Home & Garden

Five Transformed Bathrooms to Love

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It’s where our days begin and end, and it’s where we’ll spend nearly a year of time during our lives. Discover five luxurious bathrooms that are clean, simple, and oh-so-stylish.

Kitchens by Diane renovated this sleek bathroom, in which a clawfoot tub is successfully integrated into the contemporary design. (Christin Dunmire photo)

During a lifetime, most people will spend about 1.5 years’ worth of time in the bathroom. Most of us start and finish our day there. Given the importance of the space, it seems logical to remodel the bathroom every few years.

Northwest Quarterly Magazine talked to designers and homeowners who’ve recently tackled a bathroom renovation project. We learned all sorts of fun facts about heated floors and towel bars, cool showerheads, comfort-height toilets, vanities and so much more. We also discovered that bathrooms, per square foot, cost more to remodel than kitchens, because of all the plumbing work required in such a small space. Most bathroom projects range from $15,000 to $30,000.

“Homeowners are going for a one-of-a-kind look,” says Sue Bryant, owner of River Valley Kitchens & Baths in Roscoe, Ill. “People want spa-like features when it comes to customizing mirrors, vanities and especially showers. The No. 1 thing people want these days is a bigger shower.”

Here are five elegant bathrooms that just may get you thinking about your own project.

Contemporary Feel

Kathy and Dietmar Goellner of Belvidere had two good reasons why they were in need of a master bath overhaul.

“The design was getting dated, and we had a leak in the shower,” says Kathy. “Our goal was to make the repairs and redesign the existing space. When you have to put that much money into repairs, you might as well update the look and feel of a space that’s 10 years old.”

To maximize the space and storage in their large bathroom, the Goellners enlisted the help of Diane Feuillerat, lead designer of Kitchens by Diane, 6346 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill. It helped that Kathy has an arts background.

“Kathy has good taste,” says Feuillerat. “She was savvy and knew what she wanted, which made the process go easier.” The project included creating a new state-of-the-art shower, replacing the original tile with hardwood and heated flooring, upgrading to a contemporary semi-submerged vessel sink and faucet, adding a tile backsplash, and installing a new vanity that includes two rollout drawers and a counter with mirror. The only items saved from the original bathroom were a freestanding clawfoot tub and frosted double doors bearing the universal public symbols for “Men” and “Women.”

“The biggest trend in master bathrooms is removing the old Jacuzzi tub and reconfiguring the space to include a large shower,” says Feuillerat. “A contemporary shower is huge these days.”

Kathy chose organic colors to pull the room together. “It’s a more spa-like feel,” she says. “I wanted something that’s clean and makes you relax at the same time. I didn’t want it to be cold. That’s why we went with rectangular glass and natural stone to warm it up. It’s a mix to achieve something contemporary.”

To complete the look, Kathy added colorful flower arrangements, vases, baskets, time pieces and scatter rugs. “The brightness makes a big difference, and the heated floor makes it more comfortable,” says Kathy. “It’s invisible, but changes the feel of the room. I don’t know how we lived without it before.”

Feels like Home

In 2009, Susan Simmert bought a model in the Garrison Lofts & Townhomes, a former Rockford grade school built in the 1880s and restored in 2007 to replicate original homes from the surrounding neighborhood.

“It’s like living in Wrigleyville,” says Susan, a Chicago native who lives with her husband, Larry. “We walked in and immediately loved it.”

Design Consultant Scott Herrmann of Marling Homeworks, 1138 Humes Road, Janesville, was responsible for the design of 15 units in the school’s main building and gymnasium. “It’s warm and chic,” he says. “There’s definitely a loft feel.”

One of Susan’s favorite rooms in her 1,100 square-foot townhome is the bathroom. It has a 13-foot ceiling and a pair of transom windows on each side, which allows light to flow from one room to the next. “I love the high ceilings and glass windows,” she says. “The added light gives the room a different feel.”

Herrmann agrees: “It shortens the walls. We wanted to put some perspective on it. With those glass windows, you don’t feel like you’re walking into a tunnel.”

The shower tub is standard width, but extra-deep at 48 inches, which, Herrmann says, adds weight to the bottom of the room. “We kept that simple,” he adds. “Being that the ceilings are so high, we couldn’t really add a rain showerhead.”

There’s a comfort-height vanity with taller backsplash and higher tile around the tub, giving the room a different dimension. “The taller you make things, the shorter the room feels,” Herrmann says. “When you walk into the room, it just makes sense.”

Herrmann opted for hickory flooring instead of traditional tile. “Hickory is the hardest wood you can get naturally,” he says. “It has so much character and will match almost anything. There’s a warm feel that is the magic of wood.”

Susan says she can’t imagine living anywhere else. “The quality, colors and textures Scott chose were beautiful,” she says. “He has a knack for working with small spaces. I didn’t pick out any of the material, but if I had, this is exactly what I would have wanted.”

Overcoming Space Issues

After 18 years in the design business, Lisa Simpson knows to expect the unexpected during bathroom projects.

“Some people enjoy coming up with something totally out of the ordinary, while others have no interest in anything other than the basic standard selections,” says Simpson, a designer for River Valley Kitchens & Baths, 5261 Swanson Road, Roscoe, Ill. “Working with each customer is completely different. We enjoy when a client comes in with a theme or crazy idea. Those are the projects that normally turn out to have the biggest impacts.”

