Building a second bathroom

If you have no single storey to build an extension over, and still want your bathroom at first-floor level, then obviously you must construct some form of support at the lower storey. Once this is done you could take this opportunity to use the bottom storey area you have created under the new bathroom-perhaps as another room or a covered terrace, or even a garage. (It would be wasting space otherwise, and this is in London is virtually criminal these days !)

This would be good policy anyway, since double the total floor area is added at much less than twice the cost of a single storey addition, because both storeys have the same roof and groundwork. The design of this ground floor room will depend largely on its relation to other rooms and on other equally important factors such as aspect, outlook and privacy. It may face south or west-the sunniest aspects in the Northern Hemisphere-in which case you have a fine sun-lounge in the making which always adds to the value and enjoyment of a house. Facing other directions (providing it is quiet), it could provide the older children with a study, or if it has a pleasant outlook, the younger ones with a playroom. Or you could turn it into a utility room or an extended kitchen. The possibilities are many.

Drain for the bathroom

Bathrooms have the disadvantage of needing to be connected to drains. It may sound obvious, but in the first flush of enthusiastic planning you may overlook this one major point. Sanitary fittings must be connected to a soil stack which is a l00mm diameter vertical pipe leading to an underground drain at an ‘inspection chamber’,otherwise known as a manhole. This runs at a slow gradient either to a public sewer (the most usual in towns) or some form of approved disposal plant. The gradient of the drain should be neither too steep nor too shallow, otherwise blockages and difficulties in disposing of the waste occur.

inspection chamber manhole

The optimum ‘self-cleansing’ gradient is normally taken as l: 40 for a 102mm diameter pipe and 1: 60 for a 152mm diameter pipe. In a town you will have to connect it to the general sewage system or, if this is too far away or too deep, you will have to connect the soil stack to another form of approved disposal. (Working back from the lowest possible that is workable connection to the sewer at the minimum gradient will fix the lowest level for your new drain.) Alternative forms of sewage disposal are septic tanks and cesspools, neither a particularly attractive system-especially in towns.

The local building control will have to approve you using either of these systems in the first place, and also all their details such as capacity, construction and location. A septic tank is really a miniature chemical treatment plant, and the treated fluid drains away into the ground. Local authorities will permit you to use them only when satisfied that they would be in no way harmful or offensive to other residents in the area. A cesspool is simply a storage chamber which must be emptied periodically by a special pumping tanker-either belonging to the local authority or operated by a private contractor.

Whoever deals with it, it represents a regular expense, and because of its obvious limitations should be considered only as a last resort. So connecting the waste pipes to a sewer, or a satisfactory alternative, is crucial when you are planning to add a bathroom. If you can connect to an existing drain line, then fine. But if you can’t and must provide new drains, the cost could prove expensive out of all relation to the value of the improvement to your property.

The all in one bathroom

Whether or not to put the wc in the main bathroom or in a separate compartment may be an issue for the family to fight over, but it is also a tricky design consideration. To a large extent it will depend on the size and shape of the available space and the access. There may not be room for more than one door in which case a combined bathroom and wc is unavoidable. Or you could fit a shower instead of a bath, which may leave just enough space to fit a second door and have a separate wc.

The obvious advantage of having a separate wc is that it can be used independently of the bath and other fittings.Remember,while someone is dreaming in the bath you could have a lengthy wait .There is usually, however, no disadvantage in having the wash-basin and bath in the same room, though a separate shower is a good idea, especially for a large family. While someone soaks in the bath, several others could take a quick shower at the same time. This is one good argument in favour of a shower compartment, instead of shower fittings attached to the bath.

The most workable arrangement, if space permits, is a bathroom with bath and washbasin (and bidet if desired) in one compartment and separate compartments with entrances for the shower and wc. But if space really is too tight to allow this, then all-in-one bathroom does at least have the advantage of looking a less ‘bitty’ and sometimes even more spacious. Contact London Bathroom Builders for a free Quote on adding a second bathroom.

bathroom fitters london

Soundproofing London

If you or members of your family like your music loud, then take precautions to stop it reaching your neighbour. Contact us for a professional soundproofing job.

