February 3, 2012

Splish Splash

Nothing can beat a beautiful tub to spruce up a tired, old bathroom


As designers, we consider a luxurious, well-equipped bathroom to be an integral aspect of mood setting, not to mention an important part of shoring up real estate value. Bathrooms — and kitchens, for that matter — are the rooms that buyers inherit “fully furnished” and therefore, if properly attired, they simply encourage higher investment.

Today, we have a flush of ideas pertaining to one of the bathroom’s centrepiece: the tub. Blimey; we love our washroom toils (perhaps more than any other rooms we undertake) which means today, well, we’re in our element. Cast your eyes over our project. Our clients, suburban middle agers with a penchant for clutter, had totally overlooked the potential that lay within their walls. Having raised three sons and now empty nesters, they accepted it was time to spec up their home, thereby affording themselves accession into an altogether brighter future. Not for them the prospect of settling into early retirement, bubble perms and golf clubs. Our young-at-heart pair was strictly determined to use our drawing board as their springboard to a new and fulfilling life. And, of course, we had all the answers!

Working with their input, we trawled through paint charts, brochures and flooring samples. Their bathroom had long since passed its sell-by date, so we ripped everything out and started from scratch. Borrowing the footprint of an unused closet gave us 20 per cent more floor space, and with this, we were able to properly revitalize the drab room and turn its fortunes around. Our clients’ biggest ambitions were for marble finishes, a sexy rolltop bath and, of course, a killer vanity. Simple. Here’s the lowdown on how we pulled the plug on yet another decorating disaster.

Gut down
Getting the bathroom out, thankfully, was easy. With the aid of two big boys and a wheelbarrow, it was gone in a manner of minutes. Before wielding your demo ball, however, ensure all utilities (such as electrics and water) have been suitably capped. Never remove a wall without first examining that which is (and isn’t) load bearing, or your brand new ceiling could end up in the bath beside you next time you dip below the bubbles. And that would so not be a good look.

Window insertion
Yes. We know. This was a BIG project. Our spend, however, was amply generous and, with our clients’ approval, we raised our hands in the air and shrieked “let there be light.” Assisted by a specialist glazing company we worked through various options before finally settling on a simple circular design. Composed with cross bar astragals, the insertions lends a striking note, proffering, as they do, a touch of nautical magic. And let’s not forget classic C&J symmetry — with the new bath planted between both openings, we were able to address perfect balance.

Wall panelling
Traditional inherent features are sadly lacking in many modern homes so, to trickle in some extra charm, we tackled the problem by creating our own. Graphed out carefully — and fashioned using MDF sheets and lumber — our period installation added gravitas to the emerging spectacle. Due to the panelling’s location, we sealed all surfaces against moisture penetration and then lavished everything with two coats of carefully applied, purest white eggshell. It’s worth noting that panelling looks best when arranged at one (or two thirds) of overall ceiling height; the balance, somehow, is just seemlier this way.

While we’ll happily lay dense lumber genus like teak or oak in bathrooms (softer wood, especially untreated, is susceptible to moisture problems) we often default to Karndean or Amtico. Bearing a striking resemblance to the real thing — yet with a much lower profile — the linseed oil and resin based products are almost impervious to water ingress. And if load-bearing matters are a concern, their micro light composition will set your mind at rest. Cost-wise, both are less expensive than wood and are harder wearing in the long run. There is, however, one important factor that should be considered when choosing compound flooring; due to its construction, it can’t be resurfaced further down the line. That said, it won’t need to be — it’s built to withstand life’s rough and tumble.

Having just returned from a two-week stint in Los Angeles, we can report that the rolltop bath figures ever higher on the drawing boards of the bustling city’s designers. From glamorous houses in the Hollywood Hills to the star-studded hotels favoured by the rich and famous, we espied slipper baths and rolltops at almost every turn. The good news is that, these days, due to a rise in popularity, you’ll find them in DIY multiples and even the humblest bathroom supplier.

Other types of tubs
As much as a classic rolltop was perfect for this project, we imagine there’ll be those who’ll favour other options. One such choice is the shallow bath, though we’re mentioning these with a degree of reluctance. Shallow baths, to us certainly, are little more than marginally deeper shower trays and, as such, serve no valuable purpose. Consuming the same real estate as regular full-depth tubs, they’re so of another era, yet they’re still marketed by some retailers.

Shall we move on?
Built-in or drop-in soaker tubs can look sleek and attractive. Another — albeit — pricier option is to choose a wooden bath; these come in various styles and sizes and look beautiful when played as contrast against stone finishes.

Marble finish shower enclosure
As a beautiful foil to our graphite scheme, we indulged our clients with soft-toned Carrara marble and, in doing so, created a stone detailed shower zone with bags of room to move around. When working with marble, always consider the slip factor; the shinier your finish, the more this consideration should apply. Worries, though, can be easily allayed with a little clever planning. During some projects, we’ve scribed our marble with grooves at the shower area — and in front of the bath — but for this project we instructed our supplier to insert a pad of mini mosaic (using the same stone finish) within the enclosure.  A final point to consider is an open transom above the glass door; close this over with a full height portal and you risk damp build up on the ceiling.

Guess that’s the essence (the bath essence?) of the transformation. But are our clients happy? Well, let’s just say their new “spa-at-home” wash world has changed them forever. While some folk observe the kitchen as the heart of the home, our paymasters prefer to think their bathroom provides the pulse of — and the kick-start to — each and every day. Job done!

Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan are the hosts of HGTV’s Colin & Justin’s Home Heist and the authors of Colin & Justin’s Home Heist Style Guide, published by Penguin Group (Canada). Follow them on Twitter @colinjustin or on Facebook (ColinandJustin). Contact them through their website, www.colinandjustin.tv

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