Design Process, Part Two: Master Bathroom

See the first half of this post over here.

Step Six: Pick your finishes and furniture.

Finally, we’ve arrived at the part you typically think of in designing a space. Here, you want to think about texture and how all the materials are going to interact, in addition to colour.

Knowing the color scheme I thought through a handful of different ways I could execute on marble, white, black and brass. Plus, incorporating the themes that spoke to me in my inspiration photos.

Just to insert a quick anecdote: I actually mapped out the design plan for this bathroom on a Chinese takeout menu that I found in my purse when my phone died a few minutes in on an hour-long train ride. Sometimes you just need to force yourself to sit down and think without the distraction of electronics!

Design Option One: Carrera marble herringbone floors with white subway tile walls and the addition of some more traditional elements like cove tile to finish at the floor. Maybe add in a black inlay tile detail.

Design Option Two: Black Nero marble floor with carrara marble subway tile in the shower.

Design Option Three: Carrara marble herringbone floors with same herringbone marble continuing up the walls of the shower

Design Option Four: Carrara marble herringbone floors with carrara subway tile in the shower

Design Option Five: Carrara marble herringbone floors with large format marble tile in the shower and a trim detail

And that last option, finally nailed it. It hit on all the high notes: not too expensive, interesting detail, classic aesthetic. I also wanted to avoid using subway tile in the master bathroom, to allow this space to feel more elevated than the guest bathroom. Plus, we added in some panel moulding on the walls to create interest throughout the space and landed with the below design board.


I’m still playing around with the vanity area by thinking through some different coloured vanities and types of sconces, but really happy with the direction. I love the idea of continuing the moulding theme throughout the room and creating an art moment on one end of the bathroom (opposite the shower). Here’s a few alternate vanity / sconce combinations I’ve been playing around with:



What do you think?


Design Process, Part One: The Master Bathroom

Over the past few weeks, we’ve completely demolished our master bathroom and walk in closet. I know most people find this part of the process terrifying (and it IS scary to see something that was livable become completely uninhabitable), but this is the most exciting part for me: starting with a clean slate, where the possibilities are endless.

Since designing any space can be daunting, but a bathroom especially, I’m going to take you through my process. Hopefully this is helpful for any future projects you have upcoming. I find it easiest to break everything down into digestible steps.

Step One: Identify the current friction points for the space and compile a wishlist for the new space.

Some questions I ask in this phase are below.

Q1. How is the room currently functioning for us? Where is there friction in the space?

The room is not functioning well for us: the single sink makes getting ready together on the weekends difficult, we never use the tub in here, the layout feels really tight and claustrophobic, the lighting is very aggressive, and we don’t have enough storage so our products are always on the counter. We often find ourselves trying to navigate around each other when one person is standing at the sink. Oh, and we don’t have a heat source in this room so it’s very cold.

Q2. Given what isn’t working in the space, what’s our list of essentials?

  • A double vanity to allow us to each have our own space to make getting ready together more efficient
  • A walk in shower that feels luxurious and grown-up
  • A more open layout that allows the space to breathe and facilitates flow throughout the room
  • Thoughtful lighting throughout the space that’s zoned (e.g. flattering sconces at the vanity, recessed lighting in the shower and dimmable lighting throughout)
  • Storage designed to hide away all our toiletries, hair tools, and towels
  • The addition of a radiator to keep the room comfortable in the winter

Q3. What are the upgrades that would make this room feel really special, but that aren’t necessities?

  • Radiant flooring to add some extra warmth to the space
  • A freestanding soaking tub for the occasional bath
  • A rain shower head in addition to a standard shower head
  • A towel warmer for toasty towels when you step out of the shower
  • Wall-mounted faucets that add a touch of glamour

Step Two: Figure out the floorplan.

You really can’t make any of the fun decisions before determining how the space is going to lay out. Once you’ve got the floorplan and detailed measurements, you can make informed and realistic decisions. Here, you need to think through how you’re going to use the space and how it’s going to flow with the other rooms surrounding.

In order to determine the floorplan, prioritize your list of essentials (Q2 above) and then start thinking through if any of the nice to have items (Q3 above) are viable without compromising your essential needs for the space.

I have a detailed post over here on how we thought through the floorplan for the space. And below is where we finally landed. The area where the shower is located, we stole from the original walk-in-closet, which allowed us to gain a double vanity where the original shower/tub combination lived. Note that in the floorplan below, we haven’t decided yet how the doors are going to open up and will likely invert them so they open towards the master bedroom and not towards the bathroom.