Recently, Simpson worked with a Roscoe family who needed help with a space issue. The 10-by-10-foot bathroom had a large 7-by-7 bathtub with steps that took up three-quarters of the bathroom, and a 3-by-3 shower that was too small to maneuver in.

“All they initially wanted was to enlarge the shower and have a spa-like feel,” Simpson says. “But we found a way to disrupt the room as little as possible and maximize the space we had.”

Simpson reconfigured the space to make room for a sizable six-foot tub, in addition to a spacious 4-by-7 shower. “To open the shower up and make the room feel larger, we added a half-wall with a glass panel,” she says.

The shower also includes both a regular showerhead and a hand-held spray feature, along with a bench seat. The porcelain tile walls are cream, orange and black with a slate look. Natural river rocks on the shower floor create a therapeutic, spa-like experience. Porcelain tile that looks like hardwood adds to the Zen theme. “Natural-looking materials and colors are timeless and never go out of style,” Simpson says.

In addition, she added lighting to a cubby behind the tub, as well as rectangular outdoor lighting inside the shower that gives warmth and adds another layer to the room. The new additions blend well with the old, as the homeowners elected to keep the existing toilet and vanity.

When it was finished, Simpson’s clients were pleased.

“As designers, we’re relieved when the customer is happy,” she says. “You hope the vision you’ve created with them turns out to be exactly what they expected.”

An Eye on the Future

Constructing a new bathroom requires meeting the current and future needs of the customer.

That’s what interior designer Karen Retzke realized when her firm, New Leaf Remodeling, 6551 E. Riverside Blvd., Rockford, was hired to design a home addition in anticipation of the client’s mother moving in.

As part of the project, New Leaf Remodeling built a new living room, kitchen, bedroom, 5-by-10 bathroom and one-car garage. “The mother wanted a handicap-accessible bathroom, something that was easy to get in and out of,” says Retzke. “She doesn’t need it now, but it allows her to ‘age in place,’ a new concept for the aging baby boomer population. They also wanted a clean and simple look to the new space.”

The design team created a 5-by-5 recessed walk-in shower, which eliminated the shower curb. The shower includes a sprayer on a slide bar, grab bars, can lights, a floating seat and cubby holes for shampoo. Interestingly, the floor, walls and ceiling are covered in porcelain tile.

“A lot of people don’t do that,” Retzke says. “Most people will only tile the shower walls, floor or halfway up the walls. Compared to drywall, it gives the space a more modern, sophisticated look, and the accent tile really does make the space pop.”

Related renovations included a heated floor, 36-inch high cherry wood vanity, granite countertop and a comfort-height toilet. A matching cherry wood linen cabinet was added for storing towels and other accessories. Two doors lead into the bathroom, one from the hallway and the other from the bedroom.

In the end, the customer got exactly what she wanted. “She loved the accessibility now and in the future,” Retzke says.

These days, Retzke recommends an all-tile bathroom to her other clients.

“This bathroom is a stylish statement, mixing masculinity with a feminine touch,” she says. “The large, bold tiles with clean lines keep with a modern feel, while the smaller glass tiles soften the look.
“I like when clients are willing to try something different. But it’s not for everyone. Some want to stick with a basic shower. That’s OK, too.”

Adding Warmth

Carole and Mark Hale walked into All American Kitchens & Baths, 6186 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., where they solicited the help of owner/designer Steven Jones to spruce up their master bath.

“We’ve lived in our house since 1998, and are starting to do some updates,” Carole says. “We thought the bathroom was a good place to start.”

The project included gutting the existing bathroom, removing the flooring, mirror, vanity lights and tub – the Hales’ biggest pet peeve. “I was tired of the glass door and the molded tub,” Carole says. “We never used the tub, and it was starting to look dated.”

To replace the tub with a walk-in shower, Jones squared off an angled wall, allowing room not only for the shower but for an adjacent wall-mounted heated towel bar. “Some people just look at the walls and think they’re stuck with what they have,” Jones says. “By squaring off the wall, we created a roomier space and feel.”

Another concern for the Hales was that the bathroom was always cold, so Jones installed a heated floor and toe kick heater, which warmed the room significantly. “It’s the warmest room in the house during the winter,” says Carole. “Even our cat spends most of her time in there.”

Inside the porcelain tile shower is a tiled triangle bench seat, brushed stainless steel grab bar, and hardware with coordinating tile on the floor and walls, which created an ideal spot for relaxing. Mark’s only request was a rain showerhead to go along with a standard one. The shower tile accent colors are two-toned sand and moss.

“Porcelain tile is better equipped than ceramic tile in the bathroom,” Jones says. “Ceramic is brittle and doesn’t hold up in the cold.”

Carole got her biggest wish: a granite countertop vanity, which happens to be comfort height. The room is better lit thanks to the addition of contemporary lighting. One of the most exciting additions is the bathroom’s frosted glass door, which provides an open feeling, ample lighting and plenty of privacy.

“We love our new bathroom,” Carole says. “It’s much more comfortable, and it’s a great starting point to other projects we’re going to do around our home.”

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