From a one to a two-bed in this small-space duplex

Creating a Japanese-style bathroom and adding a bedroom

For many of us city dwellers, we are resigned to living in a one-level apartment in a new build, or maybe a single floor of a larger Victorian house. The owners of this duplex renovation apartment however had the good fortune of landing on an apartment in a 1930s mansion block that was ripe for reinvention.

The location, close to the river in London’s Wapping, was perfect, but the property itself was tired looking and needed some TLC. The owners did much more than giving it a lick of paint, however, as they set about taking the apartment right back to its underlying structure in parts, installing a beautiful bespoke bathroom, exposing the original brickwork and laying an oakwood floor. We caught up with Garry, who owns and led the renovation of the property, to find out more.

The starting point

IDEALIST: Why did you choose this apartment to work on?

Garry: We realized it had great potential from the outset. The maisonette is in a fabulous position overlooking a park as part of a small, characterful mansion block in Wapping. The interior was in broadly good if uninspiring condition. However, the peculiar layout provide the justification for a redevelopment that would transform the look and vastly improve the use of space. The project was modelled in Sketchup which proved invaluable in sharing the vision and ensuring the build went to plan.

The Big Picture Downstairs

IDEALIST: You’ve managed to create a lot of space and a sense of openness within a limited footprint. How did you achieve that?

Garry: Downstairs, we opened up the hall, lounge and kitchen in to one contiguous space with engineered oak flooring. With the property being on the top floor and having an exposed southerly aspect, this allowed light to flow through the space all day. 

Stripping back plaster and some legacy concrete boxing around the chimney brought a warehouse/industrial feel for little cost. Adding some custom steel bracket and oiled scaffold-board shelving added to this look. 

IDEALIST: And in the kitchen?

Garry: We’ve made enough changes to bring new light and a sense of space to the kitchen, but have retained what we could.  The original kitchen fittings were kept. While not the ideal look, they were in good condition and a few touches were added to introduce a little style. The ceiling has been lifted to expose some feature cast iron pipework and add spotlights. A custom breakfast bar transforms the kitchen into a bright dining/working/hangout space. 

The Big Picture Upstairs

IDEALIST: You managed to add a new bedroom and a stunning bathroom upstairs. How?

Garry: Yes – on the upper floor more substantial changes were made. The old layout provided for one large bedroom, one bathroom and a windowless storage room. The layout was reconfigured combining the bathroom, storage room and cupboard to create a new bedroom. This made effective use of the previously opaque bathroom window with great views overlooking a park. The bathroom has been relocated to one end of the existing large bedroom. 

The Stand-out Bespoke Bathroom

IDEALIST: And you really went to town with the bathroom?

Garry:  We did, but the goal was primarily to optimise use of space. The bathroom was the main design focus of the project in the end. For this long and narrow space, a Japanese-style soaking tub was sourced to build the bathroom around. The tub fits efficiently into the space providing a luxuriously large showering area while retaining a bathing option. The tub is designed and manufactured in the UK by A digital shower and bath mixer system from Aqualisa ( was chosen to maintain the minimalist look and add a little something special.

IDEALIST: Did the bespoke tub not make things more difficult?

GarryQuite the opposite in fact. Using Sketchup meant we were able to work with all aspects of the design and squeeze as much as possible into the space without compromising the look and feel. Constructing the new bathroom wall meant we were able incorporate all services into it, including the recessed mirror unit ( The WC and vanity unit are wall hung to preserve a single floor expanse, which is both practical and helps maintain a feeling of space. Underfloor heating avoided the need for a radiator that would obstruct the space and upset the clean lines of the design. A false ceiling allowed the installation of recessed lighting and a concealed extractor enabled us to preserve the clean look and create atmosphere. A chunky piece of teak oiled solid oak shelf adds a bit of natural warmth.

IDEALIST: This is really inspirational work. Most people faced with the constraints of a limited footprint and an old building would shy away from attempting to add a second bedroom and from building such a unique bathroom, but this works amazingly well and overall the duplex feels much larger than anything you’d expect before you open the door. It’s truly a Tardis, with the addition of a slate and Japanese-feel bathroom! Stunning.

Thank you to Garry for showing us his work.


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