The Art of the Master Bathroom

I must admit, I am a fan of a fabulous bathroom. And I firmly believe that at the heart of nearly every great bathroom is a great bathtub. Yes, I understand that not everyone is a bath person, but something about the soak really brings closure to my day. Experts say raising your body temperature right before bedtime allows you to sleep like a baby. Well, it seems to work for me and maybe that’s why when I find a client that wants an amazing bath, I am all too happy to accommodate.

When thinking about updating or creating a master suite, it is important to really step back and assess your options with an open mind and a healthy blend of optimism and imagination. Bathrooms can be fickle, particularly in older homes where limited space and logistical challenges necessitated oddly shaped, compact, and haphazard spaces. Clients who come to me for advice on how to create the sun-drenched, spa-like master bath of their dreams, often feel like they need to mentally wrestle their ambitions into that crammed, rigid space. But in many of my past projects projects, I’ve been able to design an entirely new bathroom from a spare bedroom. Often, these homes have an odd, extra room that may be too small for a bedroom or simply not used by the client – we can rejuvenate that space by transforming it into a bathroom suite!

Floors have an enormous visual presence, especially in bathrooms where furniture is often minimal or built-in. I generally look for something that is polished and clean but that doesn’t read as overly cold or sterile. In the Hoyt House, we chose hardwood and laid it in a herringbone pattern. We considered several materials, but this lighter tone absolutely glows and infuses the whole room with a soft warmth when it reflects light from a pair of oversized windows. The herringbone pattern complements the era of the home. In both the Hilltop House and the Alberta Bungalow, we chose a gorgeous Carrara for the floors and shower. Still a calming palette, a heavy dose of marble definitely raises the glamor and ‘wow’ factor of a space. Often overlooked, some of my favorite bathrooms have won me over because of fantastic floors and gorgeous natural light.

Vanities can come in all shapes and sizes. The shape and layout of a vanity is usually determined by balancing the physical constraints of the space and the client’s personal preference. I like a darker, more substantial look to ground the lighter elements without darkening the room. The right vanity(ies) will be functional, whatever that may entail for a specific client, and pop in just the right amount of visual weight and structural interest. A great cabinet maker can bring style and functionality to a space with a custom vanity.

Because I am such a bath person, this next part I take very seriously. After all, it’s all about the bathtub. If possible, I try to position a beautiful tub in a prominent place in the room – not tucked or hidden away in a corner, but in the center of the room or in front of a window. I’ve always thought this placement has a sort of old-world sophistication. It confidently presents the bathtub as a piece of art, a masterpiece of relaxation. There are many many styles of gorgeous, free standing tubs and choosing the perfect tub for a client’s space is such a satisfying, rewarding part of the process. The decision depends on the preference of the client and the architectural style of the home. In the Hilltop House, we used a beautiful, contemporary tub with sleek lines and a modern shape, whereas in the Alberta Bungalow we chose a stunning, black, clawfooted piece that complemented the beautiful vintage details of the home. If my love of striking tubs wasn’t clear yet, I had to include an image of a project I completed in The Netherlands where I sourced a 600 pound, solid stone tub from Turkey! My contractor had to remove the window and lift the entire thing in with a crane. This amazing creation was a bit dramatic in its arrival but was absolutely gorgeous in the room!

Naturally, all projects start with a budget that serves as the first guideline in creating a new bathroom. I recommend going as high end as a budget allows for plumbing fixtures (faucets and tub) because this splurge on quality items pays dividends if the space is resold and significantly increases the space’s longevity. Most, if not all, of my bathroom projects have included under-mount sinks, so I don’t usually spend an inordinate amount on the porcelain sinks. One of my favorite lesser-used pieces is an extra-large mirror behind the vanity. If feasible for the space, a floor-to-ceiling, extra-wide mirror brings scale and light to a bathroom, as does just the right sconces above the sink. Recessed lighting with dimmers allows for the mood to be set. Lots of bath salts, candles positioned nearby and you are ready for the perfect end to a long day!

Creating the right master bathroom is about building a beautiful, timeless, clean, and functional space. I know that I have a personal bias because of my love for beautiful bathrooms, but I believe that whether you are dashing through your morning routine or enjoying a longer, indulgent soak, the bathroom is a space where you are quietly away from everything. It is a space to breathe, gather your thoughts, take a dip, and stay awhile. While there is a mountain of considerations for design, for logistics, for function, I always try to remember that central feeling and central purpose when I start my designs.