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A Room (or Two) of One’s Own: Buchanan Studio’s boundary-pushing ablution solutions

Charlotte and Angus Buchanan, something of a power couple in the interiors world, have approached the bathrooms in their west London home with more gusto and wit than most. The results of such gumption are frankly glorious

Eve Delaney
A Room (or Two) of One’s Own: Buchanan Studio’s boundary-pushing ablution solutions

Charlotte and Angus Buchanan are doing away with preconceived notions of what a bathroom should be. “I think lockdown got us into the mentality of using rooms for whatever you fancy,” explains Charlotte. And, at home in Harlesden, the couple designed the two main bathrooms with that as their guiding principle, dissenting from the restraints of the norm in order to better suit their footloose attitude towards a room’s purpose.

The couple are the masterminds behind Buchanan Studio, a design atelier known for its rich and romantic hallmarks. It’s also highly innovative and offbeat – think bold colours, patterns and design decisions that use humour and lightness to subvert expectations and create interest in unlikely spaces. You may well have come across their striped ‘Studio’ chair after it became something of a cult piece in 2021.

“Because the house is full of our products and fabrics, most of the rooms themselves are relatively simply decorated,” says Angus. He and Charlotte are talking to us at the dining table in their sunny kitchen which, the morning after Valentine’s Day, is teeming with Love Heart sweets, colourful cards and flowers (both real and constructed out of Lego). The Edwardian terraced house is certainly designed with assuredness, clean lines and simplicity, but also – like their table – is adorned with magical things.

“Why can’t a bathroom just be a normal room?” asks Angus, who wanted to avoid that “clinical, slippery, shiny” aesthetic typical of most. Instead, the couple tried to “soften things up” in theirs, to create environments “that you actually want to spend some time in. You don’t need to just get in, shower and get out. A bathroom can be a lovely place.”

Because of this subversion, the family have spent some of their most memorable times in their bathrooms, including their daughter’s birthday – a tea party around the bathtub (their kitchen wasn’t quite finished). These spaces are also the site of more workaday happenings: the peacefulness of the master bathroom sometimes makes it a sensible spot for Zoom meetings, they tell us. Then there’s the weekly Friday night get-togethers, which have a very exclusive guest list – the couple’s children and sometimes their cousins, who pile into the tub in the kids’ bathroom for an abundance of bubbles.

Situated within an old extension to the house, this box room was lacking in architectural interest, so the couple set about making it as characterful and distinctive as possible. At the behest of their “client” (namely, their daughter), whose current obsession is pink, this room is now a Battenberg dreamscape, entirely clad in bubblegum and yellow Topps Tiles arranged in a chequered pattern. Charlotte and Angus also added 1970s-style pink bathroom sanitaryware as a nod to the avocado suite they discovered in the house when they bought it.

In contrast, the en-suite master bathroom ­is part of the original Edwardian structure. Where the pink-and-yellow room is kitsch and joyful, the main bathroom is sophisticated and sensuous. The couple agonised over whether their design was “too much of an indulgence”, before deciding that they wanted to relish every room of the house as much as they could.

“We didn’t want to change it too much,” Angus explains. Instead, he and Charlotte chose to lovingly restore and reinvent the “Edwardian elegance” of the room. They kept the dark wooden floorboards, gave the original fireplace a marble makeover and had the damaged moulding matched and refitted. “We knew we wanted to bring in other reclaimed elements to enhance the architecture that was already there,” he adds. Taking both the age and the material of the room’s original Edwardian wardrobe as their decorative springboard, the couple added reclaimed wooden doors to the shower, and docked a majestic Edwardian roll-top bath in the middle of the room, just in front of the fireplace. The idea was to recreate the feeling of “an amazing English country-house hotel”, a moment of calm away from the hubbub of London, work, their two kids and “crazy dog”.

The room certainly has hotel elegance and tranquillity in spades, but it’s also distinctly useable and practical. The waterproof membrane (has there ever been a less exciting term?), refitted windows and efficient extractor fans mean the room works perfectly. Charlotte and Angus laugh about the messages they get on Instagram, warning them about everything from mildew on their books to splinters from the wooden floor, or expressing fears of the curtains and art getting damaged – more keyboard worriers than warriors. But none of these things are really an issue, the couple explain, if you’ve considered the logistics.

While Angus and Charlotte have disguised some of the more practical aspects of the room, some are highlighted to special effect. The “sheds” are the best example of this: two miniature tiled, pitch-roofed huts in the corners of their en suite, one housing the shower, the other the loo. “They came about from a practical need,” Charlotte notes. “We wanted to hide the loo. And then we thought: ‘How can we make it beautiful?’” They noticed that showers are so often smartly tiled – but only on the inside, where it’s rarely admired. “We thought: ‘Why don’t we flip that?’ Put the nice tiles on the outside and you get to see them all the time.”

The couple also champion the fact that a bathroom can be a place for your most prized possessions, where you have the time and space to admire them. “Why can’t it be filled with things that give you joy?” questions Charlotte. Prime examples include the antique mirror, the patina of which has grown stronger and more lovely from being in the bathroom, and the vintage model boat placed on the rippling waves of the marble mantlepiece, its sails lovingly reupholstered in Buchanan Studio fabric.

The couple’s hottest bathroom tips? Have a chair in the bathroom wherever you can and a ledge on which you can put your glass of wine and a bowl of crisps. We don’t need convincing.

Further reading

Buchanan Studio

Buchanan Studio on Instagram

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