Cloakroom Design – Why The Smallest Room In The Home Can Still Be Full of Personality

When we bought our house 25 years ago, it was two rental flats and in a sorry state. We had, what we thought at the time, a healthy budget, but that was soon swallowed up by the basics of putting two flats back into a family home.

We prioritised the rooms that we would use the most, such as the childrens bedrooms, the lounge and the kitchen and slowly over the years, the rest of the house was given our attention as funds became available. The seperate toilet upstairs, next to the bathroom was always just an after thought though. It was decorated and given a newly tiled floor, but it was just for hygiene and functionality. With two small children there seemed little point, doing much else to it. To add personality we covered the painted walls with framed prints and posters and at one time we added a glittery toilet seat!! I know don’t judge, it was the early noughties and we were young!

Anyway jumping a few decades ahead, the children were grown and one had fled the nest and suddenly this sad little room didn’t seem to match the rest of our home, which we’d gradually been filling with all the things we’d always wanted but couldn’t previously afford, and it was time to give it some love. Also my instagram feed had been showing me so many lovely decorated cloakrooms, that I was inspired. I also spend a lot of my time designing bathrooms and cloakrooms for a high end tap brand and yet our own toilet at home was letting our whole house down so it was time I put my design skills to use in our own home.

Some of my designs for the client 

The first thing I knew I wanted was a chequerboard tiled floor. However, as I was seeing so many of them on instagram, I was concerned that this was the pattern du jour & would suddenly look dated and the last thing that anybody wants to do when they’ve tiled a floor, with a toilet plumbed in, sitting on top of said tiled floor, is change those tiles any time soon. I ruminated and pondered but kept coming back to this design and then in the summer my friend sent me a photograph of a beautiful classic hotel she was staying at in Remy in France and they had the exact same floor in the colours I wanted, in their hallway. Decision made. This was a classic design and my instincts were to go with it.

The hotel image my friend sent me in Remy

Once my mind was made up I started sourcing tiles in the colours of my choice, which were a rusty brick colour and an off white. There are many tile companies that offer this colour combination in encaustic tiles with their lovely soft chalky finish, but what I came to realise was that the standard size for these tiles is 20cm square and with a smallish room, this isn’t ideal as the chequerboard pattern becomes lost, as you obviously can’t fit that many tiles across the small width of the room. I needed around 10cm square for my floor and although some of my sourced tile companies offered a bespoke service for smaller tiles, this came at a huge cost and I’m talking £2,000 for one quote or a very long lead time of 3-4 months.

In the end I used quarry tiles, which are both suitable for floors, are anti slip as they aren’t glazed and came in the colours of my choice. They are as a side note, extremely cheap and the whole floor which was around 2.5 metres square cost £135.

I’ve since discovered a company called The Baked Tile Company, which I found whilst sourcing tiles for a client project. They have a lovely selection of matt unglazed tiles, suitable for walls or floors in 15cm square sizes, which would have been another option.

The other consideration whilst designing a cloakroom or seperate toilet area, is practicality and hygiene. It has to be easy to clean and maintain. So with this in mind I opted for MDF panelling in a wide Georgian style to replicate the architectural details of our Victorian house. The English Panelling Company make their panelling in a range of widths and also in green MDF, which is water resistant and suitable for rooms such as bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. The panels are routed to form the tongue and groove appearance and easily slot together and glue to the wall. They also provide a dado rail within their products, which is a suitable size for any of their panels. They were so easy to fit and went up in very little time.

I knew I wanted to use wallpaper and because we only needed half the amount to go above the panelling, it meant we could afford to use a more expensive design than if we were papering a whole room. I also knew I wanted to hang some of our artwork on the walls, so chose a small print design to enable us to showcase the art without the wallpaper fighting with it. The Cypress wallpaper design in Cocoa from Howe at 36 Bourne Street was the perfect colour to go with the tiles and the delicate paisley print wallpaper, printed in Leicestershire in the UK, was small enough for what I wanted, whilst still creating interest within the small room.

When it came to choosing a toilet, I knew I wanted a traditional design but with a close coupled cistern as the toilet is under the window, so this was the only design that would work. I don’t know if you’ve ever spent hours googling close coupled toilets but there is a staggering amount, almost all of them in fact, which have this awful (well to me awful) wide plastic slide that connects the cistern to the toilet. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I found the Victrion close coupled WC by BC Designs. It’s a small detail I know and I do realise as I’m typing this that I sound like a toilet snob and it’s probably not important to a lot of people, but to me it made all the difference. The toilet fits seamlessly close with the cistern, making it more visually attractive and easier to keep clean, it’s also pleasingly traditional in design with a choice of black or white seat and a choice of metal lever fittings. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but the smallest details like this make me very happy. As we know the devil is in the detail.

So finally to finish off this smallest room in the house, I made a roman blind with a small gingham black and white fabric, to harmonise with the black toilet seat and we kept our existing wicker pendant light, to add some texture to an otherwise untextural room. At some point an antique basket will be added to house the toilet rolls on the floor. I’ve got my eye on a Japanese antique basket next time I go sourcing for antiques for my online store.

The smallest thing which I think added the biggest design detail was using a scallop trim around the window frame. This was from Camilla Hampton who makes various MDF trim designs, in different widths. It’s a small detail but just makes the existing window frame, was was added in the 1970’s when the house was turned into flats, less austere and just quite pretty. A relatively cheap additon that made all the difference.

Existing art work was hung on the walls and some new prints from Ali Heath and Musee Home in frames from Glassette.

It’s exactly what I wanted and what I visualised. It feels warm and cosy, but clean and easy to maintain. The genius part of the whole reno which I claim was intentional but was actually just a happy accident, was moving the radiator from it’s original position by the door to the alcove next to the toilet. The toilet roll holder just above the radiator provides heated toilet paper, which is just the biggest luxury you can imagine. Forget leather heated seats in fancy expensive cars! This is the future of design! 🙂

If you want any of the details of the materials and products used in our toilet reno, I’ve attached my original mood board below with links to all the products.

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