Inside four inspiring bathroom renovations—plus expert decorating advice and the resources to help you create a dream bath
Give and Take
Here’s how one couple solved two problems at once—an empty-feeling bedroom and a cramped bath
It might seem counterintuitive to steal space from the master bedroom to enlarge the bath, but for these Arlington homeowners, that was the only way to go. “It was bigger than anybody needed,” designer Lori Graham says: a space full of furniture, which nevertheless felt empty.
The bathroom, by contrast, looked large on paper but was eaten up by an eight-foot-square tub that took 30 minutes to fill and exceeded the hot-water heater’s capacity. Plus, an adjacent “bowling alley of a closet,” in Graham’s words, forced a meticulous wife and her messy husband to unhappily share the same space.
The designer rethought all three areas, appropriating 80 square feet from the bedroom for the new bath design. She also eliminated the original closet to make way for a toilet room and two new closets that wrap around a custom vanity. “I wanted it to be timeless,” Graham says. Indeed, her clients aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Left Image: The lacquered base of the custom vanity contrasts with the honed, cast-concrete counter, which has sink basins carved into it. Graham had the counter-to-ceiling mirror cut to accommodate wall-mounted faucets, medicine cabinets from Restoration Hardware, and sconces by Plush Home. “There was zero room for error,” she says. The huge mirror reflects the natural light that pours in through the new windows.
Right Image: The owners eliminated a tiny shower stall in favor of a bigger, more luxurious version. They also opted for a smaller bathtub, which sits under a new plate-glass window looking out on the woods. The arrangement includes a built-in niche for towels and a step from the shower into the tub. Graham chose contrasting limestone for the walls and floor to reference the outdoors. The mosaic shower floor is Minos Jaffa by Ann Sacks; the plumbing fixtures are Dornbracht.
The remodeled bathroom—not including the new closets—has fewer square feet than it used to but a much bigger shower and more usable space without the hulking tub. Graham divided the big closet into two L-shaped ones that wrap around a new vanity. A stacked washer and dryer in the husband’s closet keeps the parents’ laundry separate from the kids’.
The centerpiece of this Potomac bathroom is a volcanic-limestone tub—a perfect spot for the homeowners to take a long soak
Having lived abroad for many years and started a family in Australia, a Potomac man moved back home with his wife and children after inheriting the house where he’d grown up. By that time, he was used to living and traveling in places where people take bathing seriously.
The master bathroom, then, became a priority while the family was renovating—especially the tub. “His wife enjoys bathing frequently, which is something we don’t see as much in America,” says Lauren Levant Bland, a designer with Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath.
Bland designed a large picture window to frame the tub and grant views of the woodsy back yard. She also knocked down partition walls that once chopped up the suite, creating an open space reminiscent of the couple’s favorite luxury-hotel baths.
Left: The modern, minimalist shower balances the more traditional elements. To play up the room’s dark/light palette, Bland juxtaposed two contrasting tiles in the shower: one faceted, textured white, the other oversize, smooth chocolate-brown—both by Porcelanosa. “Having those value changes was helpful to punch up the design,” Bland says. The glass tile flanking the mirrors also captures that tonal spectrum while reflecting light from the sophisticated, polished-nickel sconces.
Center: Bland incorporated extensive storage into the bath design and dressed the cabinetry in a rich, ebonized stain to contrast with lighter tones throughout the space. Highlights include a garage-style door on the counter to hide large items such as curlers and a hair dryer, a pullout shelf for the laundry hamper, and a sit-down vanity.
Right: This deep, dramatic Victoria & Albert tub is made of volcanic limestone, which retains the heat of bathing water far longer than porcelain or cast iron.
By eliminating the partition walls separating each bathroom element, Bland expanded the suite’s usable space without enlarging the original footprint.
Be My Guest
Like many older homes, this 1920s farmhouse in Arlington had only one bathroom on the second floor. Davida Rodriguez of Davida’s Kitchen & Tiles found a clever way to convert a tiny upstairs office into a guest bath without breaking the bank.
The owner was raised in Manhattan and has a formal aesthetic, but Rodriguez knew that Carrara marble—a true classic for the bathroom—was out of his price range. Instead, she used a much cheaper porcelain look-alike from her own shop to line the walls behind the Barclay clawfoot tub. She also found a graphic, inexpensive wallpaper online in a young, fresh pattern and the classic Tiffany-blue shade.
Above: Because this is a guest bath and not a powder room, Rodriguez looked for a sink with plenty of storage: “I wanted something that was light and open but had some countertop space.” Paired with Murray Feiss sconces and a clean, white-framed mirror, the freestanding vanity, by Ronbow, achieves the “SoHo/Plaza/traditional look” the homeowner was after.
Rodriguez had to work within the confines of the existing space because moving walls would have been too expensive. Luckily, a plumbing stack was situated next to what used to be the closet, so she converted that space into a separate toilet room. She also refinished the existing hardwood in the rest of the space instead of paying for new tile.
Condo owners in DC’s historic Cairo building wanted to enlarge and modernize their bath—without disrupting its original 19th-century mosaic floor. They turned to Doug Pettit of Landis Construction for help.
The owners have a contemporary style, so the key was incorporating the colors of the mosaic into fresh, updated surfaces everywhere else. A wall of bold, orange glass tile from Architectural Ceramics punctuates the new shower, along with oversize gray tile from Porcelanosa. Calacatta Gold marble on the shower bench, trim, and vanity counter echoes the mosaic’s mottled gray and white tones.
Left: The new tile and plumbing fixtures are starkly modern, so Pettit wanted to inject some warmth into the space. The custom-made walnut vanity, along with a walnut-trimmed mirror, achieves that goal. “It maintains the richness of the space,” Pettit says, along with curvy, transitional sconces that soften the room’s modern edge.
Space was at a premium in the two-story unit’s only bath, so the owners opted to get rid of an awkward clawfoot tub in favor of a spacious shower. “We live in more of a shower society now,” Pettit says. “It goes with the fast-paced nature of our lives.” He borrowed space from adjacent closets for the new shower, and part of one closet revealed more of the original mosaic underneath, preserved in the new design.