107. Welcome to the grotto

Our bathroom is nearly complete

14th June 2016

On Saturday we paid a visit to Alexander Pope’s famous grotto in Twickenham, the subterranean passageway that he constructed under the road between his house and garden (neither of which survive). Following Homer’s example, he lined the grotto with stones and shells and retreated there in search of solitude. Not entirely successfully: poets were the celebrities of the day and Pope struggled to escape from the attention of admirers and manipulators of all kinds:

What Walls can guard me, or what Shades can hide?
They pierce my Thickets, thro’ my Grot they glide…

We were there to celebrate the completion of our own grotto, aka our bathroom. Our guiding idea for this room has always been a cave or grotto, a place where water is entirely at home. Although the room is small, we have used rich, textured finishes to bring it to life. The principal walls are tiled with big ceramic tiles that have a rippling, textured surface that could easily be a multitude of carefully placed stones; and the wall above the bath, together with the window reveals and bath panel, are lined with our most expensive finish: mother-of-pearl mosaic. Real sea shells!

It’s taken a long time to complete the bathroom. There are so many things to get right in a small space: plumbing and electrics, tiling and grouting, cabinet-making and joinery. Plus the parquet floor. Here are a few details which we hope will make this room more than just a practical stopping off point in the daily routine. Dr Johnson scornfully said of Pope’s grotto that he had ‘extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity provided a grotto where necessity enforced a passage.’ Well, we’re with Pope on this one, happy to have extracted an ornament from our daily inconveniences.

The window (installed in 2014) is distressed to look like running water:

Bathing in mother of pearl:

The walnut details are all leftovers from the kitchen work top:

And the all important book-of-the-bog shelf:


  1. A throne room indeed. Stunning place to sit and reflect.

  2. The thing I really do like about you guys is how everything has been so carefully worked out AND how well that working out actually works out in the real world.
    Another excellent room...with a rather spiffy little shelf too :)

    1. Thanks Phill! The working out is always a work in progress though. The real world has a habit of forcing changes upon the carefully worked out plans. The trick is always to turn these to your advantage. That little shelf happened because the original timber frame door opening was too wide. By narrowing the opening I created a space which I could then use for an unusually deep shelf. There are two comparable gaps above it, now boarded over. In one of them there is a small blue rabbit sticking his tongue out at whoever is on the loo.

  3. This bathroom is so unique. I’ve never heard of a "cave" or "grotto" style bathroom, but I love what you guys did. The amount of detail and different textures used are extremely appealing, and I absolutely love the distressed window. The appearance of running water is always soothing, and will be perfect for long warm bubble baths.