Noise travels in two ways. Impact noise for example, the noise caused by objects being dropped, travels through the actual structure of the building; and airborne noise travels through the air in all directions, finding its outlet through any chinks in the fabric of your house such as cracks round old window frames. Impact noise can be softened through the use of sound deadening ( soundproofing) flooring and wall coverings; rubberised finishes; cork tiles; fitted carpets with thick pile and heavy underlay; expanded polystyrene tiles on the ceiling (and perhaps a false, lowered ceiling).

If you are feeling extravagant, carry a luxury-floor covering such as shaggy-pile carpet up one or more walls as well. Think how harsh and hollow average foot steps sound in an empty house with bare floor boards, and how anything heavy dropped upstairs seems to reverberate down the walls to the rooms below. Noise is more than a nuisance – it can cause headaches and tiredness- If your house is going to be a home then you should admit that noise will be made, and provide for it. Airborne noise can be ‘killed’ by checking up on those window frames, double-glazing your windows, sealing up holes and cracks in the masonry, and providing solid-core, substantial doors. Here again you could coat, the door with some soft material such as carpeting or felt; this would help insulate the room against heat loss, as well as noise.

Interior Design for Halls and Hallways

The first impression anyone gets of your home is the hall. So ideally it should be bright, warm, welcoming, uncluttered, and draughtproof. But the one so many of us end up with is a dimly lit corridor stacked with muddy shoes and prams or bicycles. Even the most unpromising hall can be considerably improved and brought up to the same decorative standard as the rest of the house.

porch exterior door

Although it is really part of the exterior of the house, the front door is nevertheless an important part of any hall. The colour chosen for the outside should team not only with the colour of the external walls, but also with the colour of the hall. House numbers of a decent size make identification from car or cab that much easier. Brass and chrome reflect brightly in headlights but need regular polishing while black numerals, though less reflective, need little maintenance. Other door furniture is just as important.

A well-designed set of knob, letterbox, and knocker, whether made of brass in an old design, or more modern anodised aluminium, adds importance to any door. One of the easiest mistakes to make is choosing a letterbox that is too narrow, so that wide enve, lopes have to be bent or crushed when inserted.

Burglar and draught-proofing

Even more important to most of us than design considerations is the safety of our property. A good mortise deadlock, therefore, is vital. The kind of lock that is opened merely by inserting a key and giving it a half-turn to pull back the lever can be too easily opened.with a piece of mica or thin plastic by anyone so inclined. A front door is also one of the most likely places for cold air to enter the house. It has been estimated that the cracks and chinks round the average front door add up to an opening of 690 sq mm (27 sq in). If a wind of only ten miles an hour is blowing, this will let through about 1,224 m (2000 cu ft) of cold air an hour.

Obviously, then,draught proofing this particular door is one of the most worthwhile household jobs you can do.

An inner, or secondary front door (where this is possible) is a structural alteration that improves the comfort of a house out of all proportion to its cost.’As well as making an even more efficient job of the draught stripping which you should treat the front door to, it performs a function similar to that of double glazing. The ‘sandwich’ of air between the two doors blocks off noise, and also helps to cut down on any condensation. Warmth from your heating system is kept inside the house more efficiently, and the area between the doors can serve as a handy little vestibule where people can hang their coats and hats, leave umbrellas, and wipe their feet before entering the rest of the house.

For the sake of your decoration have a door-stop or rubber buffer fixed to the appropriate skirting board. If an inner door is glazed, a cross bar at some point will help make it more visible to children. If installing an inner door is impossible or just undesirable, a thick, heavy curtain can be used provided it does not block the source of light. Even this will cut down on heat loss and help to prevent draughts.

Flooring materials

Flooring must be tough, especially in halls, staircases and living rooms, where there is more traffic than anywhere else in the house. Another point to note, particularly relevant in a small area, is that the hall and staircase should be floored in the same material, or, if this is not possible, at least in the same colour to give a sense of continuity. And when you are considering what colour to use, remember that some colours or patterns are more likely to conceal dirt than others.

hallway & staircase

In a flat anywhere above ground level most of the dirt will have been walked off on the communal stairs. This means if you are choosing a carpet for a town house hall, pick one of the darker colours if it is to be plain, or one with discreet patterns, perhaps in two tones of the same colour, or in two neutrals, like a grey and dark beige mix. Tight little geometric shapes, which might include floral designs, or elegant stripes, look a 1ot better on stairs than splashy abstracts or wreaths of flowers.

In a country house,’where dirt is less likely to be a problem than in a city, or in an upstairs flat, lighter colours are possible, though it is still worth remembering that these floors are always the ones that will get the hardest wear in the house. In any case, whatever the colour or pattern of the carpet chosen, the quality should definitely be heavy duty. Wool carpets have a grading system, so that you know exactly where you are. But there is no such system for carpets made of synthetic fibre.

Your best safeguard here is to go to a reputable store and tell them exactly where you plan to use the carpet. Sisal makes an excellent hall flooring, not only because of its toughness, but also because its tweedy flecked look is also dirt concealing. If, as often happens, you have had to buy the stair carpet ‘with the house’ as part of the fixtures and fittings, covering the hall with matching sisal achieves a unified look. And it is a lot cheaper than lashing out on a matching carpet. Sisal is, however, unsuitable for stairs, because of its slipperiness. Linoleum or vinyl can also be used for the hall floor and they should be heavy-duty grade.

As with carpets, plain colourings or unobtrusive patterns look best in narrow or small halls. But in a wider or bigger room all sorts of elegant effects can be achieved with tiles laid in formal patterns, as banding or bordering, or sometimes simply with one random dark tile here and there. In the halls of country houses, natural materials like flag-stones or quarry tiles look good. If wood or hardwood is used for a hall floor, it must be very carefully sealed if dirt and grime are not to penetrate.

This usually means annual resealing. Wooden stairs can have great charm (particularly in the country) and it is a lot cheaper to strip and seal the wood of your stairs than it is to buy carpeting. But wooden stairs are noisy and, if the house has more than two floors, may look a bit bleak. Carpeted stairs are softer and safer, especially if there are young children about.
Whatever flooring you choose try to have a ‘well’ for the doormat by the front door. This prevents the doormat skidding under anyone and looks far neater.

Durable wall finishes

Like the floor, the walls of a hal1 have to stand up to knocks, bangs, and dirt. Decorating a hall and staircase is expensive if done professionally and, for the do-it-yourselfer, can be more difficult and time-consuming than any other room in the house. So it is worth picking a finish that will stand up to a lot of wear. Wal1 fabrics, such as hessian, are good looking, long lasting, and do a good job of hiding or holding together defective plasterwork.

When you use hard, shiny flooring like tiles, wall fabrics add a welcome softness of texture. Unfortunately, hessians are expensive, but some of them can be painted over when they are dirty. The ‘poor man’s alternative’ is a scrubbable vinyl. These have improved enormously in recent years, and one or two ranges now simulate anything from silk to Japanese grass-cloth almost undetectably. They are also available in a wide range ol patterns, but on the whole these tend to look less attractive than the plainer ones.

Wallpaper in a hall can get easily torn, and emulsion paint in a pale colour often seems too unemphatic. One advantage of using gloss paint is that it can be washed over. Like other rooms which you pass through quickly, halls can be decorated in stronger, brighter colours and tones than those which you would pick for a room where you might spend several hours at a stretch. Many halls are in themselves gloomy because of the lack of natural daylight. But again, warm colours help counteract this impression.

In a north facing (cold) hall, especially, colours like tomato red, orange or yellow give a cheerful look. These colours also look quite attractive under artificial lighting. Sometimes, a hall may have distinctive architectural features; in such a case, unobtrusive colouring should be used to al1ow elegance to speak for itself.

However, painting a pretty cornice white, against a deeper wall or ceiling colour, will give this its due emphasis. It is always best, where possible, to continue the hall colouring up the stairs. But if there is a natural break in the form of an arch or architrave, then the wall finish can be changed.


A blaze of golden lamplight always looks welcoming on a cold night, but good strong lighting in halls is important for other reasons. Inadvertent accidents caused by stumbling over misplaced toys can be avoided and if your stairs end up in a very small hall it helps prevent any member of the family from crashing headlong down the stairs into the door.


A hall is one of the few rooms where overhead lighting is best, partly because of the wider throw of light it will give, and partly because there is no danger of it being knocked down, or cutting into wall space. Several over-head lights work far better than one, because their beams will interplay attractively. Down-lighters with focussing lampholders are particularly effective here. For the stairs, the important thing is that both treads and risers are clearly defined. Over-head lighting alone will give a ‘flat’ look, and this may prove deceptively dangerous, especially to old people.

Storage Priority

Storage for the hall is somewhere to house hats, coats and boots. Almost as important is storage space for larger items like bicycles or prams. If there is a lot of space available, the hall can also be used for storing general clutter like fishing rods, suitcases, sewing machines, and so forth. In a long narrow hall, there is often little room for even minimal storage. In this case, coat and hat hooks will have to do. If you have an inner door, site them within this vestibule. Sometimes, with this sort of hall, there is a half-landing which can act as an auxiliary hall. You might try to have a cupboard for outdoor clothing here. A useful extra in such a cupboard is a small, low-watt electric heater to dry off damp garments.

It is best sited at floor level, because heat rises, and should be adequately safeguarded in case a piece of clothing falls on it. The hot-pipe type of radiator is even safer, and can serve the same purpose. Where possible, a pram shed outside the house makes the best home for baby carriages and bicycles. It has the added advantage that no wheel dirt is brought into the house. In many houses, there is sufficient space under the stairs to make a good-size cupboard. Sometimes this is even large enough to make into a mini-room such as a little sewing corner complete with machine, worktable and sewing drawers for instance, or a tiny study with desk, telephone, pinboard and filing wall, or even a shower.

staircase in hallway

In most halls, a safe rule is to keep accessories as unobtrusive as possible. A hall is, after all, a place of passage. It is also primarily a place for taking off outer clothing and for expansive gestures of welcome, so that anything delicate or fragile that can be knocked over easily, in all probability, will be knocked down. The most important accessories are often a mirror, somewhere to stack letters, some kind of shelf or drawer fitment for keys, scissors, string, dog leads or any other vaguely communal property. If possible, try to provide a place to sit-especially important if the telephone is in the hall. The hall is also a good place for any wall collection, from prints to exotic tapestries.

hallway staircase mirror cupboard

A mirror in the hall can be a good deal more than something for a last-minute check on face or hair. To double the width of a narrow hall, use mirror all down one side, or mirror panels between louvres or pillars. A huge old mirror has more or less the same effect. A table for letters can be something as simple as a shelf above a radiator. But before installing the radiator, with or without its overshelf, check that it is not too near the front door. Remember you might want to allow a pram through. A shelf above a storage radiator can sometimes be extended into a longer wall fitment, with narrow cupboards flanking the radiator itself so that it appears built-in. One section of these cupboards could be kept to a lower level and the top covered with a cushion pad, so that it can be used as seating. Alternatively, narrow bench or pew type seating is often possible.

A good looking settee may be expensive, but other narrow seating can often be bought-or made cheaply, then painted, stained or lacquered to match the decor. Halls and landings are excellent places to hang collections of prints or pictures-and the halls, like cloakrooms, are often the place for anything that is ‘amusing’ rather than simply expensive. Again, a good strong colour or fabric background will enhance anything from a collection of Victorian cigarette cards to a shell collage. A wide hall can double as a library, taking a whole wall full of books.

Dealing with problem halls

Some halls have ceilings that are too high. You can install a false (lowered) ceiling which means that you will then be able to safely recess the down-lighters. Or you can paint the ceiling in dark or receding colours and locus a few spotlights downwards from high on the walls, so that the ceiling ‘disappears’ altogether. Other halls may be too long and narrow. Try extending the floor colouring up a few inches on the walls on each side, using a different or lighter tone above. Or use mirror down one wall with, perhaps, a bamboo or leafy paper opposite. Some halls have all the charm and character of a shoebox!

You could add interest by panelling the back of the front door or painting it. You could also put in a hardboard arch just before the stairs start to give an elegant ‘Georgian’ effect. Yet other halls have too many doors, and this could mean draughts. If you can, block up one or two and paint or paper over them. Occasionally, a cupboard and alcove or shelves can be fitted within the door architrave. These can be made especially attractive by fitting them with concealed lighting. Some are halls are simply too sma1l.

