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.
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
“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.”