It’s what’s in­side that counts

To add warmth, bring more of the great out­doors in­doors

Pawtucket Times - - HOME & GARDEN - By MICHELE LERNER

WASHINGTON — When Jim and Jen­nifer Ser­gent bought their home in sub­ur­ban Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia, two years ago, they ap­pre­ci­ated its mod­ern look – the ex­posed wood beams and the na­ture trail that passes in front of it. But the master bath­room left a lot to be de­sired.

“This is a 1990s Deck House, so it’s got an open post-and-beam struc­ture that feels like an atrium, and that feel­ing ex­tends right into our bed­room,” said Jim, a graph­ics edi­tor at USA Today. “But when you opened the door to the master bath­room, it just felt dif­fer­ent. The de­sign aes­thetic just stopped at the bath­room door.”

The mostly white bath­room looked cold and had the added dis­com­fort of a small shower. Jim, who’s 6-foot-4, ei­ther bumped his head or stubbed his toe nearly ev­ery day.

“We wanted our bath­room to re­spond to the rest of the house, not only the wood but also the floor-to-ceil­ing stone fire­place in the fam­ily room,” said Jen­nifer, a free­lance de­sign writer. “It was Jim’s idea to build a shower with a nat­u­ral stone wall that echoes the fire­place. We know de­sign fash­ions come and go, but stone and wood will never go away.”

The Ser­gents’ in­stinct to bring nat­u­ral el­e­ments into their bath­room is re­flected in a grow­ing trend among home­own­ers to in­cor­po­rate more wood and stone into their in­te­rior spa­ces, some­times in un­ex­pected places.

“It makes peo­ple feel good when we bring in nat­u­ral el­e­ments,” said Leigh Spicher, di­rec­tor of de­sign stu­dios for Ash­ton Woods, an At­lanta-based builder with com­mu­ni­ties in Ari­zona, Texas, Ge­or­gia, the Caroli­nas and Florida. “Us­ing wood on walls or the ceil­ing of a bath­room fits in with the trend to­ward us­ing wood for trim and en­tire walls in all kinds of homes, from mod­ern to tra­di­tional styles.”

Wood and stone can be nec­es­sary to warm up a space, par­tic­u­larly in a mod­ern house, said Jes­sica Parker, an in­te­rior de­signer and se­nior project man­ager with GTM Ar­chi­tects in sub­ur­ban Bethesda, Mary­land.

“In a mod­ern house, you can add a stone wall around the fire­place or rus­tic wood beams to the ceil­ing to add warmth and tex­ture,” Parker said. “We use stone and wood con­sis­tently, es­pe­cially in homes with an all-white kitchen or high ceil­ings. In a more tra­di­tional home, we in­stall pol­ished wood beams for a more re­fined look.” The Ser­gents’ de­sire to use nat­u­ral wood and stone in their bath­room was twofold.

“We wanted to match the rest of the house, and we wanted to match what’s hap­pen­ing out­side,” Jim said. “We can see trees through the arched win­dow in our bath­room.”

Although hard­wood is the most pop­u­lar ma­te­rial for floors in homes today, and stone is com­mon around a fire­place, home­own­ers and de- sign­ers are in­tro­duc­ing these ma­te­ri­als in other places.

“The Ser­gents’ Deck House has tons of great win­dows and sky­lights, so it was a nat­u­ral choice to bring in na­ture,” said Na­dia Subaran, co-owner of Ai­dan De­sign in sub­ur­ban Sil­ver Spring, Mary­land, who de­signed the cou­ple’s kitchen and bath­room. A Deck House is a brand name of plans built with post-and-beam con­struc­tion, usu­ally with open rooms and lots of ex­posed wood. “You al­ways end up with a lot of hard sur­faces in a bath­room, like porce­lain and tile, so it’s be­com­ing pop­u­lar to bring in wood to soften the space.”

THE SER­GENTS’ bath­room has a sloped wood ceil­ing with an ex­posed beam, a nat­u­ral wood van­ity and a wood stor­age cabi­net.

