Home & Garden

Bathroom Makeovers: Easier Than You Think

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Your dream bathroom is only a few steps away. Learn from the experts what it takes to improve a bathroom, and see some stunning examples of their recent designs.

A free-standing, cast iron tub is the focal point of this grand master bath, with matching his-and-hers vanities and an open walk-in shower. Designed by Kitchens by Diane, Loves Park, Ill. (Rebecca O'Malley photo)

Undertaking a bathroom remodel can be daunting. With so many choices, homeowners aren’t always certain where to begin. Some people take years, literally, considering a makeover, and many never actually do it, because of cost, room size or just plain uncertainty.

Northwest Quarterly asked local experts to describe a particularly challenging or dramatic bathroom project they’ve done. As they describe the process, hopefully, you’ll be able to see the possibilities for your own bathroom makeover.

Kitchens by Diane

It’s said that location is everything, and Diane Feuillerat knows it’s true.

The owner of Kitchens by Diane, 6346 East Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., landed these clients from St. Charles, Ill., who were passing through town, because they stopped to eat at a nearby restaurant.

“They decided to come in, and the result is a beautiful bathroom with amazing features,” says Feuillerat.

Not that the 27-year design veteran has an open schedule; her full client list is one of the reasons she opened her new location two years ago. But Feuillerat was especially excited because of the size of this particular master bath: 11-by-17 feet. The room was well appointed but outdated, and the clients were looking for some major changes.

“The homeowners had ideas, but they really wanted my input,” says Feuillerat. “They came to me with inspirational photos from a magazine, showing the different elements they wanted to incorporate. What they wanted was going to be a complete transformation.”

The existing bath had a sunken whirlpool bath, 3-foot by 5-foot enclosed shower, two sinks across from each other and shared storage. Large double doors opened opposite a 7-foot window, with another single door on the far right wall.
“They wanted a large, walk-in shower with no door, a free-standing tub and separate ‘His-and-Hers’ sinks and storage, along with some custom features,” says Feuillerat.

The newly designed master bath has a freestanding cast iron pedestal tub with a standing low spout faucet. The tiled, 7 ½ -foot by 11-foot walk-in shower has body sprays, a rain showerhead and a bench. It’s separated from the rest of the room with a half wall topped with tinted glass.

“Very striking, also, is the cabinetry,” says Feuillerat. “His vanity is 5 feet long with six drawers and space under the sink. Hers is L-shaped, 6 feet by 5 feet, with a sit-down dressing table with mirror incorporated. She has two pull-outs here, customized for her grooming tools, like hair dryer and curling iron.”

In addition, her space has an open-shelved display cabinet with drawers, for even more storage.The countertops are marble and granite, and the cabinets incorporate classic furniture elements.

“We looked at five different colors, and I ordered five different cabinet doors, and they chose the one they liked best,” says Feuillerat. “They picked a custom paint-glaze on maple, and incorporated crown molding into her vanity.”

Each vanity has a separate mirror trimmed with fluted wrought-iron frames and is flanked by matching sconce lighting. Marble flooring and matching granite trim on a shelf under the window complete the room.

This marble-topped double vanity features dual mirrors and sconce light fixutres, with a custom tiled backsplash. Designed by Lisa Simpson, River Valley Kitchens & Baths, Roscoe, Ill. (Rebecca O'Malley photos)

One of the biggest challenges was making all of the components fit together and complement each other. “Because of the traditional furniture design, we had to add arched toe space under the sink area on the vanities,” says Feuillerat. “The very grand cabinetry and trim in this spa-like master bath finished off a gorgeous suite.”

River Valley Kitchens & Baths

Lisa Simpson’s expertise at bathroom design is evident, not just in the finished product itself, but in the satisfaction expressed by her clients.

“Lisa’s exceptional at putting things together for people,” says Sue Bryant, her boss at River Valley Kitchens & Baths, 5281 Swanson Road, Roscoe, Ill. “All of her customers say it’s like she just pulls what they want right out of their heads, and finds a way to make it work.”

One recent design that stands as a testament to Simpson’s talent is in the home of Kevin and Mary O’Grady of Roscoe. The couple’s existing master bath was long and narrow, with a single sink, a toilet and a shower/tub combination at the end; they wanted a window, a tiled walk-in shower with no door and a double vanity. The room was directly over the garage, so the O’Gradys also wanted a heated floor.

