Our bathroom is one of those horrors you hope never to come across, even after years in the wilderness, yet it has taunted us for three long years since moving into the house. In an attempt to protect the most sensitive amongst you, I spent a while cleaning before taking the photos, but even one of my dear friends conceded, after putting her back into the task that the bath was uncleanable and perhaps should be painted just to tide us over( excuse the pun)!
As you can see we have an interesting blocked-up window, rather outrageous pink tiles, and a glaringly pink cupboard..
..notwithstanding the terrible peeling paint issue..and let’s not mention the dirty bath again! The plumber told me that the silicone sealant should be redone every year, but if you knew about the water that insisted on finding it’s way between the bath and the wall, and positively wrecking the sitting room ceiling below, you’ll know why, now that we’ve managed to waterproof the joint, we have no intention of picking it all out and starting over again.
But when you only have one bathroom to share amongst six people, with four of them being adolescents, ripping it out the entire bathroom has simply never been an option.
Off the master-bedroom, however, was a tiny “coin lavabo” (basin corner), and just behind it, opening onto the landing was a large-ish cupboard, and though storage is very crucial, we decided to move the partition wall to create a larger space for a “coin douche” ( shower room) and a smaller cupboard instead.
This decision was made a year and a half ago, so you will be forgiven for thinking that we’ve made heavy weather of it. What’s held us back has been an annoying detail called ‘jobs’ and the need to seriously waterproof the space as directly below is our hallway. Living in Normandy we had no great desire to come inside from one shower straight into another one coming through the ceiling!
The first part of the construction process saw us full of enthusiasm. After all there is nothing more satisfying than knocking down walls! The next process, buying the products, was equally satisfying, but that’s when work pressures got too intense and the project ground down.
This summer with the prospect of using the bathroom becoming less and less appealing, I finally, and uncharacteristically turned to the professionals!
The first plumber who came to quote arrived in his shiny polished pointed shoes and impeccable suit. He enthusiastically declared anything was possible. His quote was so much lower than the others our confidence ebbed as his increased.
The second frowned for several minutes and then appeared reassuringly knowledgeable, batting away our more crazy ideas and coming up far more realistic alternatives. But on his way out declared that he couldn’t ‘insure’ leaks from the products we had already bought.
The third, jovial and encouraging plumber came up with an excellent idea to remove the necessity for a ‘trap-door’ to get to hidden piping by turning the entire shower through 90 degrees and having the pipe work accessible from the reduced sized landing cupboard. He was our first choice but he never sent us a quote.
In the end plumber number two was available with a space in his calendar to construct our shower the first week of September. He did a beautiful job, happily turning the shower through 90 degrees without argument, and left several days later having even tiled the rest of the shower-room floor which I’m sure we hadn’t even asked him to do in the first place!
So why, you might ask, am I only telling you about it now, at the end of November?
It turns out, you see, that turning a shower tray through 90 degrees is not a very good idea. Now the slope of the shower to the drain is exactly where we need to put our shower screen. And I defy you to find me a shower screen manufacturer who makes shower screens that slope by 28mm from left to right along their bottom edge!
There’s a Do it Yourself store in France called Leroy Merlin, it’s a bit of a play on words actually. When pronounced correctly it really says Le Roi Merlin, ( king Merlin) and old Merlin was allegedly a bit of a magical chap. So this seemed the ideal place to find a shower screen solution. I fell upon a very nice assistant at Leroy Merlin, let’s call her ‘Madame’, because that’s what she also calls me. My initial conversation with all the bathroom staff, and believe me, shop staff in places like this really are pretty knowledgeable, if occasionally a bit rigid in their viewpoints, involved a lot of sucking teeth. They had a made ‘sur mesure’ service but their computer programme was only set up to register modifications of glass sizes to the sides and the top of the shower screens. Definitely not to the bottoms! To complicate matters the fabricators were based in Germany, but at least on the same time zone, although some of the delays to respond might have had us thinking otherwise!
However Madame asked me to go home and measure millimeter by millimeter the fall across my shower tray. After that she seemed to decide that she was going to resolve the conundrum by hell or high water. The only trouble is that Madame is only available on a Friday.
It seems that Madame and I are more switched on than the German company, as we kept getting back quotes for shower screens with doors that had to open against the slope. As much as I might wish it, i cannot squeeze my body through a 2cm gap once the door grinds to a halt against the slope of the shower tray, no matter how much I wish otherwise.
Madame and I have been sending each other many encouraging emails – once a week!
On Friday she was just emailing me when I physically entered the store. In the excitement at the latest development we entirely forgot to shake hands and greet each other before getting down to business. She realized about 5 minutes into the conversation, and stopped, a little shocked by her lack of manners ( and presumably mine as well), paused, and vigorously shook my hand with a “bonjour Madame” before resuming the partially completed sentence of moments before.
It appears we might be nearly there. The German contact has realised that the hinges have to go on the lower side of the door. Madame has advised me that it would be worth measuring everything again as a final check because once it finally does arrive there’s no recourse for errors.
But while we are waiting, we can at least admire the handiwork, and use the basin, carefully constructed and installed by ‘husband a la maison’ which has no awkward slopes except for where they’re meant to be. The marble to support the basin was found in our attic, broken in two and we glued it back together. The little basin table was found in a brocante and modified to incorporate the basin itself.
Not only that, but I am very excited to present the long searched for mirror. ‘Husband a la maison’ picked it up for 20€ at Emauus, which he is especially pleased about since I gave him the “do you really need to go there again speech ” a few minutes before he departed. And as if to add the cherry to the cake, it even has birds carved onto it which mirrors my curtains perfectly!
Now all that there is left to do is to decide which lights to use above the sink – but perhaps you can help us with that!
If we are all really lucky I may have a shower before Christmas!
Shower screen willing!