A Seattle-area homeowner works with her designer to expand the footprint, function and style of her master bathroom
If you’re going to spend money on a renovation, you might as well reap the rewards. Take it from Caren McGregor. She and her husband, Jim, knew they would eventually sell their home during their senior years. And to make the most of that sale, they would need to renovate the upstairs master suite, which had last been updated 30 years ago by a homeowner who did it himself using off-the-shelf products and materials. “We knew we would have to redo something, so we thought, ‘Why not redo it now while we can enjoy it?’ ” Caren says.
That kicked off a full renovation of the master suite, the hallmark of which was a complete overhaul of the bathroom to expand the footprint by moving walls outward. Working closely with their designer, Kristine Tyler of Treefrog Design, they squeezed as much storage, function and style into the new space as they could.
Photos by Snowberry Lane Photography
Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: Caren McGregor, who works in the accounting profession; her husband, Jim, who’s retired; and their dog, Heaven
Location: Bothell, Washington
Size: 63 square feet (6 square meters); 10 feet by 6 feet, 3 inches
Designer: Kristine Tyler of Treefrog Design
Before: The existing 5-foot-1-inch-by-9-foot bathroom didn’t have a lot going for it. Caren thinks the first homeowners bought the house when the upstairs master bathroom wasn’t yet finished and completed it themselves using off-the-shelf products. “I think the vanity was actually a kitchen cabinet,” she says. “It was very deep.”
Meanwhile, Caren tried to add storage wherever she could, installing a wire rack near the ceiling to hold towels. “There was just no storage at all,” she says.
After: Tyler expanded the layout by pushing the wall on the left out 12 inches into the stair landing area, and the doorway wall in the foreground came 15 inches into a seating area of the bedroom. This allowed her to add a 12-inch-deep, floor-to-ceiling linen cabinet on the left and bring in a larger vanity.
A key feature of the space is a bench that runs from the linen cabinet into the shower, giving the homeowners the option of sitting inside or outside the shower. “It’s just nice to have a place to sit that’s not the toilet, especially in smaller bathrooms,” Tyler says. “It’s a place to unwind, to sit before or after you shower, to think for a minute. It makes all the difference.”
“It’s so nice to sit in the shower for shaving or sit down when I give the dog a shower,” Caren says. A small curb and a frameless glass panel keep water inside the shower.
Before: The original vanity measured 45 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 30 inches high. “It looked squat and protruded too far out into the bathroom,” Tyler says.
After: The new vanity measures 54 inches wide by 21 inches deep by 35¼ inches high. Those extra inches make all the difference.
Caren began thinking about renovating their bathroom about three years ago, and started by looking at Houzz photos and creating an ideabook. “I would just search ‘small bathroom’ photos and scan through until one intrigued me, that would hit that gut spot, and I would save it,” she says. “Then I would go back and look at all the ones I saved and look to see what it was about that photo that I liked. Then I’d put a note on it or get rid of it.”
When she had about 75 photos, she started looking for a designer by searching the Houzz professional directory for designers in her area. Tyler and the photos on her Houzz portfolio stuck out to Caren. “We chatted and I really liked her,” Caren says.
Caren also referred back to Houzz photos during the renovation. When her contractor said she couldn’t have an outlet on the wall with the pocket door, she went to Houzz and found examples of just that feature. She and her contractor talked it over and decided they needed to create a thicker wall to accommodate the outlet box and the pocket door. “Houzz was so helpful in so many ways,” Caren says.
Tyler knew the first thing people would see when they walked into the bathroom was the back shower wall, so she wanted to make it something fun and beautiful.
Caren spent a long time looking for the right tile until finally walking into a showroom one day with Tyler and seeing the perfect one, a mirrored tile with wispy glass and metal in it.
“There’s a lot of tile out there — it can get overwhelming,” Caren says. “And I like everything. If it’s good design, I like it. So it’s hard to rein me in a little bit. But then I saw that tile. It has very natural movement to it but it’s still shiny and fancy-looking. That’s why I liked it.”
Caren and Tyler had originally talked about doing the entire back wall in the tile but Tyler persuaded her not to. “It would have been expensive,” she says. “Plus, more isn’t always better. Sometimes smaller amounts of something that’s beautiful is better.”
“That’s where having a designer really helped me,” Caren says. “It was a good call on her part not to do the whole wall.”
Tyler created a feature band of vertically running tile that includes 10-by-16-inch tiles with strips of 2-by-12 pieces of the same tile. She surrounded this with 12-by-24-inch glossy white tiles. “This allows the mirrored tile to really stand out on its own without overtaking the space,” Tyler says.
An ‘uh-oh’ moment occurred when the manufacturer of the mirrored tile called to say the company had changed its process and the undertones in the tile were creamier than before. Caren still loved the tile, but that meant they had to pick out a new floor tile to match the creamier tone. “It worked out well,” Caren says. “I love the floor tile. It has a little bit of texture to it so it’s not slippery at all.”
Another key feature in the shower is the shower handle, which Tyler positioned on the left wall so the homeowners don’t get sprayed with cold water when reaching in to turn it on. “It’s so perfect,” Caren says. “It’s the little details that count. And, again, that’s where having a designer really helps. They have the experience with this stuff. They can say, ‘Does this fit your lifestyle?’ She’s experienced so many different bathrooms and lifestyles that she can suggest things I’d never thought of.”
Tyler and Caren chose a dark espresso stain for the cabinets to help balance out all the light-colored tile. “I just didn’t really want anything that bordered on red tones,” Caren says. “The espresso coordinates so well. It contrasts with the white and brings so much warmth.”
The wood is alder, which “takes a stain nicely,” Tyler says.
She considers the door style a more contemporary take on Shaker style, rather than being fully flat panel.
Cabinets: French Roast stain, Huggy Bear’s Cupboards
Caren chose to go with one sink rather than two. “I just liked the look of cleaner lines and not having all these things everywhere,” she says. “In a bigger bathroom it would have worked to have two sinks, but here it would have taken up the whole countertop.”
In the end, it came down to a lifestyle decision. “In that small of a bathroom you’re not going to really have two people in at the same time on a regular basis,” she says. “Everyday, we’re not together in there. The exception of trying to get ready at the same time doesn’t happen that many times.”
The countertop is a rich gray material called Aliveri by Geoluxe, a composite product. “It’s kind of a more contemporary option, it’s got some graining in it,” Tyler says. “It just made the whole space look very rich. It’s like a natural stone, the veining is through-bodied, and the surface of the material looks and feels like glass.”
The same shower tile forms a backsplash.
The mirror was a piece Caren has had and passed around various family members over the years. She decided to tackle it as her first silver-leafing project. The frame was originally a cream finish with fake gold trim. Caren applied silver leaf, then rubbed over it with some tinted wax to take out some of the shine. “That was my little craft project,” she says. “I’m really happy with the way it came out.”
Before: This floor plan of the original layout shows how the bulky vanity protruded into the space.
Mitchell Parker August 6, 2019