Small touches cre­ate a great mas­ter bath­room

El Dorado News-Times - - Living -

It's easy to de­sign a gor­geous mas­ter bath­room if you have a huge bud­get. But with the right choices, says in­te­rior de­signer Gabriel Anderson, you can have an ex­cep­tional mas­ter bath with­out over­spend­ing.

"Hav­ing huge ex­panses of mar­ble is amaz­ing and won­der­ful, but you don't have to have that to have an amaz­ing bath­room," says Anderson, co-founder of the New York de­sign firm Dean and Dahl. There are "lit­tle touches you can in­cor­po­rate that re­ally bring a mas­ter bath to life."

We've asked Anderson and two spe­cial­ists in bath de­sign — Julia Wal­ter of Boffi Ge­orge­town in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Na­dia Subaran of Ai­dan De­sign in Silver Spring, Mary­land — to tell us what those lit­tle touches and smart strate­gies might be.


When you reach in and turn on your shower, does your hand get soak­ing wet? Wouldn't it be nice if it didn't?

"One of the things that I al­ways do now is in­stalling the han­dles for the shower in a place that's not di­rectly below the shower head," Anderson says. That will re­quire the pipes to be ex­tended a bit fur­ther, so "the plumber will be bugged by it. But in the end, it doesn't re­ally cost a lot more."

An­other im­pact­ful ad­just­ment: De­sign a shower that's en­closed by a par­tial glass wall, with an open space but no door and no step where you en­ter. The floor needs to be pitched down­ward just slightly near the drain so that water doesn't run out of the shower area. This is eas­ier to do in a larger bath­room, es­pe­cially if you're do­ing new con­struc­tion rather than just re­mod­el­ing, Subaran says, but it's worth con­sid­er­ing.

"Folks are think­ing about want­ing the abil­ity to just kind of walk into a shower," rather than step­ping over some­thing to get in, she says.

An­other op­tion is to make room for a larger shower by skip­ping the tub. Some real-es­tate agents ad­vise that hav­ing a tub in a mas­ter bath­room is im­por­tant for a home's re­sale value, and you might find that a tub is a ne­ces­sity for your fam­ily.

"De­sign­ing is all about the user," says Anderson, who has two young kids. "We bring them into the mas­ter bath­room and have them take baths in there. For us, it's an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity."

But, he says, "if space is at a pre­mium, some­times it's worth tak­ing that space and hav­ing a more lux­u­ri­ous shower."


When de­sign­ing a mas­ter bath for a cou­ple, Wal­ter often asks how often they ac­tu­ally use the sink at the same time. It tends to be pretty rare. So for clients seek­ing a change of pace, she sug­gests a 4-foot-long wash basin within a van­ity.

"In­stead of two sinks," she says, you have one sink with two faucets. So you can be next to each other when you want to, but when one per­son is alone they have a large sink all to them­selves with­out tak­ing up ex­tra space in the room.

"You can save a lit­tle bit of money there," Wal­ter says, and still have "a beau­ti­ful, big, mas­ter-bath van­ity."


"You al­ways need a place to sit down to take your slip­pers off, or what­ever the case may be," Anderson says. This is some­thing often shown in de­sign mag­a­zines, and many home­own­ers do have a bit of space for it.

One tip is to buy an at­trac­tive chair or bench meant for out­door use, be­cause it will be mois­ture-re­sis­tant and up­hol­stered with out­door fab­ric. Anderson says many out­door styles in teak or metal can look great in a mas­ter bath­room.

And seat­ing isn't the only de­tail you might get cre­ative with: Try hunt­ing for a vin­tage mirror in a dis­tinc­tive frame, or a unique light fix­ture, he says.

"This is some­thing that just takes the time of go­ing to es­tate sales or an­tique stores or what­not," Anderson says. "Tak­ing the time to go and find that spe­cial piece ... can re­ally el­e­vate your bath­room," and doesn't have to cost much.


No one wants to feel chilly when they step out of the shower. So many peo­ple are adding heated floors to mas­ter bath­rooms.

"Ra­di­ant floor heat is no longer a trend — it's like the norm for mas­ter-bath heat," says Subra­man.

A heated floor can be ex­pen­sive de­pend­ing on the bath­room's size, but for a heat­ing splurge that isn't costly, con­sider heated towel racks.


All three de­sign­ers are fans of stone on walls and van­ity sur­faces. It of­fers nat­u­ral beauty that won't go out of style and can be com­bined with a range of color pal­ettes.

"Stone is al­ways a trend," Anderson says, "but I think right now peo­ple are want­ing to use large amounts of stone as op­posed to porce­lain."

If you want high-qual­ity stone but are con­cerned about cost, one op­tion is to cover just one wall and your van­ity with it, then leave the other walls painted.

It's a prac­ti­cal choice that's also timely, Wal­ter says: "The trend is go­ing to­ward not hav­ing the whole bath­room tiled."

Angie Seckinger/AP

Bath­room de­sign: This photo shows the con­trast of painted walls and tiled ar­eas, as seen in this McLean, Va., mas­ter bath­room, which can make the tiles a more no­tice­able fo­cal point. In as­sess­ing trends for the new year in bath de­sign, in­te­rior de­signer Julia Wal­ter says many home­own­ers are only tiling parts of their mas­ter bath­rooms.

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