As beautiful as Eichlers are, they aren’t particularly luxurious. In the case of my client’s house, the master bathroom was no larger than the hall bathroom, approximately 5′ x 8′. So creating a spa-like retreat was quite a challenge here as most people equate size to luxury. So we had to go into our bag of tricks for this one…
First, the original configuration of the bathroom had it split into two: the toilet and stall shower behind a door, and the sink in an open area adjacent to the bedroom. Although I like this configuration a lot in most situations for privacy reasons, especially when space permits, dividing up a 5′ x 8′ space into two pieces did not make sense here. By knocking down the wall that divided both sides to create one space, and adding a proper door to enclose the bathroom fully, we immediately helped to solve a couple problems – making the bathroom feel and look larger, and developing a sense of privacy for bathroom (a key to a spa feel and not waking up the person in the bedroom sleeping while the other person is brushing their teeth or blow drying).
Once we knew we were working with one space, we made an early decision to tile all the walls in one material to bring a sense of continuity to the small space, and help make it appear larger. On an early shopping trip, we came across an amazing neutral-colored striped ceramic tile with great textural qualities because of its uneven surfacing. Of course, this was a pricey Clodagh collection tile from Ann Sacks. But given this was our luxurious master bath and the wall surfaces were rather small, we made the decision to splurge on these tiles and make them a focal point.
Complementing them is a smoky taupe-grey marble tile with very linear veining on the floors. This darker marble tile provided a nice color contrast to the walls but still “familied” with them because the linear veining mimicked the striping of the ceramic. On the shower floor, we used the same marble but cut in a “matchstick” style for greater traction from a functional perspective and just a different texture visually.
Overall, I loved how our tile choices were individually interesting and strong, but worked together well in a very neutral, luxurious, zen-like color palette. I was channeling the inner Barbara Barry in me lol. My client, who began our project in favor of starker blacks and grays, really loved how the neutral tones came out. In contrast to the lighter and more playful hall bath, I think this master bath color scheme really provides a nice counterpoint that helps define it as the adult bathroom.
Because of the small size of the bathroom, once the shower stall was mapped out, the remaining space along the long wall was essentially all vanity. There was not enough room for a double vanity clearly, so we did our best to fashion one luxurious one and in the process we created what I think is the coolest feature in the entire bathroom. In a traditional bathroom, when vanities are bordered by a wall and a shower, most designers/contractors/home owners specify a pony wall (half wall) to divide the shower from the the vanity, which makes sense and is easy enough. However, the result is another surface to tile, another plane intersecting the space, and a slightly smaller vanity (to make room for the wall).
So in trying to innovate, we created a new option where we extended the Caesarstone vanity surface into the shower area and down to the floor, obviating the need for a pony wall as this surface becomes the pony wall. In doing so, we made, in my mind, a piece of architectural sculpture – in the extra-thick, plinth-like vanity intersected by a plane of glass that just terminates into it.
Looking from inside the shower it appears as if the countertop just extends right in, which is such a clean, modern detail, especially when done in the seamless Caesarstone. Kudos the fabricators for getting the detail perfect. Similarly, the cabinet maker did a nice job on the custom three-drawer console, which was expertly crafted to wrap around the p-trap.
So in going with the clean, monolithic look (as much as one can in such a small space) we specified a rectangular undermounted sink to keep the surface spare. Then for a bit a flair to contrast the minimal surface, we used a very sculptural faucet from one of my favorite industrial designers, Jean-Marie Massaud.
This over-scaled faucet features a completely linear, plateau-like top surface while underneath is a tapered, sculptural base. Water cascades from the underside in sheets like a waterfall. The knobs are ultra-minimal, ultra-low profile round pucks that rest on the countertop. Yes, this was expensive, but yes, this was worth it. I would say this is fixture is certainly spa-like – only better because no commercial spa would spend so much on a faucet for public use. To play off the aesthetics of the faucet in a subtle way, we even found drawer pulls that had a similar curved edge.
In front of and beside the sink we installed medicine cabinets to maximize storage and reflect light. For actual lighting, we were hamstrung once again by the Eichler ceilings so we found wall-mounted solutions. Since we had no overhead lighting above the sink, we had to ensure that the wall sconces would be sufficient. So we chose long, linear strip-style sconces that matched the height of the medicine cabinets perfectly, ensuring that my clients got even lighting along any stretch of mirror. Though this is not my ideal lighting in a bathroom, this was the best solution here. To add a bit more light along the back of the bathroom, we used a matching style two-arm wall sconce that also doubled to break up the expanse of tile along that wall and light up the accessories on the custom floating shelf we designed. Generally-speaking, lighting is rarely an issue in this bathroom dominated by the almost-uninterrupted span of floor-to-ceiling glass block requested by my clients. If ventilation is not an issue, the diffuse light provided by glass blocks is always excellent.
In the shower, we kept things simple. Of note are the shower tiles (body jets), which are actually very affordable luxuries to have. Hardware wise the cost is minimal so if you can make sure your contractor doesn’t charge extra or very much more for installing these then suddenly your spa-quotient has gone up quite a bit. In the case of my road-biking client, this massage feature is one he cherishes. Also in this bath, we jettisoned the shower door, which was another cost and another thing to get in the way in a small bathroom. As a designer, I think people should really re-consider shower doors more often. A well-designed shower, with proper drainage, does not necessarily need a shower door. Of course, there are many considerations like the layout, type of shower head, etc. but remember less can be more – in terms of both cost and aesthetics.
– Vanity: Custom
– Sink: Kohler
– Faucet: Hansgrohe Axor
– Shower Fixtures: Hansgrohe, Kohler
– Medicine Cabinets: Robern
– Sconces: Restoration Hardware
– Toilet: Toto
– Tile: Ann Sacks