I am told that people fantasise about my bathroom. This is nice, of course, but I am afraid I cannot claim any credit. The present room, with its large bathtub at the centre, and working fireplace, owes its inspiration to the previous, brave occupants of this old London town house. Understandably, as a young couple with a baby, contending with the horrors of a dilapidated, unmodernised house, they sought solace in assembling a romantic watery retreat.
It was a great piece of theatre, and when I first toured the house, I remember my amazement at finding this decadent steam-filled sanctuary at the top of a broken staircase. The room displayed a faded elegance which I vowed to retain. The bath itself had been retrieved from a skip on Brick Lane (together with the eccentric cast-iron Victorian fireplace) and there was a notable absence of marble and polished chrome.
When I restored the house, I moved the bathroom to the floor above?all achieved with the help of an ingenious architect. The Georgians did not have bathrooms, of course (just the odd cold-water plunge pool), so in this instance. I did not have to worry about doing things ‘correctly’ in a historical sense.
However, I wanted to allow the room to display its simple proportions and to not disguise its few surviving features. The bath, as before, was placed in the centre of the room with the ceiling below lowered two inches to allow room for the fall of the drainage pipe. The tub was re-enamelled on site and the underside painted with a red primer which I took a fancy to and kept.
The architect, thankfully, rescued the unpretentious 1950s taps which I had resolved to throw out, and managed somehow to squeeze a shower into a cupboard in the corner of the room. Simple, new, white ceramic fittings were used for the basin and lavatory, and the gaps in the wooden boards were sealed with strips of wood before the whole floor was polished and a light sealant applied to it.
I experimented with a number of unsatisfactory pale colours for the walls before settling on Farrow & Ball Stone Blue, which was strong enough to hold its own in this decadent space.
I have furnished my bathroom with a couple of cheap rugs and a leather armchair?where I sit each Sunday morning reading the newspaper in the dissipating steam.
I like to think that this room provides proof that a love of home comforts is not necessarily incompatible with a love of historic buildings. With careful design, there is no reason why a 280-year-old house should not enjoy the very best in modern plumbing and services?and if this work is done sympathetically and to a high standard, it will help prevent crude alterations in the future.
Sadly, the reality of taking a bath in this room never quite matches the fantasy. It is not that there is nowhere to put the soap, or that I always forget to hang a towel nearby. It is the taps. They are simply too stiff to turn on and off with my toes.
Bathroom designed by Judy Allen of Julian Harrap Architects (020?7729 5111).