The moment Charlotte and Angus Buchanan, both 36, acquired their semidetached Edwardian townhouse in the Harlesden area of northwest London in early 2020, they began sketching their fantasy bathrooms. It would be the first time the couple had enough space to create sanctuaries dedicated to their love of long evening soaks (a passion they wanted to instil in their children, Riva, 5, and Wylder, 3). And so, rather than an architectural afterthought, as these hard-working spaces so often are, the two bathrooms became an expression of the family’s vision for life in their new home — and of the distinctly British, often fantastical aesthetic of Buchanan Studio, the creative direction and interior design company the couple founded in 2018.
Angus, who serves as the studio’s creative director, is known for realising vibrantly colourful, idiosyncratic home and restaurant interiors — a cozy, jewel-toned townhouse in Chelsea; a fuchsia-accented stainless steel-wrapped dining room for the Middle Eastern restaurant chain Le Bab in East London — and he and Charlotte, who is the company’s CEO, brought the same dramatic flair to the renovation of their own three-storey property, and especially to the main bathroom, a serene but eccentric 17-square-metre retreat on the second floor entered through the couple’s bay-windowed bedroom.
“The first question was, ‘How do we make this a truly comfortable space?’” says Angus. Part of the answer lay in sacrificing an adjoining guest bedroom to increase the bathroom’s footprint, and in widening the entryway (now fitted with a pair of reclaimed Victorian pine double doors) to the couple’s own room. Today, with its soft white walls, moulded fireplace surround and original pine floorboards, the space would resemble an inviting early 1900s British sitting room if it weren’t for the turn-of-the-20th-century roll-top cast-iron bath, sourced from the North London salvage yard Nostalgia & New, that sits at its centre, looking out over the home’s garden through a large sash window.
Little in the space is new. On the north wall, a reclaimed Art Deco bow-fronted porcelain double basin, which for decades lived in Angus’s parents’ former home, an Edwardian shooting lodge in the Cotswolds, serves as a reminder of his childhood. He and Charlotte have updated it for their own house by adding a backsplash cut from their favourite lilac-veined Calacatta Viola marble and installing a deep shelf above it that accommodates a trio of bespoke stadium-shaped antiqued mirrors by the British furniture maker Rupert Bevan. Flanking the vanity are two over tw0-metre-tall gable-roofed cabins — clad in zellige tiles in alternating shades of dusty rose and bone white — that encase a shower and a toilet, respectively: triumphs of theatrical concealment in a room usually defined by utilitarianism alone. Modelled on boathouses, they were inspired by Angus’s childhood memories of summers spent on the Helford River, the secluded Cornish estuary immortalised in Daphne du Maurier’s 1941 historical novel, “Frenchman’s Creek.” This note of maritime romance is echoed on the mantelpiece by a Victorian toy pond yacht, from the Norfolk antiques store Kadensek & Ward, whose mahogany mast Angus rigged with sails made from Buchanan Studio’s new fabric, Ticking Rose, a floral-patterned black-and-white striped Belgian linen. “With the fire blazing, it feels like you’ve escaped to an English country house hotel,” says Charlotte of the room’s appeal. When friends come over, they often gravitate here before dinner, lingering to chat beside the hearth.
Up just a half-flight of stairs, the children’s bathroom evokes an entirely different mood. On the small landing between the second and third floors, a flamingo pink door with a mauve frame — topped by an early 20th-century fanlight window with lemon yellow, violet and emerald green panes — forms a vibrant portal into the more bonkers side of the Buchanans’ brains. In a nod to the avocado green fixtures of the property’s single original bathroom — a cramped cubicle to the rear of the first floor — the couple selected a 1960s-era salmon pink suite from the British supplier the Bold Bathroom Company to energise the compact, newly built five-metre-square space. And after playing with various colours and configurations for the wall tiles, they settled on a striped arrangement — in shades of cream, mustard yellow and blush — that sits somewhere between the pattern of a tartan and that of a Battenberg cake.
Since the Buchanans moved in, this small but charismatic space, like the main bathroom below it, has become an unlikely gathering spot. On Friday nights, especially after a long week, the family often congregates within it for a bath time party fuelled by prosecco for the adults and, for the children, the serotonin-inducing colour scheme. “Bathrooms are often these cold, sanitised spaces,” says Angus, who equipped both rooms with built-in speakers. “But we wanted to show they’re also somewhere you can be sociable and have fun.”