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The Reclaimed Bath: 8 Favorite Retrouvius Designs Featuring Vintage Components

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The Reclaimed Bath: 8 Favorite Retrouvius Designs Featuring Vintage Components

April 6, 2022

Maria Speake and Adam Hills specialize in what they call “tales of transformation.” Driven by the belief that “good materials and well-made things are precious,” they inventively repurpose parts of old buildings and help others do the same. The couple met in 1988 as architecture students at the Glasgow School of Art, and, appalled by the needless destruction of historic structures, found themselves in the reclamation business. They began in Glasgow by rescuing elements from derelict churches, and soon started working with all manner of architectural findings.

Retrouvius, their combination salvage operation (run by Adam) and interior design studio (run by Maria), has been based in London’s Kensal Green since 1997 and is a longstanding Remodelista source of inspiration. The firm takes on a few remodeling projects a year and typically overhauls whole dwellings, both urban and rural. Within those, a favorite room to tackle is the bath, “often the only place in the house with a lock on the door,” points out Maria. Here are some of Retrouvius’s loo solutions, all of them models of creative reuse.

Photographs courtesy of Retrouvius (@retrouvius).

1. Victorian Sink Meets Salvaged Wood Paneling

&#8\2\20;bathroom furniture tends to be clunky and large, but reclaimed fre 9
Above: “Bathroom furniture tends to be clunky and large, but reclaimed freestanding washstands are often delicate and practical items that can easily be installed in the corner of a guest bedroom or in a bathroom short on space,” says Maria. “They typically lack tap holes, which allows the faucet to be wall mounted.”

Shown here in a children’s bath in North London: a Victorian-era cast-iron sink stand paired with an Edwardian porcelain basin with new copper fittings (source, unfortunately, not available). Salvaged wide pine boards extend from the floor halfway up the wall, where it hides the pipework but still provides easy access to it. The blue stained glass window was commissioned for the room.

2. A Touch of Bright

in a buckinghamshire farmhouse bathroom, maria and her design team transformed  10
Above: In a Buckinghamshire farmhouse bathroom, Maria and her design team transformed a claw-footed tub with water-based, eggshell-finished paint in a shade called Heat from Little Greene. The colorful rug is a vintage Moroccan design.
the room has a vintage pedestal sink and towel rod. the painted paneling hides  11
Above: The room has a vintage pedestal sink and towel rod. The painted paneling hides the water pipes and provides a handy ledge. The rewired 1940s glass pendant light is from Retrouvius’s ever-changing vintage Lighting stock. The fringed mirror was the client’s own.

“It’s possible to mix and match old and new sanitary furniture, however, vintage plumbing is often not compatible with modern systems,” notes the company’s website. “Make sure your plumber has worked with vintage sanitary ware previously as there will be various sizes of taps, drains. and fittings that may need to be altered.” For energy efficiency, Maria recommends modern mixer taps and shower heads: “they’re designed to aerate water and minimize waste.”

3. Tidied Old Tub (on a Mezzanine)

in a six story holland park townhouse that retrouvius remodeled for a family, t 12
Above: In a six-story Holland Park townhouse that Retrouvius remodeled for a family, the top two floors are the children’s zone. Because the kids “love being social while bathing,” an existing tub got moved onto a mezzanine near three bedrooms. The Dinesen flooring was “discovered” by the Retrouvius team when renovating; the boards were stripped of their paint and resealed.” (Go to Steal This Look to see another London bath clad in Dinesen wood.)
the double height room with a window wall is thought to have originally been an 13
Above: The double-height room with a window wall is thought to have originally been an artist’s studio. The vintage zinc-topped table is used for homework and crafts. Go to Retrouvius Shows the Elegant Side of Salvage for Elle Decoration’s spotlight on the house.

4. Color and Privacy Courtesy of Stained Glass

retrouvius introduced a salvaged leaded glass window in a formerly uninhabited  14
Above: Retrouvius introduced a salvaged leaded glass window in a formerly uninhabited Buckinghamshire farmhouse that Maria and team restored and refurbished for “its all female residents to retreat to as a home and a place for writing.”
a new skylight was inserted over a claw foot tub painted in a green from emery  15
Above: A new skylight was inserted over a claw-foot tub painted in a green from Emery & Cie. The wicker mirror and green stool are from Retrouvius. The wooden beam, Maria points out, is original but the patinated wood floor is a new addition. See other rooms in the house on the Retrouvius website.

5. Recast Parquet and Flamboyant Marble

in the holland park townhouse with the mezzanine shown above, the parents&# 16
Above: In the Holland Park townhouse with the mezzanine shown above, the parents’ bath has a salvaged cast-iron sink on a support built from oak parquet floor panels. See another basin like it in Retrouvius’s Rustic London Townhouse Remodel. Read the case for wall-mounted faucets in Remodeling 101.
the shower&#8\2\17;s boldly patterned pink and green marble was sourced fro 17
Above: The shower’s boldly patterned pink and green marble was sourced from MGL Warehouse in London—”it was sized to work with minimal cuts and waste,” the company notes on Instagram, “and should be reusable in the future if and when folks want a change.” Retrouvius stocks a small collection of salvaged marble and stone, which tends to get snapped up fast.

6. A Reuse for Copper Verdigris

creative reuse involves thinking beyond the material&#8\2\17;s original app 18
Above: Creative reuse involves thinking beyond the material’s original applications. Case in point: the Retrouvius designers cloaked this sink cabinet and shower in patinated copper sheets salvaged from a London rooftop water tank.
&#8\2\20;a single salvaged material used well and widely creates calm,& 19
Above: “A single salvaged material used well and widely creates calm,” says Maria.

7. The Sideboard Washstand and Other Antiques

in a north london townhouse, a carved antique sideboard got repurposed as a sta 20
Above: In a North London townhouse, a carved antique sideboard got repurposed as a stand for a new porcelain basin. “Introducing old furniture is a really good way to add character to a bath,” notes Maria. The early 20th century round mirror came from Retrouvius.
a salvaged marble insert from a fireplace frieze is used as wall decoration. 21
Above: A salvaged marble insert from a fireplace frieze is used as wall decoration.
the shower screen was built from a salvaged window. admiring the pale pink wall 22
Above: The shower screen was built from a salvaged window. Admiring the pale pink walls? They’re tadelakt, a water-proof Moroccan plaster finish.

8. All-Over Paneling from Reclaimed Flooring

maple flooring from a school gym was applied in this children&#8\2\17;s bat 23
Above: Maple flooring from a school gym was applied in this children’s bath set in an Edwardian turret in central London. The paneling here is actually the leftovers from a larger project that made use of the wood. “Small quantities of remnant salvage can be perfect for reuse in small rooms, such as loos,” says Maria. Though the tub and sink look shiny and new, they too came from demolitions. “Reclaimed wash basins are not hard to get hold of,” says Maria. “Try eBay or a local salvage supplier.”

The Retrouvius showroom and warehouse in Kensal Green, London, are open weekdays by appointment. Here’s a Retrouvius Notting Hill Townhouse Remodel that we featured a while back.

More bathroom inspiration:

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