Jess Lerm

Name: Jess
Surname: Lerm
Location: Cape Town, Western Cape
Entry Date: June 19, 2024
Category: Most Beautiful
Project: Bathroom

About the Project:

We moved into the house 10 years ago. My husband, alarmed by the blue (I mean blue – fully blue) guest bathroom and pink (I mean pink – fully pink) en suite, was promised that it would be one of the first projects we’d tackle. A decade later, we have now renovated the lounge, dining…

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We moved into the house 10 years ago. My husband, alarmed by the blue (I mean blue – fully blue) guest bathroom and pink (I mean pink – fully pink) en suite, was promised that it would be one of the first projects we’d tackle. A decade later, we have now renovated the lounge, dining room, kitchen, backyard, guest room, and Ross’s office…and haven’t yet laid a finger on a bathroom. It was finally time to keep my promise…

This guest bathroom – affectionately known as the Blue Bathroom – is the smaller of our two bathrooms and is really just a glorified powder room. That means that priority areas were the loo and the basin, with secondary concerns being the bath/shower. (The bath is only ever used occasionally for washing dogs and for hosing down Jess’s extensive indoor plant collection.) For this reason we opted for a large vanity basin, much more practical than the single basin we used to have before, with no surface to even lay a toothbrush on. The new vanity is made from an upcycled antique washstand, in keeping with our almost 80-year-old home. I love mixing new and old, and this is a theme that runs throughout the house. This room also gets lovely light, so a second objective was to create a wall-to-wall plant shelf. Any keen plant mom/dad will know that space is always at a premium, so this was our chance to build more plant space, and to create something beautiful in the process.

We worked with a wonderful plumbing and bathroom renovation team called Maphikwe Plumbers & Building Services. This was our first time working with these contractors but it definitely will not be the last! They upheld high standards, but – almost more importantly for me – they respected our home, our space and our privacy, and they listened attentively to our vision (yes, even if they were amused by the idea of a Planty Bathroom). After a decade of on-and-off renovation, working with Mandla and his team is one of the best reno experiences we’ve had, and the great success of the project is testament to this.

Mandla and his team stripped the old blue bathroom (Yes, they kindly let me keep my old Blue Loo, which will one day soon be a garden feature. No I’m not joking, why do you ask?), installed a new ceiling (level and insulated at last!), installed all new bathroom fittings, and completed all tiling. Once their hard work was complete, it was time for me to get cracking with paint, a beautiful new Roman blind, and my long-awaited plant shelf. Some smart choices – an el cheapo bath, a bog-standard (literally!) loo, opting for a shower curtain over a shower screen – meant that there was some money left in the kitty to splurge on a custom print wallpaper. We now have a loo with a view! I especially love that you can’t really see the wallpaper from outside the room, and only once you’re inside with the door closed behind you do you go, “Ohhhh!”. It’s completely mad and over the top, and I am fully obsessed with it. Bathrooms, as primarily functional spaces, are so often overlooked as spaces for fun. But why? Life is short – take every single opportunity you can to bring some joy into this world.

As you can tell, I love bold design. I like spaces that make me feel happy and alive when I walk into them. I am maximalist to the core. But I am fully aware that my taste is not to everybody’s liking. So, I tried to make wise choices about the big-ticket items selected for this project. Though many might describe the room as colourful, the truth is that the tiles and other fixtures are actually very, very neutral. With the removal of my accessories, stripping of the wallpaper, and a coat of white paint, this room could be completely deJessified in less than a day. This way I get to thoroughly enjoy the space while it’s mine, but when one day it comes time to sell, we can easily convert the room into a minimalist’s dream.

Speaking of future-proofing, we also had the electrician install (blanked off) wiring to the centre-point of the ceiling. Should some future person decide they no longer love the wall lights, they can install a ceiling light without having to tear out the whole ceiling. We’ve also had the loo plumbed to our two 5Kl JoJo tanks so that they can run on harvested rainwater. There’s no reason at all to be flushing a toilet with drinking water, so why not use this opportunity to do our little bit for the planet? Our wonderful plumber fully understood the brief, and has plumbed the toilet so that it can run off either rainwater or municipal supply, with just the turn of two valves.

Lessons learnt:
– Large format tiles are very popular these days. I love them because I hate scrubbing grout! But, in a smaller space such at this bathroom, the large format tile choice actually caused some headaches. Because the tile is so VERY large relative to the space (more than half the width of the whole room!) it meant we had to be extremely thoughtful about how tiles were placed, centering a tile above the bath and behind the vanity. This is an extra mental chore we might have avoided with a smaller tile option.
– If you don’t like it, spray it! There are some excellent products on the market these days, and spray-painting really isn’t that hard. (Tip: Be PATIENT. Don’t lay it on thick. Go coat by coat and wait for each coat to dry in between.) In SA, bathroom lights less than 60cm from a water source have to pass the ‘finger test’, meaning that the bulb can’t easily be touched, as the touch of a wet finger could cause a shock. Bathroom light fitting options are therefore limited to closed fittings. I found these fizzpop lights that I LOVE, but they came only in black with smoked glass, which I didn’t like, or in gold, and I’d already introduced two other metallics into the room, chrome and black. So, I bought a couple of gold light fittings, and I simply sprayed them to match my colour scheme. The shower curtain rail and brackets, and burglar bars were also sprayed by yours truly – and if I hadn’t told you, I bet you never would have guessed!
– Yes, you can marry vintage pieces with white clean, modern lines. Yes, you can mix metallics. Yes, you can have both tiled, painted and – hello – wallpapered walls all in the same room. Yes, you can fit a bidet tap in the bath because the hand-held tap is cool for washing plants. (Did you even notice it’s not a normal hand-shower? Ha!) Yes, a space can serve two functions, even a space like a small guest bathroom-come-plant room.

Farewell, Blue Bathroom with the pictures on the tiles (cringe). Helloooooo, Planty Bathroom!

Budget Breakdown:

upcycled washstand
mirror cabinet
taps and plugs
bath and insulation
lights and bulbs
light switch
tile edge strips
shower curtain
towel rail and loo roll holder
shower rail
blind (installation below)
wallpaper (installation below))
shelf wood and brackets


Tito Electrical
Maphikwe Plumbers and Bathroom Renovations
NG Lifestyle
Jenny Holland Blinds and Curtains
Grand Total