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Practical bathrooms come in from the cold

Practical bathrooms come in from the cold

New baths for old lf the plumbing works well but the fixtures are jaded, chipped and stained do not automatically think of throwing them out.

Baths, basins and even WCs can be renovated and resurfaced by professional firms (consult your Yellow Pages). Or you can resurface them yourself with epoxy paint if you are handy and, above all, patient. You must first take the time to prime the original surface to ensure a really smooth slick finish when you spray or roll on the epoxy, and you must wait the requisite time (usually a day or two) before you can safely use the fixtures again. Outsides of old baths can also be painted with a design, or stencilled to look especially interesting. It's often a good idea to have the sides built- out a little and panelled with wood so that they look both generous and contained, especially if the sides are deep enough to sit on or to put things on.

Old basins too, with their sad underpinnings of twisted pipes, can also be enclosed with wood to gain respectability and provide storage space at the same time.

Plants in the bathroom

An instant facelift for an existing bathroom can be achieved by the addition of plants to complement the bathroom furniture. Their vivid colours, plant pots and often sculptural leaf shapes can all be used to great effect for little outlay in either time or money. Moreover, the warm humid conditions are often particularly suited to certain varieties of a houseplant. But remember that they need good light as well as bright direct, though not necessarily hot, the sunshine. Few plants thrive in deep shade or gloomy places. Air conditioning will dehydrate them and if your bathroom has fan ventilation this will cause draughts which plants dislike. Some require constant humidity and should be stood in plastic trays on a layer of constantly moist gravel or pebbles. If your bathroom is kept at a low temperature - around 5'C (40"F) e your choice of plants will be more limited, but aspidistra, rhotacismus, rhomboids, sansevieria and ficus pumila are sturdy enough and should be satisfactory.

Bowls of mixed plants are a good choice for a small bathroom; they take up little room but give a variety of colours and textures. Don't overwater these and remember that containers without drainage holes should have a thin layer of gravel at the bottom. Some plants, like ferns, hate drying out and some, like aspidistras, dislike dust and need to be sponged occasionally. All plants should be turned to let the light get on all sides. To avoid disappointment, only buy plants that come with good instruction labels telling you how to care for them and what sort of temperatures and conditions they prefer.

Not only but also

If it's big enough there's no reason why it shouldn't serve not just one but two useful purposes. You could consider making a bathroom- dressing room, a bathroom-exercise room, a bathroom-study, or you might add a bathroom cabinets end to a bedroom, simply screening it off If there is room for clothes storage, either in the room, or in a lobby just outside, you can add a hanging cupboard or closet, bring in a chest of drawers, install a long mirror or a mirrored wall, insert a comfortable chair, maybe a rocking chair or an old wicker chair, put down a carpet and you will have an interesting dressing-room - especially if there is space to add a dressing table and chair or stool as well. Keep fit enthusiasts might find the bathroom a good place for an exercise bicycle, a rowing or jogging machine or whatever. If all this gym equipment doesn't look particularly beautiful it could be screened off with a screen, a hardboard partition or tall plants. One of the most interesting bathrooms have seen was a bathroom- study with the desk and chair partitioned off from the bath area by a towel rail acting as a low divider.

Shower, WC and bidet each had their separate alcoves on another wall, and the far wall was covered in floor to ceiling bookshelves with a comfortable leather chair, reading light and small side table in front of them. Even if there is no space or more to the point, no funds to provide all this, you might still be able to provide a work table, chair, telephone and wall fixed work light in an odd corner, or alcove.