The small bath problem and proposed solutions
The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but over the past 20 years, the
bathroom has morphed into the home's soul—a savored refuge from
our busy world. Once little more than utilitarian space, the bath has
expanded, both in size and in role, to serve as a pleasing retreat.
How to create such a retreat in an ordinary, compact 5 x 9-ft. bathroom could
easily leave the owner feeling like a, well, lost soul. Remodeling a bath built to
accommodate a standard 5-ft. tub, a toilet and a vanity without adding footage
can be a challenge.
Just ask Pam Peterson, who wanted to mine more space from her small 1954
bathroom. She turned to designer Matthew Rain of Abode Drafting, who, along
with the remodelers at Mike Otto Construction, “grew” her limited space without
changing the room's footprint and added modern elegance to a dated room.
Their solution relied on several fixes: reconfiguring the linen closet; brightening
up the fixtures; updating the wall, tile and floor surfaces; and radically
changing the vanity.
Bathroom before remodeling
The Bathroom, Before and After
gold tile visually
of bright fixtures
a big-time feel.
Fewer doors, more space
Rain cleaned up the structural clutter by rethinking
the original linen closet. It had four cabinet doors
in the bathroom and another access door from the
hallway. “With all those cabinet doors and the big
bathroom door, I felt I was always dodging and weaving
anytime I needed to get something,” says Peterson
of the old layout. “Some door was always in the way.”
The new design turned a bad closet into a great
one by shedding all but one of the bathroom cabinet
doors and removing the hallway cabinetry entirely.
“The new wall space in the hall allowed us to turn
the old bathroom door into a pocket door.
Eliminating a door 'in-swing' immediately gives a
room a bigger feel,” says Rain.
The new bathroom storage area has five custom
open shelves made of red oak (to match the room's
new light-toned trim), perfect for stacks of towels
(photo). “By leaving these shelves open, it also
adds to the room's feeling of spaciousness,” says
Rain, “and because you can quickly grab a towel, it's
functional as well.”
Tiled for a big feel
Despite the recent interest in retro fashion, there is
little nostalgia for the old harvest gold look. In this
bathroom, the wall and floor surfaces were replaced
with an easy-to-clean porcelain tile in a palette of
warm colors—including gold.
While the mosaic tile is beautiful, it also serves a
design purpose. “Both the scale of the 2-inch tile and
the random arrangement give the feeling of being in
a larger room,” says Rain. He found 2-in. tile that
could be ordered in a random mix, which took the
guesswork out of how much of each tile color to
purchase for a mosaic (photo). “The dark
floor tiles in a larger format, here a 6-by-6, also add
to the spaciousness,” Rain says.
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Bright, clean and open for small spaces
Peterson wanted a crisp look that wasn't overly
modern. “I didn't want anything too elaborate in
this little bath. It's hard to appreciate things in
such a small room because there is no place to
stand back and take it in,” she says. “I wanted a
look with simple lines.”
Rain selected nearly all of the fixtures and
accessories from Kohler's Memoirs collection.
“The style matched up well with my client's tastes
and the products were 'right-sized' for the scale of
the room,” says Rain, adding that shopping online
saved him and his client hours of legwork.
After 50 years of use, the tub was beginning to
show its age. Replacement wasn't feasible without
either special ordering an expensive custom bathtub
to fit the constraints of the room or undertaking
a more extensive
remodel. “Because it's a
tub, I decided to spend
$500 to refinish it,” says
Peterson (Photo 2). “It looks good
and saved money in
demolition and installation
Warranties on tub
refinishing vary but usually
hover around the
five-year mark. “I've
found that a refinished
tub will last about seven
years when it's used every day or around 10 with
low use,” says remodeler Mike Otto.
The old vanity was dated and with its clunky
style took up too much space in the small bath. A
contemporary console sink with square legs was
used as a replacement with eye-popping results
(Photo 1). The console style offers enough
space to place toiletries by the basin but without
the chunkiness of a traditional vanity.
“This is probably one of the biggest changes in
the room when it comes to opening things up,”
says Peterson. “I had wanted some unique pieces
in the room and this is definitely one of them.”