“The bathroom was accessed from the bedroom through an alcove of sorts,” explains Simpson. “A large walk-in closet ran the length of the bathroom on one wall, and they originally planned to knock that out for the added bath space, and use the alcove as a closet.”

River Valley was one of many stops the O’Gradys had made in their search for a designer, and it turned out to be their last. “We had looked at other places and weren’t particularly happy, with the design or cost,” says Kevin. “Lisa did a very good job of satisfying our needs in both areas.”

The couple’s original plan would require a great deal of demolition and moving of pipes. “We try to keep the pipes in the same area,” Simpson says. “The alcove had already been marked for change, and the pipes from their other bathroom were right there. So I suggested that it was a natural place for the new shower, and they agreed.”

The process typically takes two to three months: two weeks for planning, three weeks for ordering and delivery and four weeks for the remodel.

“It can take more or less time, depending on the job,” says Bryant, who owns and operates the business with husband Al. “It’s always faster when the customers have a clear idea of what they want, and a reasonable understanding of how much of it they can accomplish within their budget.”

Often, space determines the plan, as with the O’Grady bathroom. In the final design, the alcove is now walled off from the bedroom, and farther into the bedroom, a new pocket door leads directly into the bath. The former alcove is now a 4-by 6-foot walk-in shower, custom tiled with body sprays in the walls, a multifunctional showerhead and a seat. On the end wall, a window lets in tons of natural light and makes the space feel larger. The shower/tub combo is gone and the toilet is moved to that spot, with a half wall separating it from the marble-topped double vanity. The sinks have dual mirrors and sconce light fixtures, with a custom tiled backsplash.

Of many options available for achieving the heated floor, Simpson recommended that an electric mat be installed on the subfloor. “Lisa was extremely efficient at pulling out different design techniques and adapting them to our needs,” says Kevin. “She landed on the ideas that worked for us, very quickly and easily.”

“Lisa was a dream to work with,” adds Mary. “She knows her stuff and finds just what you want.”

Asked to name her favorite feature, Simpson ponders a moment and replies: “I design for my customers and their needs, not for myself, so what I like doesn’t matter. I’m always happy when my design utilizes the space to its greatest potential and makes the client happy.”

Marling HomeWorks

Tad McLain, a designer at Marling HomeWorks, 1138 Hwy. 14, Janesville, has worked for more than 26 years in different facets of the remodeling business, from tile and flooring to cabinets and fixtures.

“I earned a degree in architectural engineering,” he says. “I was always artistic, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wasn’t happy being a small cog in a big firm, just working on one piece of a project and not really seeing how the other pieces all fit together.”

After working for his father driving OTR for a time, McLain took a job with ColorTile, a carpet and flooring company in Janesville.

“They were very hands-on in their training, and I gained a lot of how-to knowledge,” he says. “For one particular job, I was able to help with planning and laying a floor, from start to finish, and seeing the completed process hooked me.”

McLain has been at Marling HomeWorks for just over a year now, and he enjoys being involved in all aspects of a project. “We carry 11 different lines of cabinets here, and I’ve worked with all 11 over the years, but just one at a time,” he says. “So it was a learning curve for me, but I really appreciate the flexibility I have here, being able to offer so many choices.”

In this design by Tad McLain of Marling HomeWorks, Janesville, the various colors in the granite countertop are echoed in the dark cherry cabinets, oil-rubbed fixtures, sconce lighting and framed mirror. The cabinet in the right foreground replaces an extraneous door. (Karla Nagy photo)

McLain especially enjoys helping his customers to bring their dreams to reality – literally. “The average homeowner gets to do something like this only once, and a lot of people dream about it for a long time without following through,” he says. “I have customers who say, ‘We’ve been thinking about redoing the kitchen,’ and when I ask for how long, they say years. One couple had been in their home for 29 years and still hadn’t done a remodel. So we’re here to guide them through it. We’re the vehicle to get them from Point A – thinking about it – to Point B – the finished product.”

Todd and Patty Ritschard have owned their Monroe, Wis., home for 15 years. They had done a kitchen remodel last year and were ready to redo their bathroom. After seeing an advertisement for Marling, they stopped in at the Madison store and were referred to the Janesville location, where McLain stepped up to help.

