Before and after: From boring bathroom to Oriental oasis

  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • The owner researched relentlessly to achieve this unique Japanese-inspired look in her small bathroom

    ‘The existing bathroom wasn’t unpleasant, but had been a “make-do” solution,’ says Helen Swan, the owner of the now-transformed space. ‘I’m not the sort of person who wants everything off-the-peg,’ she admits. ‘Plus, I was aware that 
this would probably be my last bathroom for this house, so couldn’t help feeling emotional about it.

    Helen is heavily influenced by Japanese design, both in her interior style and in her jewellery. She designs bespoke pieces, which you can see on her website, Helen Swan Jewellery, and wanted her bathroom to reflect those tastes.

    ‘When I started doing my homework, I was overwhelmed by the amount of choice,’says Helen. ‘There’s so much choice nowadays – so if you want to get it right, you have to do your research. I was after a unique look, so visited many showrooms and sat in lots of baths.’

    When Helen finally found a bathroom showroom with pieces she loved and a helpful designer, she was happy to put herself in their hands. ‘The CAD drawing supplied was really helpful and I was even able to have the asymmetric plinth I wanted for the basin made bespoke.’


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    The old bathroom was a quick, low-budget fix that Helen and her husband had installed in the 1990s. This time, they were able to indulge in simple but striking fittings, highlighted by a dark grey feature wall.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Victoria + Albert Mozzano freestanding bath, £2,560, Sanctuary Bathrooms
    Buy now: Similar Colours Bathroom Grey Slate soft sheen emulsion, £15 for 2.5ltrs, B&Q


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb


    ‘Putting the mirror on the wall behind the basin and the mirrored cabinets opposite have made the room seem so spacious,’ says the owner, who hates clutter. ‘I like everything to be hidden away,’ she admits.

    Marble mosaic tiles add luxe texture in the display recess below those cabinets, which are from Ikea. They’ve then been given bespoke mirrored doors.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Godmorgan wall cabinets, £150 each, Ikea


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    The owner was looking for a black basin but fell for the grooved matt finish of this charcoal-grey design.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Jakarta countertop wash basin, £450, Bagnodesign
    Buy now: Metreaux mono tall smooth bodied basin mixer, £385, Bagnodesign


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    Because the bathroom is narrow, the owner chose a wall-hung, short-projection loo and bidet to save vital inches of space.


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    Pot plants are mounted on bamboo boxes to perfect their proportions against the window frame.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Dragan four-piece bathroom set, £9, Ikea


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    The beautiful curved bath rack adds an element of wood to this simple, minimal bathroom.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Victoria + Albert Tombolo8 oak bath rack, £264, Park Street Bathrooms 
    Buy now: Similar Supima Cotton face cloth in Citrine, £4, John Lewis


    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    For a seamless effect Helen has chosen the same tiles for the flooring and the wall behind the wc and bidet.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Kaleido Blanco wall tiles, £26.30 per sq m, EMC Tiles

    The fitting only took two weeks, as the couple kept to the existing layout, and cost £5,600, including the design.

    “I wanted a forever bathroom with no regrets, which is why I put so much thought into the detail and layout,’ says the owner. ‘I think this simple, ergonomic design is a thing 
of beauty.’

    All the latest from Ideal Home