From unloved box room to Japanese-style bathroom bliss

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  • This homeowner and her husband Scott set about turning a bedroom in their semi-detached house into a spacious ensuite bathroom.

    With a whole house to renovate, components were sourced on a tight budget, yet the result is a light and airy bathroom idea inspired by a trip to Japan.

    ‘I love how the Japanese-inspired bathroom reflects our travels and my cultural identity,’ explains the owner. ‘It’s our little attempt to recreate a holiday in Japan when we stayed in a traditional guest house.’

    Before: Unused box room

    Empty renovated room with bare floorboards, stripped walls, step ladder and cables

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    With only one bathroom in a four-bedroom property, converting one of the rooms into a spacious en-suite was a no-brainer. The original tiny bathroom was converted into a shower room for guests.

    ‘I was worried the architect’s original design was too small,’ says the owner. ‘So a friend helped me mark out key pieces on the floor with masking tape.’

    ‘This led to us foregoing the walk-in wardrobe section, where the shower is now, to make the room even bigger. It meant we could supersize everything and have a large walk-in shower, double vanity unit and an extra long and deep bath.’

    After: Japanese inspired bathroom

    White bathroom with freestanding bath, black radiator towel rail, black blind, white brick tiles and plant

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    A trip to Japan when the cherry blossoms were falling inspired the bathroom’s design. The owner’s Malaysian heritage and travels to Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand further influenced the look.

    To save money, cheap white metro tiles have been laid around the bath. However, an interesting formation and black grout makes this bathroom tile idea stand out. Look up different layout options online to make standard metro tiles look more interesting.

    Black grout can be unforgiving and takes longer, so be prepared to pay extra for tiling work.

    Design detail 1: Upcycled vanity unit

    Japanese inspired bathroom makeover

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    A beautiful second hand solid wood cabinet has been upcycled to create a unique bathroom storage idea with his and hers basins. The owner found it on Facebook marketplace for just £30.

    You can use a TV unit or small sideboard as an unusual vanity unit. You’ll need to shorten the top drawers to accommodate pipework.

    ‘It took weeks of searching online before I found the perfect round gold mirror,’ she reveals. ‘The wall colour – Tranquil Dawn – was easier to find. It was the Dulux colour of the year in 2020 and I’ve used it around the house.’

    Design detail 2: Green shower tiles

    Green bathroom with black walk in shower, green tiles, white bowl basin, black taps and round mirror

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    The green shower tile idea is inspired by the owner’s jade bangle and offers a tranquil feel. Due to the complex design, it took the tiler four days to complete.

    The black shower screens are reminiscent of the sliding screens in Japanese homes. ‘I saw some in a bathroom showroom and nearly fell over when I saw the price,’ says the owner. ‘But then found a design for a third of the cost online.’

    Design detail 3: Stylish bathroom storage

    White bathroom with green tiles, close coupled toilet, black shelf unit, house plants, mint planter

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    As the room’s so big there’s plenty of room for units to put prints, bathroom plant ideas and accessories.

    Choose storage that echoes your bathroom colour. This metal corner unit ties-in with the shower screens and the pale green box planter works well with the tiles.

    Design detail 4: Raised bath platform

    White bathroom with brick tiles, Japanese wood vanity unit, bowl basin, black taps and round mirror

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    ‘Luckily we have beautiful views across fields and we wanted to be able to soak in the bath while enjoying them – so a raised platform was a must,’ says the owner. Our joiner made an MDF structure, which was boarded and covered in a waterproof wood-effect vinyl flooring.’ 

    Make sure you or your joiner leaves a removable opening in the front panel for access to pipework in case of any future repairs.

    You could incorporate a full length step into the design or a ready-made step (Victorian Plumbing sells a 1000mm ready-to-tile bath step), which can be added afterwards.

    Design detail 5: Black accents

    Japanese inspired bathroom makeover

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee

    Black Venetian blinds, a black towel rail and black taps set off the space perfectly.

    ‘Even though we’ve lost a bedroom, it’s worth it for such a statement wow bathroom,’ says the owner. ‘It’s so nice having one totally finished room to escape to while the rest of the extension is still ongoing.
    Whether you want an indulgent evening of self care with a face mask in the tub or a fantastically hot shower with the amazing rainfall head, it’s just perfect.’

    What special holiday will inspire your next project?


    Additional words: Karen Wilson

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