“Jim was very pas­sion­ate about us­ing nat­u­ral stone for the over­size shower, and the nat­u­ral wood cab­i­nets pick up some of the color in the stones in the shower,” Subaran said.

The Ser­gents’ bath­room, which Jen­nifer said cost about $60,000, in­cludes a porce­lain floor that re­sem­bles slate, a slop­ing, trough-style sink with two faucets and a mir­ror above each faucet. The Ser­gents added a mod­ern touch with a black metal bar that holds sham­poo bot­tles and looks like a piece of sculp­ture. Jim found wood hooks on Etsy that are pieces of a tree.

“We screwed them into a wall, so they look like an art in­stal­la­tion, but they’re also prac­ti­cal to drape your clothes, so they’re not on the floor when you shower,” Jim said.

“We’ve used re­claimed wood in other bath­rooms, in­clud­ing around an over­size mir­ror in a bath­room that was oth­er­wise very sleek,” Subaran said. “Re­claimed wood has a lot of tex­ture.”

In her own home, Subaran cre­ated a back­splash from re­claimed par­quet floor­ing for a bar area in her din­ing room.

Wood and stone can be used to add tex­ture and def­i­ni­tion to an open floor plan, said Jim Rill, owner of Rill Ar­chi­tects in Bethesda.

In one client’s home, “we used a wood ceil­ing and wood trim on a hall­way to de­fine the space and ac­cen­tu­ate where you walk, ver­sus where you gather, dine and cook,” said Rill. “The wood ceil­ing ex­tends to the break­fast room and out­door porches. You can feel like you’re in­side when you’re out­side, and you can feel like you’re out­side when you’re in­side.”

Nat­u­ral stone has been used to cre­ate a “grotto ef­fect” in lower-level spa bath­rooms that seem al­most to be carved out of a cel­lar and make the house seem as though it has al­ways been there, Rill said. Stone walls can be ex­panded around a fire­place to in­clude arched niches for books and dis­play space, he said.

“Dark wood trim was pop­u­lar in the 1970s and 1980s, but peo­ple want to do this again in con­tem­po­rary homes,” Spicher said. “For in­stance, in a con­tem­po­rary home in Austin, the home­own­ers added wood trim in the fam­ily room and painted it green for an un­ex­pected look.”

Shiplap is pop­u­lar for pow­der room walls and as ac­cent walls in bed­rooms and fam­ily rooms in a wide range of stains and paint col­ors, she said.

“Wood trim is a great way to per­son­al­ize a space, to give it char­ac­ter and tex­ture,” Spicher said. “We’ve seen it used on one wall or a sec­tion of sev­eral walls in the din­ing room to add a nat­u­ral el­e­ment to that more for­mal space.”

In one master bed­room that Parker de­signed, she added a fea­ture wall with a large wood-en­closed fire­place with a wood man­tel.

“The room had very high ceil­ings and needed some warmth, so we went with this dra­matic fea­ture in­stead of a more tra­di­tional small fire­place,” she said.

The ad­ja­cent master bath­room, a sleek space with glass and porce­lain tile, is warmed up with an over­sized shower with two walls of nat­u­ral stone.

Although some home­own­ers use wood and stone in­doors to high­light the na­ture found out­side their home’s walls, oth­ers use these nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als in con­trast with their sur­round­ings.

“In an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, it’s al­most more nec­es­sary to bring in wood and stone, so it’s not a cold in­te­rior re­gard­less of the setting,” Parker said.

At a con­tem­po­rary-style home in Washington, Parker added a large, four-foot-wide wood front door.

“The house has stone on the ex­te­rior, and in­side it’s very crisp and con­tem­po­rary, with high ceil­ings,” Parker said. “The wood door adds a lot of warmth and is wel­com­ing when you make the tran­si­tion from the stone ex­te­rior to the con­tem­po­rary in­te­rior.”

Above, the wood in the stairs, ceil­ing and trim blend with the wood out­side, as viewed through a win­dow in the back­ground. At left, Ash­ton Woods de­sign­ers used a pat­terned wood wall be­hind the bed in a model home.

Pho­tos by Jamie Cobel/Rill Ar­chi­tects and Ash­ton Wooods

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