The Downstairs Loo

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For almost every house renovation we do, we are asked to include a new downstairs toilet. The decision is often driven by practical reasons like the future sell value of the house, or saving a trip upstairs for small children, elderly residents or guests. However, we think the downstairs toilet is also a great design opportunity and the under rated throne of home renovation.

A good downstairs loo can leave a lasting impression and provide the opportunity for a little fun. Instead of being defined by practicality like a family bathroom, it can be extravagant, indulgent or quirky offering guests a window into your world. It is the one place they will sit alone (hopefully!) and have a little time to ponder the house and its personality. So give them something to look at!

In this post, we have pulled out our top tips for inspiring downstairs toilets. We hope you enjoy our first ever toilet blog…

Be bold with colour

Your downstairs toilet doesn’t need to fit in with the theme of the rest of the house, it can be whatever it wants to be. Often, really loud, punchy or moody colours can work well in a small space and provide a real sense of fun. On Vault House the client was passionate about the use of Morrocan tiles. We turned this into a theme and designed the whole space based on a Hammam, complete with a curved ceiling. This was completely out of character with the rest of the property but provided an exciting contrast and talking point for guests.

This isn’t just limited to the walls. For Longbrick House, we chose some really bold orange taps and accessories from Vola (https://en.vola.com/catalog/basin/hv1), this gave the room a quirky accent and a sense of its own identity. Or if you are feeling brave you could always opt for coloured grouting, as artist Grayson Perry does in the downstairs loo at A House for Essex.

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Inserting a splash of colour with the fittings.

Create some privacy with a lobby

A common challenge with locating a toilet on the ground floor is its proximity to the kitchen and communal dining or lounge spaces. Not to be obscene (we are talking toilets here) but this can create issues with smells and also privacy. On L Beam House we addressed this issue by creating a double door lobby to the toilet, which provided space for a ‘pre-room’ with sink and also doubled as the location for the washer and dryer. We made the outer door into a really nice design feature by turning it into a surface mounted sliding barn door that really contributed to the design of the adjacent kitchen space.

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Creating a lobby in front of the downstairs loo with a sliding barn door.

Treat yourself to nice finishes

As the space is quite small, it is a great opportunity to use slightly more lavish finishes that you might not be able to afford in a larger space. In our L Beam house project we used really elegant wallpaper on the two flanking walls and paired the other walls with a deep moody blue. Wallpaper of this quality would have been outside of the clients budget for a full-sized room, but the guest toilet provided a real opportunity to indulge in this luxury on a smaller scale. (wallpaper link https://www.cole-and-son.com/en/collection-ardmore/wallpaper-109/2008/).

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Treat yourself to nice finishes when working with small surface areas.

Let the toilet influence your layout

Often the downstairs toilet will be designed to be incognito and out of the way. On our Ogee House project we inverted this idea and located it right in the middle of the kitchen and the lounge.  This is what we like to call ‘broken plan’, the kind of layout that provides the benefit of open, flowing and connected spaces but with points of orientation and distinction. In this instance, the downstairs toilet provides the ‘broken’ element, dividing the two spaces and providing a point of centre. This point was made a feature by cladding the outside walls with timber panelling and adding book shelves in the kitchen.

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Make a feature of your downstairs loo and clad in timber panelling and shelves.

Our best ever downstairs loo award, goes too..

In our experience of visiting downstairs toilets (and in our line of work we have visited many) there is one real standout, The Centre Durrenmatt in Switzerland, the home of a well-known cartoonist and political commentator, which was turned into a museum of his life and works. The original downstairs toilet, decorated by Durrenmatt himself, was named on the door as the ‘cistern chapel’ and inside the small room the walls and ceiling were covered in a spectacular and colourful fresco painting. It was an attack on the senses, and representative of his free spirit and sense of humour.

Other stuff to do for your toilet…

Twin your toilet – Toilet twinning is an excellent idea for your home or as a gift for a friend. For a cost of £60 you can twin your toilet with a latrine overseas and include a framed photo for your room. By donating, you help to fund projects in poor communities providing families with access to clean water. More info at https://www.toilettwinning.org/

Buy toilet roll that makes a difference – Who Gives a Crap Toilet Roll donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. Plus its funny and their product looks great. Order at https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/

Invest in a good toilet book (and book shelf) – Every toilet should have a good toilet read, but what makes a good toilet book? Daily Rituals by Mason Currey is a great book divided into one page chapters about how great minds ‘make time, find inspiration, and get to work’. Great inspiration for your toilet bookshelf. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daily-Rituals-How-Artists-Work/dp/0307273601

Links:

Cistern Chapel – more info on the Center Durrenmatt in Switzerland  https://www.cdn.ch/cdn/en/home/centre.html

Projects we’ve designed with great downstairs loos;

–          Ogee House https://b-vds.co.uk/projects/ogee-house/

–          L Beam House https://b-vds.co.uk/projects/l-beam-house/

–          Longbrick house https://b-vds.co.uk/projects/long-brick-house/

 

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