It’s a myth that interior designers live in perfect homes, and Donna Allen waited a long 15 years to get her dream bathroom renovation, complete with a bold waterproof wallpaper!
While the 1970s bathroom had had a few cosmetic changes, like removing the original mauve wallpaper, she lived with it for much longer than she anticipated, but it was worth the wait! “As interior designers we can be our own worst client. If only I had several homes to indulge in all of my favourite things!
“In the end though, renovating my own home is a privilege for several reasons. It gives me the opportunity to push design boundaries that may be difficult to do with a client, it allows me to experience first-hand what it is like to live through a renovation and therefore better support my clients through the process, and it gives me a chance to even more closely collaborate with my suppliers and trades.”
Donna has a bit of an obsession with new and different materials and how they can be successfully incorporated into a design, so when she came across the waterproof wallpaper at a trade fair two years ago, she knew she wanted it for her bathroom. The challenge was in selecting the design from the many available options!
She also consciously chose a majority of Australian products. “We are so lucky to have access to the calibre of designers and artisans in Australia that we do and I am keen to support and showcase them whenever possible, both personally and in my business.”
With such a statement wallpaper (Arctic Wind by Wall & Deco, from Pure Interiors), Donna, who owns The Space Within, says the room needed some strong supporting players for balance.
“More subtle but equally stunning are the terrazzo floor tiles from Barefoot Living. The colours of the aggregate are soft but the large chip size gives the tile substance. The other hero is the freestanding Amélie bath from Rogerseller. It is a modern take on a traditional clawfoot bath and the fluid lines mirror that of the wallpaper.”
Ensuring the existing slab was structurally sound was one of the biggest challenges at the outset of the project. “Our original plan was to replace the slab completely but as we demolished the existing bathroom, we realised that because of how it was tied into the walls of the house, we wouldn’t be able to. We had to bring a structural engineer who advised that the full slab needed reinforcement from underneath.”
A few small but strategic changes were made to the layout to get the most out of the space. By moving the toilet to the opposite wall, Donna created room for a separate shower and freestanding bath. She also changed the hinged door to a cavity slider, which created much more circulation space. “The bathroom feels larger now even though we didn’t change the footprint.”
Donna and her husband Chris love the end result. “It’s a space that is both calming and refreshing at the same time. Stepping into the room is like taking a swim in the ocean on a hot summer’s day. It’s such a luxury to have a long, deep bath to relax in!”
Donna shares some expert tips for anyone embarking on a bathroom renovation, which can be stressful, expensive and take several weeks, if not months!
“A bathroom renovation encompasses almost all of the trades that a full home renovation would require, often in the smallest of spaces so it is expensive and can be stressful. Engaging a trusted team is paramount. If you don’t have a trusted builder, ask for recommendations from people you know who have recently renovated.
“Start your planning by pulling together your scope. Be clear on what things are must-haves, what are nice-to-have and what you definitely do not want. Then talk to your builder and/or trades to determine what opportunities and constraints you have. Questions to ask include: can you move the plumbing relatively easily, can the footprint be enlarged, if necessary, and, if your wish list includes something like a freestanding stone bath, are structural changes required to accommodate it?
“Then, working to scale, play with the layout so that it works for how you like to live. Only then should you begin selecting your fixtures, fittings and finishes.”
While many people bang on about resale and making design choices that appeal to broad markets and aren’t polarising, Donna, controversially, says resale is just an excuse to play it safe!
“The only time I think the question of resale should get a vote is if you are renovating specifically to sell. Otherwise, make the decisions and choices that are going to create a space you love. It’s your home, and one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, after all!”
This isn’t the only room in Donna’s house, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, to feature wallpaper. She’s just installed a wall mural from Kingdom Home in the laundry, she has a bold leopard design in her home office from These Walls and Banksia from Porters Paints in the dining room.
She describes her aesthetic as coastal cool. “It’s an eclectic mix of edgy industrial and modern beach with a dash of traditional. I believe a great interior is like a delicious recipe – start with high quality key ingredients then add the right mix of spices and herbs to bring it to life.”
Photography: Helen Ward