One drastic solution is to get rid of the hall and have a larger living room instead, with the stairs rising out of it, and a secondary, inner door cutting off the noise and cold from outside. In most two-storeyed houses extension, removing the existing living room wall is a massive knocking-through job. But in homes where this wall is not supporting a wall immediately above it, the idea is worth serious thought.

Garden fountains

There is a wide range of fountains available, and your choice will enable you to introduce instant sound and movement to the garden or patio. The ornamental design of many pre-cast products will add charm and character to the area, while the fountain jet itself may be exploited as a form of living sculpture. Whether you choose to install a fountain as a feature on its own or as part of a larger water garden, the procedures to be followed are the same.

garden london

For many centuries, fountains were an essential element of garden design They were found in the inner courtyards of ancient communities, often constructed as the focal point in Medieval gardens and they marked the centre point in many European towns and villages. A number of the great 16th and 17th Century castles, villas and mansions in Britain and Europe boasted spectacular designs.

Contemporary fountains are constructed on a much smaller scale, and are frequently found in gardens created in a particular style. Italianate gardens, for instance, invariably display lavish designs with flourishes of water, fountains incorporating statuary are the order of the day are those established in the Victorian genre, and simple bamboo fountains are frequent found in the Japanese-style garden Whatever its design, a fountain will introduce sound and movement to the garden or patio, and capture the exhilarating comb nation of light and water.

While most fountains are appropriate to the formal pool, many pre-cast units are equally suitable as a water feature on their own. Designs range from the grand and classical designs, which incorporate tiers and extravagant ornamentation, to simple bird-baths converted to accommodate a variety of fountain heads. There is a suitable fountain for every type of outdoor area, from the smallest townhouse patio to the largest property incorporate rolling lawns and lakes.

Although many pre-cast fountains are freestanding and, some of the most attractive designs may be wall mounted, creating ideal decorations for courtyards and patio areas. Alternatively, you may prefer to make your own feature using bowls, sealed plant pots, wooden tubs, or any other suitable containers You may prefer to dispense with ornamentation completely and install your fountain fittings so that the water jets out of the pond itself, or perhaps spurts over an expanse of pebbles. Whatever your choice, you will need a suitable pump, powerful enough to shoot the spray above the container to the desired height.

Submersible pumps are quite adequate for most garden fountains, and if you want to activate more than one at a time, it may be sensible to opt for a robust surface pump. You may have to utilise one of these larger pieces of equipment if a very high head of waters required, as in a sizable, multi-tiered construction. A fountain incorporated in a swimming pool arrangement may be operated by the pool pump.

Spurting wall-mounted fountains do not require a jet nozzle, but upward-spraying water features usually incorporate these simple mechanisms to add interest. The jet fitting chosen will depend on the particular effect you wish to achieve. There are many different spray patterns available including bel dome- and tulip-shaped jets, as well as multi-tiered spray lets which are designed to create a swirling effect, and foam lets which create the impression of a bubbling geyser

There is, of course, nothing to prevent you from a alternating one or two of these from time to time, depending on your mood or the occasion. Connection to the pump is simple, although you may need to attach an additional length of tubing between the two units to camouflage the pump properly. Although the appeal of most water features is their natural beauty, illuminated fountains can add something quite special to patios and other outdoor areas. An underwater lamp, for instance, may be hidden in such a way that it creates a dramatic effect at night.

garden lights

Self-contained illuminated designs may incorporate a spotlight encased in a waterproof container, with different coloured lenses so you can change the colour of the light. Some manufacturers have developed revolving lights which produce an interesting kaleidoscope of colour.

Building a concrete planter for your garden

If you don’t need a professional gardener or landscapers, you can make a planter in any style by using ferroconcrete— and you do not need a mould. Although the technique is quite simple, it takes some practice. But fortunately the materials are very cheap, so you can afford to make several planters. The basis of the planter is a wire form, which gives it both strength and shape. Make it from lengths of galvanized baling wire and chicken wire mesh.

garden london

The more wire you use, the stronger the resulting planter, but the harder it will be to pack with mortar. You can make the form in any shape, but the simple flower pot shape shown is the easiest. Make up a 2:1 mortar mix and add some plasticizer to make it easy to work.

