When the interior designer Joanna Wood moved to an 18th-century manor house in the Cotswolds, she had an opportunity to create a space that combines a bathroom with a dressing room to provide the perfect retreat from her busy life, as Arabella Youens discovered.
Get the room right before you start
To create this space, we combined what had been a walk-in cupboard and a poky bathroom. We worked with Oxfordshire-based architects Johnston Cave Associates, a practice with a huge knowledge of period houses, to create a spacious triple-aspect room. I positioned the bath to benefit from the view.
Choose a bath that’s just the right size
One of my tips when buying a new bath is never to do it without actually climbing in first as most people make the mistake of buying one that’s too big. This double-ended Fired Earth model is a particular favourite because it’s splayed out from the bottom, which means my rugby-playing husband can fit in.
The all-important Champagne holder (aka the shelving)
With freestanding baths, it’s important to position a shelf at the right height – you need somewhere to put a cup of tea or a glass of Champagne, plus bath oils and books.
As a rule, I always suggest marble for bathrooms. In the past, clients have been concerned that it might be cold, but under-floor heating has put an end to that, making it wonderfully warm in the winter and gorgeously cool in the summer.
This design in this scheme is what I call a ‘marble carpet’: the main section is covered in six large blocks of book-matched Calacatta Verde marble, which then has a border of antiqued solid-oak floorboards by Chaunceys in Bristol.
I’ve just specified this wallpaper for the American Ambassador’s residence in London – it’s a very versatile pattern by Lewis & Wood (of which I’m the Wood) called Indienne Tint Wisteria and was designed by the very talented Magdalen Jebb. It manages to be quiet and calm, but bright and characterful at the same time. The predominant colour is greige – not grey, which is gloomy, but not beige either
Admiring your art
I’m a great believer in putting a favourite work of art in the bathroom so that you can lie in the bath and admire it.
In a period country house, it’s important not to have a lighting scheme that’s too modern – even in the bathroom. The two wall brackets by Philips & Wood have been adapted for use in bathrooms and there’s a small table lamp by Vaughan at the dressing table.
Clever clothes storage
I love to combine a bathroom with a dressing room, as it means I can be cleaning my teeth and thinking about what jumper to wear at the same time. People get concerned about clothes getting damp, but now that building regulations dictate that bathrooms must be well ventilated, that’s no longer a problem.
For this project, I commissioned the Wiltshire joinery company Archer & Smith to construct two sections of built-in wardrobes with a mirror in between. The woodwork is stippled and dragged in pale ivory, with highlights in blue (it’s a technique I like that’s very much coming back into fashion). Hardly anyone knows how to do stripple and drag these days – I used a local firm called Colchester Lister Associates (01453 544846).
To further the classic country feel, I’ve used gathered fabric behind small-gauge chicken wire on the doors. It’s a technique that was a favourite of John Fowler’s and is so much prettier than solid doors.
Where space allows, I love furnishing a bathroom with a comfy chair or a chaise longue. In my bathroom, I have a pair of antique chairs covered in a stripe. At the dressing table – positioned by the window to take advantage of the natural light – I have a three-panelled mirror.
I like simple window treatments and, in this case, they help to maintain the peaceful nature of the bathroom. A Scottish Holland roller blind – a type of stiffened linen that the Victorians used to diffuse light and protect fabric – is a good solution.
Find out more about Joanna Wood’s work at www.joannawood.co.uk or call 020–7730 5064.