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Is there a growing trend in converting washrooms into homes and cafes

Updated on March 26, 2014

With space at a premium particularly in cities like London there has been an increase in those looking to convert ‘unusual’ spaces into areas they were not originally designed for. Most notably Laura Clark a graduate from Glasgow’s School of art who converted derelict public toilets into a luxury living area. Another budding entrepreneur Peter Tomlinson converted a public toilet into a cafe.

In a reverse of ideas instead of using the services of a washroom designer both groups were converting into an alternative use other than the original public toilet. Peter Tomlinson’s project does keep many of the original features including the original 1890 urinals as a feature which would not have been in individual toilet cubicles as many modern toilets are.


Laura Clark had an uphill struggle convincing Lambeth council of the validity of her project and had to overcome many obstacles including that the public toilets were not on the land registry. When this was discovered the conversion of her 1929 toilets from a washroom into a luxury living area, was seriously jeopardised. However with shear grit and determination and £65,000 later she has a beautiful apartment in the centre of London with a value far in excess of her financial outlay.

Both parties had most of the original features intact including the toilet cubicles and washroom flooring, although many of the hand basins had been smashed. In the time when these public toilets were built the technology of the water cisterns would have been state of the art but in modern design terms they were very antiquated. The luxuries afforded to modern public toilet facilities such as warm air hand dryers, dual flush toilet cisterns were simply not invented.

These lavatories were designed when space was not at a premium and the novelty of a public enclosed toilet was luxury enough. Modern washroom designers are not afforded such luxury as vast spaces and yet are still expected to deliver highly desirable areas for the public at large to freshen up when out and about, either at work or in a restaurant or hotel washroom. Piped music, fresh smelling areas where high powered hand dryers dry wet hands in an instant are a far cry from the public toilets of Victorian England.

Modern day washroom designers may not be thinking of future generation home builders and cafe owners when they are working on their modern toilet facilities but it could provide food for thought.



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