October 21, 2013
Up in one of Chicago’s iconic high-rises, the bathrooms frequently fall into cookie-cutter designs. Between outdated style and plumbing, these bathrooms offer a blank slate for accessories but little in general aesthetic. Designer Vince LaRocca at Katlia Construction tackled both a master and a guest bath in this high-demand area for a complete contrast.
“The owner wanted this bathroom to have a spa feel,” said LaRocca, referring to the master bath. “He [wanted] to be reminded of steam showers he had visited at several spas while on vacation.” Two spas in particular inspired the design, including the Kohler Waters Spa. This 5-Star spa in Wisconsin integrates technology and groundbreaking fixtures with an organic, soothing palette. Meanwhile, Chicago’s Red Door Spa has more of a modern, residential feel with clean lines and simple furnishings.
Both of these spas come into play in the master bath. Previously outdated plumbing, including a separate shower and a whirlpool tub, were replaced by innovative details. A heated toilet seat, floor and towel rack provide for the city’s harsh winters, while mosaic floor tiles add a hint of sparkle. “We used steam shower controls so that the customer was able to adjust while in the shower and to give him a spa atmosphere,” explained LaRocca.
Imitation-wood porcelain plank tiles cover the walls, floors and the shower, with the exception of the tile floor. These large, straight-lined tiles create a natural but contemporary appeal in the room. Alluding to the dark furnishings in the Red Door Spa, chocolate brown cabinetry matches with square pullouts. Custom soft-close doors and self-close drawers contribute to the upscale, modern appeal. “The client had seen this at another person’s home and really liked this option,” said LaRocca.
To incorporate additional storage, the design team had to custom build the cabinetry to fix the existing spaces. “Since this is a condo building, there could be no changes to the walls, such as relocating them to enlarge the rooms,” says LaRocca. “There [also] was no access to the floors from below or to the ceilings from above as there would have been with a private residence.” With this restriction, the concrete floor had to be cut open to relocate and install the drains for the steam shower. The team also had to schedule everything from elevator use to parking, as the project was set on a busy street.
Despite these challenges, LaRocca also took on the guest bath redesign, which had similar issues as the master. “There was original plumbing from when the high-rise was built,” explained LaRocca. Basic tile, an outdated style and a large, bulky vanity took up the already small space. “We updated the look to give a more modern feel and to also give the bathroom the effect of more space,” he said.
LaRocca took the organic nature of the master in here as well with earthy tones and a wooden vanity. Updated plumbing, including contemporary showerheads and minimal under-sink piping, gave the space modernity. By extending the wall by two inches, a larger tub fit to the space. A rectangular, curved sink and a frameless mirror complete the sleek, simple bath.
“The customer had shown us pictures and examples of products which he liked, specifically the tub and the sink bowl,” said LaRocca. “We designed the bathroom around that.”