We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
You’d never know looking at Leanne Kilroy’s bedroom and bath now, but at one point during her remodel, there were gaps in the shower floor tile, a permanent marker stain on the dresser’s marble countertop, and an irremediable leak coming from the tub spout. That’s the thing about renovating: Sometimes you have to go through all the painful mistakes to get to the right place. “It was actually a blessing in disguise when the original penny tiles I had purchased for the shower were laid incorrectly and had to be ripped out,” says Kilroy, the interior designer and founder of London-based firm Good Bones. Having the opportunity to see them in the space, wonky-looking and all, inspired her to switch gears altogether and purchase the green tumbled marble tile she’d secretly wanted all along. “And I really, truly love it,” she adds.
She’d been set on creating an en suite since she and her family moved into the house in November 2020. The space adjacent to the primary bedroom was essentially a smaller replica of it: It had the same orange floor varnish, broken ceiling spotlights, and bulky MDF cupboards. After relocating their youngest child to a different room upstairs, where she could be closer to her sister, Kilroy and her husband decided to join the two areas with a new door and designated the more petite room as the new bathroom. “It was the very first thing the builders did, and it was so satisfying,” recalls the designer. Ahead, a closer look at the three-month-long transformation, its trial and errors, and why it was all worth it in the end.
Go Full Circle
Both the bedroom and bathroom layouts were designed to have circular circulation. In other words, you can walk all the way around the tub and, likewise, you can do laps around the freestanding wardrobe that doubles as a headboard. Not only does Kilroy find that dead ends often lead to gloomy corners, but the openness makes her life as a mom of three easier. “I’m always lugging around armfuls of things that need tidying or cleaning, and I’m constantly forgetting things here and there. Having shortcuts is a small but constant joy,” she says. The same goes for the primary suite’s relationship to the rest of the house: The bedroom and bathroom are connected to each other, of course, but each one also features a separate entrance to the stair landing.
Bring Back Bubble Baths
Wanting to avoid the clinical design trap that so many new bathroom renovations fall into, Kilroy focused on adding pieces with age and character, like an enormous claw-foot cast-iron tub, an eBay score. The designer refurbished the piece herself with Zinsser BIN primer and, once that was dry, two coats of satin paint. Connecting the fixture to a water source turned out to be the trickier part. The taps that had come with the tub were leaky and beyond repair. Kilroy found herself buying a floor-standing filler that she hadn’t initially budgeted for. No regrets: “We’re so happy we have our own bathtub and have taken more baths in the past few months than in the past few years,” she shares.
Seal It and It’ll Deliver
Swathing the shower in plasterlike microcement gave the bathroom additional old-world charm, but Kilroy’s decision to extend the treatment beyond the wet zone and onto the adjacent two walls was a more practical one. “Most plasterers have minimum square feet required per job, and finishing the inside and outside of our shower wouldn’t have met those minimums,” explains Kilroy, who tasked CMG Finishes with the job. The Forcrete finish, color-matched to Little Greene’s Portland Stone Light (the paint color used throughout the rest of the room), is in fact waterproof.
Kilroy also gets a lot of questions from Instagram followers about the original wood floorboards in a place that’s prone to H2O. (Psst: After sanding them down and lightening them with Danish lye, she had them covered with a satin lacquer.) For her, keeping them was worth the risk. “It makes the room feel less like a bathroom and more like any other room in the house,” she explains.
Put the Broken Pieces Back Together
The fireplace in the couple’s bedroom was a lucky find. The pair stumbled across the red marble mantel and tiled surround on the side of their road. “We weren’t sure if it could be saved, let alone if all the pieces were there, but I made my husband carry it home anyway,” says Kilroy. The spliced-up parts lived in their basement for a few years while they saved up for the reno. When it came time to install it, they hired a professional restorer who only had to source one extra replacement piece to tie it all together. The dark red stone ultimately inspired the deep burgundy color of the built-ins in the dressing area. To achieve a slightly brownish red, the designer mixed RAL3004 with a Paint & Paper Library color called Scarlet ‘n’ Rust.
Look for Happiness in Small Places
Kilroy didn’t want to have to compromise between natural light and privacy in her dressing room, so she installed double track window treatments with a heavy curtain on the outside and a light linen-blend drape on the inside. “It’s a small thing, but pulling that voile closed to get dressed and pulling it back open once I’m done really makes me happy,” she says.
Another precious perk? The dual-outlet shower—there is both an overhead fixture and a handheld hose that can be used simultaneously. “Using both at once feels like the ultimate luxury,” she says. As does the fact that her towel radiator from Etsy is located right at the opening to the shower: “Our towels are not only easily accessible but hot and toasty.” Talk about warm fuzzies.