Plaster the mould with this, wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands. Work it thoroughly between the wires from both sides. You should aim to build up a 20mm thickness with the form embedded in the centre. It does not matter at this stage if the finish is rough, because you can trim off the excess when the mortar goes ‘off using a trowel, a length of batten or scrapers. The same tools can also be used to add details such as rings or a plinth. Leave a drain hole in the base, then set the assembly aside to allow the mortar to cure. When it is thoroughly dry, fill with earth over gravel. If you want a more decorative planter, add some colourant to the mortar mix or stain it when dry.

No more flat pack furniture ?

Belgian designer Carl de Smet of Noumenon has developed high-tech foam furniture that can be squashed to 5% of its original size for easy transportation and then expanded “like popcorn” by heating it up.

“The idea is that you can buy it in a local store,” explains designer Carl de Smet. “It’s a small package, you put it under your arm, and you carry it home because it’s also super light.

“Then at home you plug it into electricity,” he continues. Ten minutes later your chair will be ready.

House Extensions Building Company in London

Building an extension on your house is the best way to expand your living space without having to move house. Enlarging the house will also add value to the property if the extension is done in good taste by our professional Building Company. Good architecture and quality workmanship are very important, the house extension must complement the original house.

Side House Extension in London

Contact Us for a free Quotation

Home improvements ideas

There are things that a homeowner can do to improve a London property.We present you with few ideas on how to improve your home.

Build or Convert the Loft/ Attic.
Loft Conversion with ensuite bathroom London
The roof space can be transformed into a bedroom with en-suite bathroom.

Build a Kitchen or a House Extension
kitchen extension in London
If you have space that can be used to extend the house, a kitchen extension or a side extension could be the right solution.

Garage Conversion
garage conversion London
In London, not many home owners are using the garage to park their car, most garages were built for much smaller cars and parking a car inside an old garage is not easy.The garage can be transformed into a living room, office, bedroom, etc.

Open space interior
open space ground floor
Removing few walls can create a big open space on the ground floor or top floor.

Build a new Bathroom
cloakroom under the stairs
Building a bathroom or a cloakroom under the stairs,can be great way to improve the value of the property. You can have a fully functional shower, or it could be just a toilet and a small basin. Adding a second bathroom also improves the quality of life if you have a larger family.

garden landscape London
A garden can be transformed into an outdoor living room.If you have children, a tree house will provide them with the perfect playground.

Refurbish the kitchen or bathroom
kitchen London
A new kitchen or bathroom suite will make the property feel and look better.

Painting and Decorating
flat painting decorating
A very obvious option, a property needs to be painted and redecorated every few years.


Rebuck Howland Interiors is a ground-breaking interior design company based in London and Hong Kong, specialising in interior design, art consultancy and landscape design


Ruth Rebuck and Greer Howland, co-founders of Rebuck Howland Interiors, come from London and New York City respectively, offering extraordinary designs with influences from Europe and America. They mix their Western roots with local flavours to create elegant and warm spaces which push the boundaries of contemporary design.

interior design

As specialists in interior design, fine art and landscape design, Rebuck and Howland guide their clients through every imaginable process. They offer a full range of interior design services from single room makeovers to complete new construction projects, catering for both residential and commercial properties. With contacts in London and Hong Kong, they can also ship unique pieces from one to the other, such as Asian antiques to the UK and Western pieces to Hong Kong. Furthermore, they specialise in cost-effective design and refurbishment with a view to maximising both investment income and income from letting.

Rebuck and Howland not only have experience designing interiors but have also worked in art and landscaping, ensuring that every space – indoors and outdoors – meets their impeccable standards. If a client has a clear design vision Rebuck Howland Interiors make sure that they realise it, but if they would like some guidance they help them define their style.

Rebuck and Howland not only deliver a refined end product but a fulfilling and enjoyable design experience. Each renovation is unique and exciting, leaving you with a home or office that you’re proud to of.