You may remember the inspiring story of Dianne and Bismil, who drove from Turkey to Spain with their seven rescue dogs and took on that ‘monster’ farmhouse renovation project. Well here’s the next episode in that rather lovely story, and we move from the kitchen to the bathroom.
One of the things Dianne, who is designing and managing this project, really gets right is completing one job before moving onto the next (I wish I could say the same for myself, ahem). Both of us toiled in a bathroomless state for most of the winter, and while I still shower in cold water, Dianne’s is looking pretty flipping stunning.
Don’t ask me why, but I have a thing for bathrooms. Nothing makes me happier than a sumptuous washroom. But if you have a glimpse at how this one started out, you’ll see just how much Dianne and Bis worked to get it looking perfecto.
In fact the bathroom is two rooms knocked into one. The old utility room at the back of the house was hiding a lovely window onto the garden, which was a real waste of a nice view. Dianne envisaged sitting in the bath and looking out onto that space instead. Great idea if you ask me!
Next Bismil and Dianne ripped off the old concrete renders and levelled the floor between the two rooms. It was a massive, dirty, difficult job.
Lime Renders Throughout
Dianne is very committed to using natural materials and recycling. She used an NHL (hydraulic lime) to create the base render and then used a lime putty to make a beautiful finish render. Finally the walls were painted in this gorgeous brick red milk paint, which has given the whole space an uplifting vibrancy. So beautiful really.
Why Lime and not Portland Cement?
If you’ve been hanging around The Mud Home a while, you’ll know this. But there are so many misconceptions about lime, I feel compelled to point it out one more time. Lime creates a more porous finish, which means it absorbs the damp and then releases it (the water is allowed to evaporate). This creates a breathable skin for your wall, which is more durable than mud, and copes far far better with the damp than mud or Portland. If you don’t want a mouldy bathroom that clings on to the damp, use lime! It’s a very viable option for bathroom walls.
Hydraulic Lime or Lime Putty?
There are so many different limes out there, and it confuses people immensely. I’ve written a more detailed post here on the different kinds of lime. I go into more depth still in my Amazing World of Lime Course. But basically, the softest, most environmentally-friendly lime is the putty. It cures slowly, and remains quite malleable for a long while. Hydraulic lime is, in my opinion, a kind of halfway house between lime and Portland cement. Hydraulic lime cures much faster and harder than the putty. Both however, use far far less carbon to produce than Portland (about 25% of the carbon on average).
Recycling and Upcycling
This is one of the most admirable things about this project, and I find it so inspiring. Pretty much every single thing you see in this bathroom except for the bath, sink, and toilet, have been upcycled from rubbish dumps, second-hand stores, or from the house itself.
Those gorgeous shelves and sills? They’re all old pieces of wood Dianne and Bismil found lying around the house, or taken from the roof, then lovingly planed, sanded, and oiled with linseed oil.
This bathroom cabinet was created entirely from bits and pieces. Bismil took some old shelving lying around and joined them onto another old cabinet, then added the doors from a second-hand store. After that, the whole lot was painted with chalk paint. Who would ever know? Amazing.
The mirror and most of the knick-knacks were from a second-hand store too. The window shutters were painted with milk paint. Just by giving stuff a lick of paint or oil, you can create a stunning effect.
The Turkish resourcefulness factor, and Western poverty
I’ll be honest, this kind of resourceful reusing of old stuff is fairly typical in rural Turkey. Rubbish was always a bit scarce there, because every bit of wood, string, tin, or plastic was reused for something. I always remember my neighbour Dudu washing plastic bags and hanging them on the line. So when I first saw the rate people were throwing stuff away in the UK, and how they think they have to buy everything, I was pretty shocked to be honest. When you can no longer create anything original, or even see the abundance all around you because you’ve been fed a bunch of manufactured crap for your entire life, it isn’t a privilege, it’s poverty.
This is hugely expensive, right?
People assume, quite wrongly, that these kind of house transformations necessarily require massive budgets. They can do if you hire tradespeople to do everything, and aren’t smart about who you hire or which materials you use. But in truth it’s entirely dependent on how much effort you’re willing to put in, how much you can do yourself, how creative you are, how many natural materials you use, and how much you recycle. Dianne and Bismil are on a very tight budget here, but they’re being super resourceful with their funds.
What would Dianne do differently next time?
We are so lucky when people share their stories, because we get to learn from them. Dianne is a bit of pro when it comes to house projects, and has such a clear vision about where she’s going with it all. But I know the bathroom was a bit of headache. So…what would she do differently next time?
“I would have put the skylight lower down in the pitch of the roof. I know enough about the angle of the light now. Having said that, I am in love with the skylight even so,” Dianne says. “And the sink was a bit of disaster. I’m not happy with it. I planned to reuse a beautiful old corner sink, but my measurements went a bit awry and I couldn’t find a suitable replacement. But...I have a plan.”
He he… and I can’t wait to see how that plan unfolds.
What else have they renovated?
In addition to the bathroom, the previously dilapidated roof has now been overhauled with skylights, insulation, fasciae, and guttering. It was quite a project in and of itself, but is now looking just great! I can't wait to see the next room transformation (not to mention cuddling the dogs of course:)
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