We've recently had some building work done on our rented house and part of the remit was to install a new bathroom. Our old bathroom was in a poor state, with loose tiles that were letting water soak down through the walls, and an unsightly bulge in the ceiling below caused by a leak. It's a very small, narrow space – not ideal for our family of six, but we make it work. We wanted to create something practical and stylish whilst being restricted by our landlord's budget. Although the bigger decisions were out of our control, we had some input into finishes and overall style.
If you've got a small, tricky space and need ideas to revamp your bathroom, here's what we did. Plus, we've got some tips for sprucing up a rental space without any structural changes.
Whole bathroom makeover
Firstly, the builders ripped out the old bathroom suite and removed the tongue-and-groove cladding we'd put up to hide a flaky wall. They stripped off the old tiles and left the wall to dry out. The window needed replacing because the bath and shower were previously next to the window, which caused water damage to the sill. To prevent this recurring they moved the bath to the other side of the room.
The landlord chose a P-shaped bath, which made sense in this narrow room as it gave a little more space at the shower end. I have found, though, that it uses quite a lot more water to fill the bath, which is not great on an eco-friendly front. Once the bath was installed they tiled the wall next to it. We chose metro tiles for a more up-to-date look, with grey grouting. Here's what the bathroom looked like halfway through the installation:
As you can see, the wall needed re-plastering, so this was the next job. Oh my, this made such an instant, huge difference! No more flaking paint or damp patches, just sleek, smooth walls all over. And yes, I did stroke them.
White walls versus colour?
Next, they installed the sink and tiled the splashback, and then the decorator painted the entire room and ceiling white. It's a light space already and because of its size we didn't want to lose this airy feel, so white felt like the best option. I have long hankered after a deep grey or Klein blue bathroom, but here I think this would have felt oppressive. So, clean, crisp white it is.
Choosing linen towels
As the old radiator had to be removed I asked if we could have a heated towel rail instead. These take up less space than a traditional radiator, and also provide somewhere to hang towels. We love our linen towels in this space, not only for their super-absorbency but because they're less bulky than cotton towels. This is a useful tip if you want to zjush-up your small rental bathroom: a pile of neat, compact linen towels takes up far less space.
Declutter your bathroom
One of the great things about having to completely clear the bathroom was the chance it gave me to have a good declutter. Out went the kids' old rubber ducks and various half-used ancient bottles of moisturiser. Instead of just replacing things I've tried to really pare it back.
I'm using coconut oil as a facial cleanser and moisturiser to reduce plastic and waste. I'm replacing worn-out electric toothbrush heads with bamboo or degradable ones. We're switching to shampoo and conditioners that come in aluminium bottles that we can refill from the hairdresser round the corner. It's a slow, bit-by-bit job as we finish up old toiletries, but the space feels so much nicer for it. Plus it all helps reduce our impact on the environment. Storing – or making your own – toiletries in pretty glass bottles is a great way to update your bathroom and give it a slick, pulled-together feel.
Once the bathroom was decorated and a new floor laid (our landlord picked vinyl, which wouldn't have been my choice for environmental and aesthetic reasons) we could start putting in the final things we needed. Having got rid of a lot of clutter we repainted the old shelving unit which was looking a bit shabby and stored the towels and a basket of essential bits in there.
I bought a bath tray because I love to read in the bath or listen to podcasts. This one has a book stand, phone space and a nifty slot for a wine glass if you really want some spa-style luxury. The succulents from before came back but in a new spot on the new window sill. Adding a few green plants really brings a bathroom to life, and they can also help purify the air. Two glass jars store cotton pads (I've switched to washable ones) and bars of soap.
We've bought this mirror but haven't got around to hanging it yet as we need some advice from the builder. I'm worried about ruining their lovely wall!
Whilst I know it won't stay pristine for long, I'm so delighted with the room and how it feels. We've had house guests this summer and it's been lovely not feeling embarrassed about the state of the bathroom. Now I can properly lie back and soak without wincing at wobbly tiles.