Bramhall Project: The Tadelakt Bathroom

Everyone loves a good before and after, but this project has to be one of my favourites to date.

In Spring this year, I was commissioned to work on a family bathroom project in South Manchester. The house itself is a beauty, an Edwardian semi-detached which has been renovated in a stylish and sympathetic style with a great airy feel perfect for a family.
The bathroom, however, was a bit of a different story. It was the one room that hadn’t been touched in an earlier round of renovations and, since it needed completely gutting – see the before picture to see why – it wasn’t something that was going to be fixed with a simple lick of paint.

The Before!

Dimensions and Layout

Before we could get started on the more exciting stuff the first issue to address was the layout. It is a long, narrow room which hadn’t previously allowed space for a separate bath and shower, something high up on the wish list for my client. She had played around with layout ideas but had struggled to come up with a version that allowed for everything she wanted and enough room to walk around it all as well!

My solution was to put up a new stud wall. Not only did this allow us to separate off a separate spacious-feeling shower area at the end of the room, (which is annoyingly very difficult to photograph), but it also provided a new wall against which to put the new vanity unit. Had we placed the vanity on the existing long walls it would have made for a small gap to navigate between that and the bath and given an overall cramped feeling.

To keep a greater feeling of space we also didn’t take this new partition all of the way up to the ceiling, instead taking it far up enough to allow us to put the lovely new Lusso Stone shower set on it at the right height but also keeping visibility right through the room allowing you to see that gorgeous curve on the ceiling as you walk in.

That curved ceiling!

Because of the dimensions of the space it was also really important that we got all of the dimensions of the new bath and vanity just right. My client was really keen to have a free standing bath for that luxury feel, but when I went to visit the room following the initial rip-out I double checked the measurements and decided we were going to need to size down in order to create that perfect space between bath and vanity to walk comfortably through to the shower.
We also spent a long time finding the right vintage vanity unit that would fit a decent-sized basin on top (again Lusso Stone), but not encroach at all on this space.

For these kinds of decisions the 3D models that I use help to plan this out, see below for the initial concept, but it’s also important to be flexible and be prepared to make changes if the space feels different when you’re actually in it.

The original design

The Design

The design brief for this room was simple. My client wanted to create something which felt luxurious and, unlike the existing room, like a real treat to be in. She had collected images of rooms with micro-cement and also fallen in love with the look of Moroccan plaster in a bathroom on a previous holiday.

Ultimately we decided to use Tadelakt. If you haven’t come across it before Tadelakt is a waterproof Moroccan lime-based plaster which is suitable for a variety of uses including interior and exterior walls. It can also be used to create shelves, seating, vanities and even basins and offers a great alternative to tiles in bathrooms and wetrooms with a seamless, grout-free finish.

Indigenous to the Marrakech region of Morocco, the word Tadelakt means “to rub in” or “massage” in Arabic which gives you your first clue about how labour intensive this material is. It isn’t a finish that you can apply yourself but instead requires specialist installation – this bathroom for example took around a week for two people to complete.

Tadelakt is available in a wide range of colours but here we went with “Silver Fox” which is a concrete-style grey that works well with the paint colour and the white sanitaryware.

If you are considering using Tadelakt here’s a few things that are worth mentioning:

• It’s expensive! Particularly if you live outside of London as there are few specialists operating in the regions, so you are also paying for the installers to travel.
• You need a really flat surface on which to apply the plaster as the layer is very thin. We worked with Tadelakt London and they were great, however, at working with the builder (Birch Projects) to discuss the correct preparation for the room prior to their arrival and they were also very flexible when our timeline changed slightly.
• Not all wetroom trays work with Tadelakt. Again, we took advice from the specialists on which to use but this is something to consider in advance.
• You need to have everything in its final place before the installers arrive. The last thing you want to happen is for the installation to be complete and then for you to realise, for example, that your tap hole/wiring is in the wrong place and needs to be moved. I literally had nightmares about this!

Finally, to make sure that the room didn’t feel too stark the Tadelakt was used to half height around most of the room with Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue used on the walls above and across the ceiling which created a beautiful contrast with the plaster. The wood of the vintage vanity unit also warms up the space whilst the black brassware and towel radiator add to the industrial feel.

Lighting

Last but not least, to create a room with that added touch of glamour the lighting is always an important consideration.
My vision for this room had always been the idea of a really luxurious bath with pendants sitting over it for the best soaking experience you can imagine.

In practice bathroom lighting is never that straightforward, particularly in a wetroom environment as there are always so few options that don’t cost the earth with the correct IP rating. In the end we went with the amazing Tom Dixon stone pendants over the bath, an Original BTC light on the stud wall and some black recessed downlights in the ceiling which recede into the dark ceiling.

The result is a bathroom which has – I really hate this term – the wow factor. It’s something completely unique and yet perfectly simple in its design. The only problem is, now I want it for myself!