Our Closet-to-Bathroom Mega Renovation
If you were following us on social media this year, you already know that I undertook a major bathroom renovation in my home after deciding to back out of a dubious contract on a new home. The need to move wasn't urgent, but I knew that in order to get the most out of my existing home, I would need to change a few things around. I had money saved from the failed deal, and decided to invest it in my home instead. I also very much consider this project an investment in my wellness (cue: #softlife), so making this happen was a priority for me. I got to the drawing board in early February of 2022, and thus began my primary bathroom renovation.
I had a too-big closet (I still have a habit of keeping my personal belongings to a minimum thanks to many years in a Brooklyn apartment) and and too-small en-suite bathroom (smaller than my Brooklyn bathroom!). The renovation idea all started with the en-suite bottleneck. I always appreciated the fact that it was one bathroom that connected to my bedroom and the common hallway, but in practice, it became very congested and redundant (especially for my 5'11" stature—I was always bumping into things). But things got very ugly before they got pretty. My home sits on a concrete slab, and the contractors had to dig two feet into the actual DIRT beneath my home to add the new plumbing that my ground-level design required. I didn't fully grasp this going into the project, and it was the most challenging part for me. So just know that if your project includes any digging for plumbing, this will involve several days of jack hammering, and some extra zeros in the budget.
I went with a mixture of high and low-cost items for this renovation, my splurges being the tile... and more tile. I selected Bedrosian's Vivace tile for the floor and shower niche, and I encased the shower in Bedrosian's Cloe glass tile in green, and created a sink backsplash from it as well.
Visually, the inspiration was California vibes, with a me twist. I was fresh off of a week in Los Angeles, and loved the light and airy vibe that I saw in many the restaurants there. But while I adore that aesthetic, it's not very much my personality. I wanted to design a highly-personalized bathroom that reflected my various travel experiences, personal preference for unapologetic pattern, and utilization of materials in a new way. My tile choices are really what helped me achieve this, and because I don't plan on selling my home any time soon, I didn't worry too much about the personalization impacting the resale value. (I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.)
How to [Properly] Mix Metals
I also got to experiment with using different metal finishes, and made some very concrete rules around it that guided the process. I wanted to use matte black, in abundance, but I also wanted pops of brass to contrast the dark tile. Here's what I came up with to help me navigate where I was going to mix metals throughout the project, and which ones I was going to include:
- Choose a dominant metal. Do you want a metallic or chrome to be the main act? Or a matte black? Selecting one will allow you to harmonize the rest of the design.
- Metals on a single piece of furniture should be uniform. For example, the drawer pulls and the sink faucets on a vanity must be the same metal. See below.
- Fixture types should also be uniform, even across areas of the bathroom. If you have a brass sink faucet, your shower faucet (and by extension, all of the trim) should be brass, too.
- Introduce secondary metals in places like mirrors, switch-plates, outlet covers, and towel bars. Your above-mirror light fixture crowns the bathroom and is the ideal candidate for tying both metals together.
If you're wondering why this matters, following a nuanced design logic makes for a much more intentional and cohesive look in a bathroom renovation. Kitchens are slightly different because of appliances, so that’s another article. I purchased a vanity from Build Ferguson that already came with matte black hardware since I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in.
The biggest design challenge came up mid-project, of course. But it also led to the most creative innovation of the project (also of course). The technical drawings I created called for a knee wall between the shower tub, and the toilet nook. But the building code called for thicker insulation of exterior walls in new construction or renovations, so I ended up losing five inches on two sides of my bathroom. My contractor and I designed a workaround that did away with the knee wall, and replaced it with a glass panel mounted on the lip of the tub instead. The bathroom feels much larger and fluid as a result.
The best part(s) about having a renovated respite is that I truly feel like I have a retreat in my home. My son says "this room feels like Brazil!" and I think he's got it right. We spent a winter there visiting family when he was five, and Bahia's deep emerald skylines, pristine sand dunes, and terracotta roofs clearly left a lasting impression. I wanted my primary bathroom to evoke another place, and I also needed it to be functional for my busy lifestyle, where I'm often on a project site, middle school track meet, and flying abroad in the same week if not the same day. Coming home needs to feel luxurious without breaking the bank (I obviously saved by being my own designer and project manager, so used that money elsewhere in the project). There's ample space for two, and it is truly a reflection of my design and organization philosophies, which center function and form without sparing grounded aesthetics. I made another place.