Our house was built in 1912 and when we bought it, we were only the third family to have lived there. The builder who built it lived there with his family for 50 years, then another family moved in and we bought it when the last person to live there passed away. The house hadn't been touched - it was pretty much as it was from the very beginning, with stained glass and quirky arts & crafts details aplenty!
There was already a converted attic bedroom, which was either done when the house was built or shortly after, according to the various builders who we've begged for advice over the years! This was pretty unusual for the time, but it left us with a good-sized bedroom and a handy storage room, as well as some eaves storage.
The space measured 156 x 196 cm, so I would describe it as a very small room or a very large cupboard. We always used it as storage so it was always full of boxes and general clutter. Our boiler is in there too because there was no gas in the house when we bought it and, after a lot of head-scratching, we decided with our plumber that the best place for it was the attic. But our house isn't huge, and I believe in using every inch of your home, so this space always felt like a wasted opportunity. It was our mission to put a little ensuite in there at some point.
Before - full of boxes
Years went by and various plumbers, builders and even loft conversion specialists came and had a look and none of them wanted to do the job. Some said the only way we would get a toilet in was by building a Dormer extension; some just said it was impossible. The room measures 156 X by 196 cm which isnt too bad for an ensuite, but has a very sloping ceiling because it is in the eaves. At the highest point the ceiling is a generous 217 cm but it quickly slopes down to just 124 cm. It's at the front of the house which makes plumbing difficult as all the pipes have to go to the back of the house, and there is a landing in between. We are in a conservation area so there is no way we would be allowed a window at the front for ventilation. The odds were stacked against our little dream of a tiny en suite. As the years went by, although I couldn't accept it was impossible, it was obvious this was going to be a difficult job and it got put down to the bottom of the list time and time again.
At the same time, I was constantly searching online, looking on Pinterest, Instagram and everywhere for small bathroom solutions. I just couldn't believe our project was that unusual. But, all the attic bathrooms I came across, while gorgeous, were much bigger than ours, and didn't have any of the same issues. In fact, every time I Googled 'tiny attic bathroom', I'd be faced with beautiful bathrooms with windows, showers, and floor space and not what I would describe as tiny at all! I've even been on ferries, and in tiny hotel bathrooms with my tape measure thinking it must be possible but I just couldn't work out how to do it!
My daughter then turned 15 and reminded me I'd been talking about making her a bathroom all her life and it still hadn't happened. There's nothing like guilt to make me start a project so I vowed to do it. Space for a shower had always been an issue in terms of head height as well as ventilation, so we decided to just put in a toilet, sink and storage for her make-up and toiletries. This made the job less complicated, and making that decision was a weight off our minds and actually made the project seem far more viable. But we still had the issue of how to plumb in the toilet and sink. The boiler was already in this room, and there was a small radiator so we had some pipes in place, but a toilet also needs a waste pipe, and this was where we were struggling. We didn't have much space and we also didn't have room for the waste pipe to go across the landing. I'm not a plumber so I'm not going to talk in technical detail at all, suffice to say the plumber we had used for years suggested a particular Saniflo toilet that he'd recently used in a downstairs toilet and said was brilliant. I knew about Saniflo toilets before, but had been put off by the macerating element and they still needed space for pipes. However, this particular toilet was extremely compact and would be perfect for our space because it had no cistern and all the plumbing was actually in the base of the toilet which would save space and mean that the pipework would be so much smaller. It would be possible to go across the landing with the small pipe.
It meant we could put the toilet anywhere which was just a bit mind-blowing as it meant we had the space to actually do it!
If you're planning a bathroom or toilet in a tight space where you've been told the plumbing is difficult or impossible, I would really urge you to look at this option because it made us go from thinking we would never have a bathroom in this room to actually having a lovely bathroom (nearly a year on) that works brilliantly.
After my plumber told me the model to look for, I contacted Plumbworld and asked if they would help me with this project. I explained I had really struggled to find inspiration on the internet and I was particularly excited about this type of toilet because it could possibly mean our 15-year wait for a bathroom would be over! Plumbworld very kindly gifted me the Saniflo Compact toilet and I will forever be grateful for that.
Constantly measuring, I couldn't get my head around if we could actually fit everything in. Here's my daughter testing head height!
The rip out (notice the boxes just moved into the eaves! That was a job for another day!)
I think the photographs show what we went through. We took down the old plasterboard walls, which were 100 years old so we were left with the frame of the cupboard. We replaced them with bead board which was designed for bathrooms, and used an IKEA bathroom cabinet and sink (I will list everything below).
Lick very kindly gifted the paint and we paid for everything else.
We laid board over the uneven floorboards. Then I set to work filling holes and painting. I used an outdoor bulkhead light in an antique brass finish to match the tap. Being designed for outdoors use, it's IP44 rated, meaning it's suitable for bathrooms and I wanted it flush to the ceiling because of the limited head height.
We have one shower in our house for the four of us, but that really doesn't seem to be a problem at the moment. However, having two toilets has made a massive difference. It means my daughter can get ready in her own bathroom in the mornings and when she has friends to stay over they have more privacy. But most of all it's made use of a space that was otherwise just full of boxes of rubbish!
We don't have a huge house; we don't have a spare bedroom and I really believe in using every part of your house and now I really feel we have. I still can't quite believe we've finally got an attic loo (or powder room as I call it!), as for many years it felt like an impossible dream. The Saniflo toilet has literally saved this project and made it a reality!
I really hope this has inspired you and helped you if you have a small space you'd like to convert for an extra loo.
Mirror, Habitat no longer available
, Lisa Valentine Home