August 27, 2023
Condo Bathroom Design Challenges
Working with high-end clients may be a designer’s dream, allowing for sourcing top-of-the-line products and luxurious finishes, but these projects can also bring a requirement to make the improbable possible. Such was the case in an Allied Kitchen & Bath renovation of a primary bathroom in a high-rise above the Intercoastal Waterway in Florida.
The Fort Lauderdale-based remodeling firm was tasked with combining traditional elegance and clean lines to create a minimalistic retreat. The new bathroom features a timeless design with Calacatta-style porcelain and modern elements like wall-mounted vanities, thick quartz countertops and electric mirrors with integrated lighting.
“The clients wanted a modern feel,” said Bill Feinberg, owner, Allied Kitchen & Bath. “They were looking for a sleek space inspired by their travels around the world and visits to high-end hotels.”
For a fresh start, the design team quickly removed the old-fashioned tub with deck and walled-in shower. But the goals of creating curbless his-and-hers showers and getting more than 24 large-format porcelain slabs up the elevator soon led to a few snags.
Challenge #1 – Finding the Time
Renovations in a condominium have inherent difficulties, compounded in this case by the homeowners’ decision to live in the unit during the project. The condo regulations meant the team had limited hours to access the building and had to prep elevators and hallways each day. Working on holidays was off limits, and each person on the project had to check in daily, while all subcontractor licenses and insurance had to be on file.
Additionally, there were numerous inspections, and the project was sometimes put on hold as the team waited for the inspector to give the approval that would let them move to the next phase. According to Feinberg, his firm must figure that into the cost on the front end.
Although the Allied Kitchen & Bath contract requires the building to use its own sprinkler company, making adjustments to the system can also cause a holdup.
“Sometimes you have to shut down a whole building to move one sprinkler,” said Feinberg. “We have to arrange it in advance, including letting neighbors know the water will be shut off.”
Challenge #2 – Condo Constraints
Working in a condominium building usually means designers must execute within an already defined space, as walls and plumbing may be difficult or impossible to change.
“Certain things we were stuck with,” said Feinberg. “We couldn’t move toilets. We could only move the tub a bit.”
To get the sleek look the clients wanted their condo bathroom, Allied Kitchen & Bath built a new tub deck with the porcelain and hid the plumbing without moving it. In the shower, they could not move drains. The team solved this problem through building up the floor by setting the porcelain in mud, so it would pitch down, and everything slopes to the drain that was existing.
“You need craftsmen for this,” said Feinberg. “This isn’t just a tile guy. You are talking perfection. From the door as you enter, the tile was laid to calculate the pitch to the shower.”
Challenge #3 – Material Madness
To create the timeless, modern retreat the clients wanted, Allied Kitchen & Bath chose Neolith slabs in a Calacatta style for all surfaces. Mimicking natural stone, the porcelain is lightweight, durable and easy to maintain, as well as simple for the fabricator to cut and install, at least in theory.
It took 35 8-ft. slabs to cover the walls, floors, shower and tub deck. Because of the limited space available in the condo – during construction the rest of the unit was cordoned off with zip walls, as the clients lived in the unit – the slabs had to be cut off-site. The installer took measurements, cut the slabs at the shop and brought them to the project. When a piece did not fit, it had to be returned to the shop for trimming then brought back.
“There wasn’t space to lay down a whole slab and cut it on-site,” said Feinberg. “It took coordination and time to do all the slabs. We had to be careful moving them in the elevators and use proper padding and dollies.”
Despite the reliability of the subcontractor, two slabs were cracked during installation – one in the shower as the team drilled faucet holes and another on the tub deck. The firm had to cover the significant cost to replace them. Thus, this ultimately successful project highlighted the importance of making good estimates.
“You have to really think about costs and what might happen when you are working on a job,” said Feinberg. “Some projects don’t turn out profitable, but at the end of the day, if the client loves us, that is what matters.”
This stunning condo bathroom pleased these exacting clients enough that they have since brought the Allied Kitchen & Bath team back to renovate their kitchen.
—By Carrie Whitney
Designer: Andrew Fishman, Allied Kitchen & Bath
Photographer: Darryl Nobles, Dream Focus Photography
Cabinets & Sinks: Vanico Maronyx
Linear Chandelier: Et2 Lighting
Mirrors: Electric Mirror
Shower Enclosure: Custom by Allied Kitchen & Bath
Shower Fittings: Axor, Graff, Hansgrohe & Schluter