“Tad jumped right onboard,” says Patty. “I told him what I wanted, and he went out and found it.”

“With some clients, your taste and theirs just click, and this was one of those times,” says McLain. “Patty had a vision, but she needed someone to help finalize it.”

“Everything was dark wood, like from the 1970s,” Patty says. “We had the typical tub/shower combo, with a huge closet next to it, and we wanted a large walk-in shower and separate tub. Then, along with the door from the hallway, there was another that led to our bedroom, even though this is our main bathroom. We thought that was wasted space and wanted to better utilize it.”

For the design, McLain walled in the extra door to the bedroom, replacing it with a “His-and-Hers” storage pantry. The old closet space became a 4 by 6-foot tiled walk-in shower with glass door; the tub/shower combo was replaced with a deeper tub and custom tiled backsplash.

The vanity and toilet stayed where they were, although the vanity was lengthened and the fixtures were upgraded. Since Patty hates to shop, McLain took care of that aspect, gathering cabinet, finish, light fixture, tile and granite selections for her to pursue.

“Patty originally had a much more expensive line in mind, and budget is always a challenge,” McLain says. “With 11 lines to choose from, we were able to achieve the look she wanted and stay within budget.”

The cherry cabinets are complemented with oil-rubbed faucets and light sconces flanking a framed mirror, offering a striking contrast to the neutral walls. The granite countertop has a mix of beige, gold, dark brown, grey and rust, allowing for any number of color accent schemes using towels, throw rugs and other décor.

“I like the color on the cabinets, and I suggested different ways that we could tie that in to other areas,” McLain says. “Not everyone is open to that, but they were. I added some dark tile in the floor and worked with their tile guy on the pattern around the tub.”

The Ritschards appreciate McLain’s artistic touches. “He took the granite from the vanity and brought it into the shower,” Patty says. “He used a piece as the threshold and another piece for shelves inside. What he added really pulls the room together.”

Key to a successful remodel is communication, and McLain visited the Ritschards in Monroe four times during the process, for consultation, cabinet installation, granite installation and to see the finished project. “When you’re disrupting someone’s nest, it’s important to see that’s it’s put back together properly,” he says.

“Whatever we needed, Tad was right there to take care of it or get it fixed,” Patty says. “We’re thrilled with the bathroom. We recommend Marling very highly.”

McLain concedes that there aren’t a lot of “atta-boys” in remodeling, but it’s still a very satisfying career.
“The best part for me is when you beat the customers’ expectations,” he says. ❚

Small Change Equals Big Impact

Homeowners can give their bathrooms a facelift without undergoing a total renovation, just by updating their countertops.
“We’re getting a lot of customers who just want to change out their vanities,” says Rick George, co-owner with Lonnie Presson of Lonnie’s Stonecrafters, 2529 Laude Dr., Rockford. “A new granite top changes the entire look of a room.”

Rather than asking clients to look at a 3-inch by 3-inch sample and imagine what it would look like on a vanity, Lonnie’s Stonecrafters has hundreds of full-size granite slabs in stock. The stone you pick is the stone that becomes your new countertop. A computer assisted design (CAD) program even allows you to see a computer-generated image of what it will look like, before any cutting is done.

Once the customer has decided on a granite slab, existing counters are measured precisely with lasers and dimensions are entered into a computer. The granite is then cut to exact size, using a computer numeric control (CNC) saw and router. Then, the piece is sanded, polished, buffed and treated by hand, in the shop, by George’s expert stonecrafters.

“Once we’re done here, our installers take the granite to the client’s home and complete the job,” says George. “The entire process is done in just a few hours. Your bathroom isn’t torn up for weeks. Your house isn’t filled with noise and dust. It’s quick and easy.”

George estimates Lonnie’s has done hundreds of new countertops in the past few months.

“One lady who came in was so excited by it all that she was actually jumping up and down,” he says with a big smile. “She loved the granite she picked out, and when she saw what it was going to look like in her bathroom, she was elated. She kept saying, ‘This is so cool. I can’t wait to get it finished.’ After the installation, she came in again to tell us how happy she is with her new countertop. It’s really fun when things like that happen.” ❚

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