mastering the master bath

February 2016 Newsletter

continuing the conversation with chris rogers

Over the years, quite a few prospective clients have wondered if it might be difficult to execute modern design in an older building. Chris contends that in general, new construction is easier since the progression of work is more logically and predictably laid out. In remodeling an older building, there are often hidden and unexpected challenges. Existing walls are almost always not true and plumb. Old floors tend to slope instead of being level. Certainly, good outcomes begin with good designs and accurate drawings. But ultimately, each perfect execution is done in the field with coordination and supervision by the designers. The lead carpenter in the project is charged with figuring out a lot of details in situ.

mastering the master bath

Regarding the numerous interesting projects he has worked on, Chris thinks the bathroom remodel stands out as the category which best embodies the design philosophy of our firm. With relatively simple and straightforward function requirement, the bathroom lets the materials and forms shine. 

In this remodel of a suburban residence in Marin, clean lines and restrained material choices brighten and update the interior. One of building Lab's trademarks in bathroom design is the use of a single type of large format floor tiles throughout the room. In this case, the porcelain tiles step up onto the shower floor which slopes in one direction towards the linear drain. The decision of whether to step up or create a level condition with contiguous bathroom floor is controlled by design, budget, and logistical considerations. If it were new construction, then a level entry into the shower is easily achieved as the floor supports would have been designed to allow for the slope.

A feature that catches attention is the way wall tiles are installed flush with the drywall. Each tile plus mortar and backer usually come to 1 1/2", while a typical drywall is 5/8". To compensate for the difference in thickness, plywood is nailed on the studs under the drywall (the technical term is "furring out"). This is a good example of the kind of extra work that is required to create a simple look. Another favorite design element is a narrow and tall window. White laminated glass preserves privacy and baths the space with diffused natural light. The white console style trough sink with wall mounted walnut cabinetry, the mirrors with integral lights, and the under cabinet lighting all contribute to the fresh modern look. 

modern design for a late 19th century building

Featured above is a master bath in an Edwardian which won a Grand Award from Remodeling Design Magazine in 2015. It is a great example of how modern design combined with fine materials and precise detailing can feel entirely at home in a traditional building. Tall, thin mirrors accentuate the high ceilings and complement the original window. Note the subtle custom details such as the integral LED lighting wrapping around the mirrors, and a shower glass partition installed in such a way to give the illusion of cutting across the quartz counter and shelving. Suspended walnut cabinetry with book matched grain pattern adds elegance and warmth. Much care and skill are involved in the cutting and installation of these panels. A small mistake means the whole cabinet face will have to be replaced.

Around the corner, a small powder room is created by closing off the end of a long hallway. Since the room is small and narrow, everything is done to make it feel spacious and not an inch of space is wasted. The toilet is wall hung with the tank concealed. A narrow and long counter with suspended walnut cabinetry lines one wall with a super small vessel sink sitting on one end. A large horizontal mirror appears to be floating right into a wall niche. In reality, the mirror is mounted on a backing wrapped with a thin strip of LED lighting all around. The wall niche is made of MDF and is painted the same color as the wall to create the illusion that it is carved out from the wall.

Marrying the new with the old is our passion; it is the essence of remodeling. It entails a varying set of contextual challenges and is a major factor in keeping the attention and interest of creative minds like Chris's.
Photo captions: L-R (all photos by Scott Hargis)
1. Master bath in Marin - shower   2. Master bath in Marin - trough sink and vanity
3. Master bath in a SF Edwardian - view of the vanity from the shower  4. Powder room in a SF Edwardian

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