July 29, 2021
Planning for the birth of their child, a couple reached out to Lucy O’Brien, owner and principal designer of Swarthmore, Pa.-based Tartan & Toile, to update a guest bathroom and transform it from a confined, drab space into one that was fresh and functional with plenty of useful storage.
“Nothing was placed in the right way, and it just felt cramped when you walked in,” said the designer. “It felt dirty even though it wasn’t.”
Creating Visual Flow
The space was incredibly small, and the client wanted to fit in a double sink. With its inconvenient layout and old plumbing, the bathroom was gutted. O’Brien reworked the floor plan to locate the tub at the back of the room rather than on the side where it had been, which maximized the square footage and visually opened the space.
To help the client envision these changes, O’Brien’s assistant Cherline Shea made renderings in SketchUp.
“We use these for every project because it’s the best way to relay what’s going on,” said the designer. “Clients want to see it, and they are hiring us most of the time because they can’t see it.”
To accommodate the client’s wishes, O’Brien created a floating vanity top, which allowed for the double sinks and was less obstructive than a full vanity would have been. But it meant losing the possibility of vanity storage, so she came up with a solution to add storage to the space where the old tub had been.
Still working to create openness and visual flow, O’Brien designed a built-in unit that fit perfectly in the dead nook instead of creating a full linen closet. It has multiple uses, providing storage for towels and bathroom products, as well as a compartment for a laundry hamper.
Caning on the door and drawer fronts keeps the unit from looking heavy. The caning also permits air flow within the unit for the day the child leaves a wet towel stuffed into one of the drawers. And using less wood in construction offered a bit of cost savings, too.
“It’s a softer feature in a room that sometimes can be cold because of so many hard surfaces,” said the designer.
Perfecting the Colorful Bathroom
Based on the client’s request for a whimsical style, O’Brien selected the blue palette, opting for a cool color because space was tight, and cool colors help walls recede to make the space feel larger, she explained.
“Color was a key feature in this bathroom to make it both fun and functional,” said the designer. “I wanted a lot of color and pattern, so I pulled that from wallpaper.”
Paired with the jungle-print wall covering, glossy porcelain blue tile and blue paint on the storage unit create consistency. These elements create the colorful bathroom, but it’s not too much.
“Doing everything in blue helps keep it calm because it’s a cohesive look,” said O’Brien.
Other bathroom features add even more calmness, like the marble countertop and the basketweave floor tile. Both are neutral and soft rather than stark white or black. Fixtures are a champagne bronze instead of a shiny finish.
“Everything else but wallpaper and paint color, I tried to make less loud and do something that would blend in,” said the designer. “That creates a calm palette that we can build upon, and it accentuates the blue.”
It’s in the Details
To save more room while adding extra functionality, O’Brien created an alcove in the wall next to the sinks. It makes an ideal spot for storing the small items that typically end up on a countertop. Wall faucets offered another solution, letting the sinks be placed closer to the wall and minimizing the size of the vanity top.
“All these little details really do help,” she said. “I learned that I could do a lot with not a lot of square footage. True space planning and the specifics of what you put in make a difference.”
By Carrie Whitney
Designer: Lucy O’Brien -Owner/Principal Designer, Tartan & Toile
Photographer: Jon Friedrich
Stylist: Kelly Myers
Accessories & Hardware: Etsy
Flooring & Wall Tile: Tile Bar
Cabinets: Custom by Salvage Furniture Works
Countertop: Set in Stone
Faucets & Fixtures: Delta
Lighting: Sazerac Stitches
Paint: Farrow & Ball
Sinks & Toilet: American Standard
Window Treatment: Nobilis