April 15, 2021
By Carrie Whitney
It was the type of space buyers might have claimed they would remodel immediately upon purchasing a home. But after two decades, the master bathroom looked like it had on the day the couple moved in, instead of the private master bathroom oasis they wanted. There was no division between the bedroom and the bathroom – the carpet simply continued into the area with a large tub on one side and double vanity on the other. Farther down, the tall pony wall hid the toilet and bidet, and a corner shower completed the space.
“It was surprising because it was so completely open,” said Michelle Strausbaugh, Allied ASID, CKBD, of San Diego-based Interior Echo LLC. “There was not even an archway. It was interesting that they had lived with it that long.”
The clients had also lived with the black-and-white color palette, which they did not like. The massive, non-functioning tub had become a storage area and the shower was so small “you can’t even change your mind in there,” the clients told Strausbaugh. They were open to her ideas, and the designer knew that the first order of business would be to restructure the layout to add privacy. Then she could incorporate customized elements and colors to meet the needs and tastes of her clients.
The bathroom needed to be closed off from the bedroom, and the floor plan required reconfiguring. Strausbaugh placed a wall where the tub deck had ended. Inside the newly created room, almost everything got relocated.
The clients wanted at least as much storage as they had before, a water closet, a larger shower and a whirlpool tub. To fit in all of these elements, Strausbaugh had to find space somewhere. Luckily, between the vanity and the shower, there was a 3-ft. empty area. Removing the bidet gained her another 3 feet on the other side of the room.
To provide ample storage, the designer extended the vanity along one entire wall, adding a tower at the far end. On the parallel wall, she rearranged the order of fixtures, putting the water closet first, followed by a larger shower and finally the jetted tub. Inside the water closet, she added more storage with a hanging cabinet.
“It’s worth taking the time to explore all of the options,” she said. “It’s a big investment, and it’s a pain to live through a remodel.”
While spatially beneficial, the layout changes necessitated moving the plumbing. The private master bathroom oasis is located on the second floor, and the toilet, shower plumbing, shower drain and jacuzzi were relocated. Strausbaugh talked with the contractor before making the decision and was given the green light.
“It was a challenge to figure out,” she said. “But when you are done, it all seems natural.”
Bringing Light into the Private Master Bathroom Oasis
In planning the reconfiguration, Strausbaugh had to work around the bathroom’s existing skylight. It illuminated the room, and before the separating wall was installed, that light poured into the bedroom too. She installed a pocket door that could remain open when that natural light was desired.
Previously, the skylight sat above the toilet and bidet alcove, but in the new layout, it is positioned over the tub. The water closet doesn’t miss out on the natural light though. The designer created an opening high in the wall of the water closet to let in.
“Whenever I see natural light close by in a space that doesn’t have any windows, I use a transom window,” she said, and explained that the horizontal effect of the transom was repeated in the shower niches, created an architectural theme.
She moved the recessed lighting to make it more functional and added a round ceiling fixture in the water closet. LED sconces alternate with three mirrored medicine cabinets above the extended vanity.
Color and Customization
In choosing a style and color palette, Strausbaugh asked her client what they wanted and what they liked. Most of their responses related to how the space should function rather than how it should look.
“They loved all the storage they already had,” she said. “As humans, whatever storage we have, we will use.”
So the designer gave them more of it. The tall cabinetry holds linens, and it includes pullout laundry baskets.
At 36 inches wide and 4 feet long, the new shower provides room to shave legs – an important client request – but Strausbaugh pushed the glass shower enclosure a few inches over the tub deck to also create a discreet toe ledge. Another client-specific feature is the tissue drawer in the vanity, which was custom designed by Strausbaugh, because the homeowners suffer with allergies.
“Everyone wants a clean countertop,” she said. “I try to find a spot for everything and customize for how the homeowners live.”
Strausbaugh took design inspiration from the clients’ colorful art collection and suggested a blue color palette. The classic Shaker cabinets were painted Rainstorm, a bright, dark blue. Mottled glass accent tile in the shower niches, around the tub and near the mirrors features a softer and serene combination of blues and grays in two patterns.
Gray honed tile replaced the carpet and was repeated on the tub surround and shower wall, creating a unified space. The startingly open yet dark and drab bathroom is now a calm and tranquil, private master bathroom oasis with some fun moments mixed in.
“The bathroom is where we start and where we end our day,” said Strausbaugh. “It should be serene, it should be easy, and it should be super functional.”
DESIGNER: Michelle Strausbaugh, InteriorEcho LLC
PHOTOGRAPHER: Gail Owens Photography
ACCESSORIES, FACUETS & SHOWER FIXTURES: Graff
CABINET HARDWARE: Atlas Homewares
COUNTERTOP & TUB DECK: MSI Premium Natural Quartz
FLOORING, SHOWER WALLS & TUB SURROUND: BDG g
LIGHTING: Modern Forms
MIRRORS & SINK: Kohler
SHOWER ENCLOSURE: Cast Glass
TILE: BDG & Sonoma Tilemakers
TUB: Jason Intl.
CABINET PAINT: Sherwin-Williams