Our master bath remodel had been a long time coming. It started in my head when we bought our 1920s Tudor in Bellingham 13 years ago. The unfinished attic had been remodeled in the 80s, and the bath was added then—good space, but the dark wallpaper, phone booth-sized shower and graying linoleum floors were showing their age.
Fast-forward a decade and we were finally ready to gut the existing bath and start over. Being on a budget, we decided to do as much of the work as we could ourselves. This was our first big remodel project, and looking back, I can see we were more than a little naïve. We got as far as pulling out the tub and ripping up flooring when a series of family crises took over our lives. The bathroom project was put on hold as I shuttled between Bellingham and Seattle, caring for and eventually saying farewell to beloved family members.
Suffice to say, by last spring I was sorely in need of a fully functioning master bath, and craved a restful retreat. I was also beyond a full-on DIY project—I really just wanted to get this bathroom done. I turned to Jill Delaney of Delaney Designs, who helped me visualize the possibilities of the space and created a layout of our soon-to-be dream bath. My must-haves included a walk-in tiled shower, vintage claw-foot tub and heated flooring. I envisioned a clean, airy space with a vintage vibe that respected the period-style of the house. After a couple of sourcing expeditions together, I could see that Jill not only shared my design sense, she also understood our budget constraints and enjoyed the challenge of bringing it all together. “A few key choices in this project pulled all of the elements together and gave the room the warm retreat-feel my clients were after,” said Jill. Our biggest score was the subway-size travertine tiles she found at the RE Store – enough to do an entire walk-in shower! Then I found a claw-foot tub on Craigslist, just a few blocks away. It came out of its original 1900 home, a little rusty on the outside, but nearly perfect inside.
With these essential purchases now taking up space in our garage, I turned to Dan Coffey of Coffey Construction to handle the build. During the course of interviewing contractors, I soon realized that bathroom remodels can be complex; they usually involve carpenters, electricians, plumbers and tile setters. So glad we’d decided against DIY. I also discovered that it really pays to get a number of bids. I was astounded at the range of bids from one contractor to the next.
One of the few elements of the original bath that I wanted to keep was the bead board walls. It would have been much easier to tear them down and put up fresh drywall, but Dan and his team carefully preserved them, removing where necessary, then patching in as needed. Adding a chair rail to hide a seam worked perfectly to frame the claw-foot tub and give the space some old-time charm. “It’s always fun to work with a client to preserve the original integrity of the home,” said Dan.
Making space for a separate tub and walk-in shower meant giving up a double vanity, which wasn’t a hardship, as we have a small vanity sink area in the master bedroom. Jill and I found a dresser-style vanity with a limestone top that would blend well with the travertine shower.
The walk-in shower design turned into more of an organic process. I had originally intended the outside half-wall to be tile, but soon realized the 3-ft. by 5-ft. shower would feel dark and narrow. We finally agreed that a glass wall would open up the entire room, and allow us to see the beautiful travertine from all angles. Scrap pieces of Diano Reale marble were transformed into a bench seat and wall cap for the partial end wall. For a bargain price, they add a subtle touch of polished contrast to the travertine. The large built-in niche, tiled with beach glass-inspired mosaic, pulls in the wall color and adds another layer of texture to the room. “I really trusted tile-setter Alex Litovchenko’s guidance on this project. He’s an old-world craftsman who learned his trade while living near the shores of the Black Sea,” Dan said.
I wasn’t excited about having tile on the floor as well as in the shower; I really wanted to create a warm and cozy atmosphere. Jill solved this by finding tile flooring made to look like distressed, wide-plank wood, which anchors the room with its informal, rustic style. And having heat underneath ensures that it never feels cold on bare feet.
With the major elements coming together, we turned to more decorative details like wall color, lighting and fixtures. My “inspiration piece” was a Peggy Hopper print of a beautiful Hawaiian woman that my husband and I had brought home from a trip decades before. I couldn’t imagine our bathroom without her. The wall color, Benjamin Moore’s “Rain,” matches the blue-green of the painting’s background. The woodwork was painted a warm off-white, Benjamin Moore’s “Mascarpone.”
The modest old tub was dressed up with vintage-style fixtures and coat of a buttery gold paint. We made sure to have the claw feet sand blasted first so their detail would pop. As the room came together over the next few weeks, one of the final hurdles was getting the heavy, unwieldy tub up our narrow, steep stairway and into the bathroom. In the end, it took three generous guys and the promise of home-brew and enchiladas to get the job done.
The remodel took a few weeks, but considering how long we had waited, the time flew by. Being part of the collaborative process with a team of professionals was a good distraction during a difficult time of life, and the end product is a spirit-lifting, serene sanctuary that has quickly become my favorite room in the house.