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Turkish Baths makeover in Harrogate

Turkish Baths makeover in Harrogate Posted on 1 September 2022

Harrogate Turkish Baths

Wharfedale Decorations Ltd scoops award for its skill in bringing this historic building back to life.

The Turkish Baths in Harrogate is one of only seven dating back to the 19th century that can be found in the UK, and it is one of the most historically accurate. Redecorating a building like this requires a combination of skill, patience, a keen eye for detail and exceptional product knowledge. It was Wharfedale Decorations Ltd’s ability to demonstrate these qualities that contributed to them being crowned Supreme Winner at the Johnstone’s Painter of the Year Awards.

The Turkish Baths in Harrogate, was constructed and opened as part of the Royal Baths Complex in 1897. Designed with Islamic art-inspired arches and screens, vibrantly glazed brickwork, painted ceilings and terrazzo floors, it offered Turkish Baths, medicinal water dispensaries, hydrotherapy, mud baths and steam rooms. Nowadays, visitors are able to combine a sense of the building’s history with a more contemporary spa experience.

Repairing the damage

The importance of this Turkish Baths lies in its rarity, decoration and ornate detail. Wharfedale Decorations Ltd was tasked by Harrogate Borough Council to restore the original beauty of the building, and work took place across 15 weeks while the building was closed during the coronavirus lockdown. It included re-varnishing the original curtain rail changing rooms and re-stencilling the walls and ceilings.

David Casey, contracts director at Wharfedale Decorations Ltd, said: “It was a privilege to be asked to complete the redecoration at the Turkish Baths. Stencilling was the biggest and most important part of the project. The stencils that were in situ were brittle, crumbling, discoloured and generally not fit for purpose anymore, so we had to take those down and remake them.”

The walls and ceilings of the building hadn’t been decorated for more than 25 years and long-term exposure to steam, water and salts had taken its toll. To start the process, Wharfedale Decorations Ltd removed the original stencils and reviewed hundreds of historic pictures of the building to retrace them onto a thin layer of plastic, before using craft knives, craft boards and unquestionable levels of skill to remake the stencils. The team treated the walls to withstand the considerable amount of steam and water in the rooms, before re-applying the stencils and repainting.

Long-standing protection

To protect the walls and ceilings for years to come, the team used Johnstone’s Trade Acrylic Durable Matt – a premium, water-based emulsion that provides protection on surfaces susceptible to condensation. The paint is formulated to offer a Class 1 Scrub Rating, making it easier to clean than conventional emulsions. The hardwearing, non-yellowing finish makes it the ideal choice for a high traffic and high wear area, just like the Turkish Baths, Harrogate.

The Wharfedale Decorations Ltd team also turned to PPG for support with the colour scheme throughout the building. David continued: “We’ve used Johnstone’s Trade paints for years and we know the company also offers a good colour matching service, so we made use of this on the project. The PPG team came out to the Turkish Baths to support with replicating the colour scheme originally used when the building was opened. They supplied colour testers so we could confirm that the site managers and local council were both happy with the choices before we repainted the walls and ceilings.”

Award-winning work

In recognition of the impressive work, Wharfedale Decorations Ltd was named the winner of the Hospitality and Leisure category at the Johnstone’s Painter of the Year Awards 2021, as well as successfully competing against five other category winners to take home the crown of Johnstone’s Painter of the Year Supreme Winner. The team was rewarded with a new personalised van from PPG.

Commenting on the win, David said: “We were incredibly proud to be the category winner at the Johnstone’s Painter of the Year Awards, but to then be named Supreme Winner as well is unbelievable. Jobs like this don’t come around often – it was one of the most unique, challenging and historically important jobs that we’ve done, and it was a pleasure to complete the work. I can’t praise the team enough and we’re so proud this is now an award-winning project.”

Rachel Copley, PPG UK & Ireland Trade marketing director, added: “This project required careful work and a true understanding of the heritage of the building. It’s clear that Wharfedale Decorations Ltd had just that. The team has done an incredible job – the stencils are so intricate and look so impactful now they’ve been reapplied to the walls. This is a space that people will come from afar to visit, and it’d be worth it just to see the sheer beauty of the rooms! Well done to everyone involved.”

For information on the products used, visit: To enter your own projects into the Johnstone’s Painter of the Year Awards, visit: