Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Progress: Master Bath Facelift for My Most Demanding Client -- Me!

It can be dangerous when interior designers go house-hunting.  When most people tour homes on the market, they notice everything they don't like about the property and discount their offer accordingly.  Designers tend to see all of the possibilities of what the property could be, with a few minor changes...  Those are the Famous Last Words.  Fortunately, when we bought our current home three years ago, it had been sitting on the market for awhile because other buyers weren't able to overlook a handful of goofy flaws, so we didn't overpay for the property even though I was seeing it through my rose-colored glasses of design optimism.  We immediately began ripping things out and replacing them, and those "few minor changes" were inevitably followed by a few more minor changes...
This is what our master bathroom looked like when we moved in:

Yuck!  At first I couldn't figure out why there was a blank space between the his and hers vanities on this wall, and I know this was one of the reasons why the home wasn't selling.  Prospective buyers were looking at this and thinking, "What do I do with that?  When I located the original plans for the house, I discovered that the entrance to the master bathroom was supposed to be between the vanities.  When the original homeowners asked the builder to move the door to the adjacent wall (so you enter the master bath directly from the bedroom rather than from the hallway), no one thought to reconfigure the cabinetry.  Mystery solved!

What's more, the doorway was moved right next to the vanity seat, so that if anyone is seated at the vanity when her husband comes sailing into the bathroom, she gets smacked in the back of the head by the door.  Ouch!  You can get a much better feel for the size of this room from the second photo, too.  I loved the soaring vaulted ceiling and the spaciousness of this bath, but the scale of the cabinetry was way too small for the space, like it had been reclaimed from a couple of secondary bathrooms somewhere.  The effect was kind of depressing.  I also hated the fluorescent vanity light fixtures (which created all the ambiance of a mental institution at night), the "cultured marble" plasticky countertops, the cabinet knobs...  But oh, the possibilities!  Cabinets, light fixtures, and hardware can all be changed, but the bones of the space were perfect.
Here's one more "before" photo before I move on.  Eventually, I'd like to replace the floor tile with something on a diagonal set, run the same tile in a smaller size up the shower walls, and replace the aluminum framed shower enclosure with frameless glass doors, but that's going to have to wait for Phase Two of this project.
We finally got around to starting the master bathroom project just before the holidays last year. Bernie didn't know we were starting the master bath.  He thought we were going to redo the master closet, and I kind of snuck the bathroom in with the closet, much like pork barreling in Congress. Here's how the master closet started out:
It's way too small for a master closet in a house this size -- but the only way to enlarge it would be to take away from the master bath or from my sewing studio, and I'm not willing to sacrifice the space in either of those rooms. However, the existing wire shelving was hardly maximizing the available space. Since the master bath is spacious and the closet is disproportionately small, I decided to do built-in cabinetry storage in the closet, centered on the door to the bathroom, that would match the bathroom cabinetry. The idea was to give the impression that the master bath and closet are one spacious whole. I also know that, someday when we put this house on the market, prospective buyers will be comparing our home to others in the neighborhood with larger closets, and I know that many of our neighbors have done California Closet type systems.  Stepping it up a notch with true custom cabinetry in the closet turns one of the home's flaws into a selling feature, because other homes at our price point will not have anything like it.

Here's the completed closet.  I wasn't using a wide angle lens so I couldn't get much in each shot; the first photo shows the built in cabinet and my slanted shoe shelving; there are hanging clothes units on the far right and far left as well, and the second photo shows the view of the closet from the bathroom.  Much tidier!  I couldn't resist the semi flush mount fixture with dangling chandelier prisms.  The empty space beneath the drawers is for a fabric-lined basket that will be used for drycleaning.

I would be a very cranky lady if I got smacked upside the head by my bathroom door every morning, so Bernie came to my rescue by building a new vanity area in the no-man's-land between the original cabinets.  The vanity lights in this photo were a temporary solution to save me from fluorescent hell; they were castoffs from a client's project that we later donated to Habitat for Humanity.

You can see that we raised the original vanity on the far right to the same height as the sink countertop.  This photo was taken before the new drawer fronts and doors came in.  My original plan was to match the new cabinetry sections to the existing cabinetry, both to save money as well as to remain consistent with the door and drawer fronts used throughout the rest of the home.  I was able to locate the source the builder used for the door and drawer fronts and ordered the exact same style, but unfortunately the supplier had changed router bits or something because the new drawer fronts were just different enough from the old ones that I couldn't use them side-by-side.  So the old cabinet doors stayed, but all the drawer fronts ended up getting replaced. 

I designed a much taller triple mirror spanning the entire wall, framed with trimwork and topped with heavy crown molding for a custom built-in look.  (The mirrors you're seeing in these photos are still temporary; we'll have custom beveled mirrors made to fit once everything has been painted).  I switched the overhead vanity lights out for a pair of dramatic, oversized sconces for several reasons: the overhead vanity lights drew attention to the fact that the sink on the right wasn't centered on its cabinet, overhead lights cast unflattering shadows when you're trying to apply makeup, and I wanted to emphasize the new large vanity as the focal point on this wall elevation.  Three new can lights were added in the ceiling to supplement the light provided by the sconces.

The cultured marble countertops (which were neither cultured nor marble) were replaced with dark brown Emperador marble, and I fell in love with these pricey bridge faucets from Brizo in Venetian Bronze finish.  Again, the larger scale and drama of these faucets was well suited to the space and complemented the over-the-top sconces nicely.  I also liked that, since Brizo is the high-end subsidiary of Delta and both lines share the same finishes, I was able to purchase less expensive towel rods from Delta that match the faucets perfectly.  You can see the new iron and crystal chandelier I added above the tub reflected in the mirror here, as well:

I love, love, LOVE my faucets and my cabinet knobs, and I was really pleased with the marble countertops as well.  However, I'm sorry to say, my bathroom has looked like this, half-finished with naked drawer fronts and mismatched mirrors, for several months now while I've been busy with clients' projects, High Point furniture market, and the IWCE Vision '10 trade show in Atlanta last week. 

I finally got around to scheduling my painter to come in yesterday to paint the walls, ceilings, trimwork, and all the cabinetry in the closet and bathroom.  I should point out that this is the first time Bernie has ever had professional painters working in our home -- usually he's the painter, but he didn't want anything to do with painting the cabinetry and he doesn't have time to do it, anyway.  But I have fabulous painters that I've used over and over again on client's projects, so I know they will do a great job for me.  Here's what my master bathroom looked like yesterday evening, after a full twelve-hour day of three professionals sanding and priming away like madmen:

Yikes!  Can you see why Bernie didn't want to tackle this paint job himself?  That's my newly-toothless first grader showing off his missing front tooth in the foreground, by the way, and that's just primer that you see on the cabinets and drawers.  As you can see, this is a lot more work than your standard run-of-the-mill interior paint job.  Things to keep in mind in case you're eyeing some outdated cabinetry in your own home: You can only paint your cabinets if they are real wood.  The white thermafoil cabinet doors that builders have been using over the past 10-20 years or so cannot be painted; the paint won't adhere to the plastic coating.  Also, if you're repainting existing cabinet doors you will need to sand down almost to bare wood to get the primer to adhere -- talk to your paint store about the best products for your situation.

After a great deal of hemming and hawing and multiple changes of mind, I opted to have my cabinetry, doors, and all the trimwork repainted in Sherwin Williams 6385 Dover White, which has just a hint of ivory to warm it up.  I pulled the shade from the not-quite-white veining in the countertop marble.  I almost went with more of a beigey antique white with a brown glaze for the cabinetry, but then I'd have to go darker with the wall color in order to get a good contrast and I really wanted to keep the light, bright, cheerful feeling.  If I feel like the cabinets are "too white" when they're finished, I can always add a little glazing.  The walls are going to be Sherwin Williams 6120 Believable Buff, and 50% of that color is going on the ceiling.  Of course, if this project was for a client, I would have finalized fabric selections prior to specifying a paint color, but I haven't gotten that far for myself yet.  The cobbler's children never have any shoes...

Meanwhile, the painters are upstairs working away, and I need to call the glass company and schedule them to come out and measure for my custom mirrors sometime next week when the painting is done.  The Hungry Caterpillar quilt is also on today's agenda, as well as the never-ending laundry and some work I need to wrap up to prepare for a client meeting tomorrow afternoon.  How did it get to be noon already?!


Fred and/or Marlies said...

Can't wait to see the AFTER pictures. Dummy me thought that this room had been finished quite some time ago but I can understand Bernie not wanting to tackle the painting for a fussy designer lady.

Rebecca Grace said...

There's no such thing as "finished" in my house! It's all about the journey, not the destination... Bernie says that if he had to do all that sanding and prepping and then I complained about it, he wouldn't speak to me for a month. So the painter has earned his keep!