have no carpet in this home, the bedrooms have timber floors) after noticing on a trip to Indonesia many years ago, that most of the homes had either white or light coloured tiles and the homes stayed cool throughout the day, despite the searing heat. Yes, we can confirm, this works. Our home stays much cooler for longer during summer and has drastically cut down the usage of the air conditioner.

But white tiles for a family home... mm, they are cool underfoot, they do look good and are less likely to date and they are so easy to clean, it is just keeping them clean which is the main issue. Mopping is a major task but ripping up the carpets and tiling right through has given our home a continuity and it looks and feels bigger. It was probably the best decision we made- no more flea and dust mite harbouring fibres and accidental spills or toddler 'accidents' - no problem! The tiles were laid by a friend who tiles for a living and he taught my children a new life skill - grouting! They did most of the grouting and did a really good job but they were all in agreement - tiling was one trade they would never pursue as a career!

We now operate a shoe free policy in this home, (slippers are permitted!) another lesson we learned from Indonesia. My husband grew up on a farm and his home had cream carpet so removing shoes at the door was second nature to him. We also lived in a region of New Zealand which had a high proportion of Maori people and the sight of a pile of shoes on the front porch was not unusual. We often visited the homes of Maori friends and neighbours and it was no drama to remove shoes as custom required. Our shoe free home is simply making life easier, less dirt is tracked in and therefore I spend less time cleaning. Not all our visitors abide by our policy (most do oblige thankfully) and do not see or choose to ignore the sign at the door requesting removal of shoes and I sigh and silently think 'just don't visit Japan, Hawaii or the North Island of New Zealand and know it will be another night of mopping! OK I know it serves me right for choosing white tiles but I love them, I love my home and I especially love my bathroom! And as for the old bathroom, we turned it into an office and home library where I sit right now and type.

Until next time,

With love and joy,



A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

I love Big Kitchens and Big Bathrooms...Your slooks lovely!
Before you had even mentioned the towel rack I had already been eyeing it off.!!!!
The mirror and te converted tv unit are the Bomb!
Such a great ingenious idea...
I am obsessive about floors so shoes off occurs here too.
But It can get abit cold underfoot in winter so trying to teach the kids to wear slippers

Dalinz said...

Shoes come off at my house also. Good idea. We have lino thru our house as my youngest has alot of dust issues. My grandmother used to and MIL still does make slippers for winter. I love to wear them and have the instructions for them. Must get them out and make some for my boys for this winter. Loved seeing your bathroom... It is truely beautiful. Well done for waiting until you find exactly what you are after and within budget. That is always the big thing I think.

Cheers Damaris

Matthew Celestine said...

I am glad you have a shoes-off policy. It really does help.

I have an whole blog about removing shoes in homes: Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might want to take a look.

Anonymous said...

love the DVD/TV stand as vanity. I'm just wondering if you did anything to it to make it withstand exposure to water? We want to do something similar but all of our tradies say the wood will rot!
Emma (


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