One more note, some floorplan changes are admittedly more costly than others. But, from my perspective, if you’re taking the time and money to remodel a space, the layout is the single thing that can revolutionize the space and make a room work that much better. Plus, once you’ve spent the money to lay pretty new tile, you’re not able to go back and reconfigure a space. This may be a byproduct of lots of small-space living, but if you nail the floorplan, everything else will work so much better.

For instance, our guest bedroom is a space that gets a lot of internet and IRL love, and we also adore the space. But, we made some big changes to the layout in this room (e.g. narrowing a closet door, removing built-ins to free up floor space) that makes us also LOVE living in this space. Without a doubt, we could have skipped over that construction phase, but the room never would have worked properly and the design wouldn’t have flowed so well from my ideas into reality if we were constantly fighting an awkward floorplan.

When you’re thinking through the floorplan, also think about the smaller details that tie back to the functionality of the space. Sometimes the answers will mean small tweaks to the layout and may have a domino effect of changes. But, these details are critical to how you’re going to use the space. The questions I asked for the bathroom include:

  • Where are the towels going to be hanging when I exit the shower? In my case, I need to shorten the depth of the shower slightly to create enough space to mount a towel hook on the wall between the shower and the window.
  • Where’s the toilet paper going to be mounted? If we’re doing edge to edge glass on the shower, I’m going to have to get a freestanding toilet paper holder. Or potentially it can be mounted on the wall beside/behind the toilet. If we aren’t doing edge to edge glass, then I can mount it on the wall that contains the shower.
  • Where am I going to flip the switches for the room? They should be the first thing you access when entering the room, so they will need to go above the toilet, to the left of the doorway. This means we can’t have the doorway swing to the left, and should just have it open into the closet.
  • Which way is the door going to swing? See above.
  • Where are the outlets going to be when I’m at the vanity (and are they in compliance with code)? We need one in the vanity itself for hair tools and other small electronics, and another one to the left of the vanity on the adjacent wall, and likely one near the right sink. Code requires you to have one outlet per sink, within 3 feet of the sink and either on the same wall as the sink or on an adjacent one (but not an opposite wall).
  • Where am I going to charge small devices (e.g. electronic toothbrush or razor)? We’re going to add an outlet inside a vanity drawer for charging those devices and keeping them out of sight.
  • Where are the toiletries going to live in the shower? We’ll add a niche with a shelf in the shower on the same wall as the shower head.
  • Where are you going to turn on the shower? Ideally, we’d like the control for the shower to be on the wall where you enter the shower so you can let it warm up before stepping into the water.

Step Three: Determine the vibe for the room.

What words come to mind when you describe the room? For our master bathroom it was: calming and glamorous. And combining that with the overall bones and vibe of our house, for cohesiveness I added in classic with a modern edge. So the goal is now for the finished room to be described as: A glamorous retreat that’s classic with a modern edge.

Step Four: Determine a color scheme for the space.

Make sure to consider how this room is going to interact with the adjacent spaces, and any other similar rooms in the house. For bathrooms, I like to repeat colors and materials within the same home where possible for cohesiveness. Don’t feel the need to make them twins, but they should feel related.

So, in our case, I want to repeat the marble, matte black, white and brass. But, unlike the guest bathroom that feels more playful, this should be more grown-up and adult. Also, knowing that I’m going to be painting the walk in closet blue all-over, which is how you access the master bathroom, going neutral in the finishes and then layering in more colourful textiles and accessories that relate to the walk in closet will be crucial. Additionally, I’m going to repeat the same hardware in the closet as in the bathroom to further link the two rooms together.

Step Five: Gather inspiration

To be fair, you should start gathering inspiration from the start, but make sure that before you’re finalizing finishes that you’ve edited that inspiration down to your absolute favourites and that they tell a cohesive and tight story.

This is my inspiration and some of the things that really speak to me about the images and how it relates to my own space, in addition to the trends I’m seeing across the photos:

The location of this shower is identical to our bathroom and I love how open it feels with the glass running edge to edge. I love that the floor is seamless and how the curbless shower makes the bathroom feel so much more expansive. I also love the black floors, but I worry about how masculine they read in the bathroom and how that might impact resale and potentially make the bathroom feel smaller.

I love how the herringbone pattern continues up the wall in this bathroom, but I worry that it might not look quite as classic and true to our house’s 1940s bones. There’s that cubrless shower floor again and I still love it.

Clearly I’m loving oversized herringbone floors. How bright this bathroom feels and the trimwork on the left wall feel really true to the rest of our house. I’m loving how timeless this design feels.

I love how luxe this shower looks in Danielle Moss’s bathroom – the niche is gorgeous, the lack of a door is also similar to what we were thinking, as is the control on the opposite side of the shower head. The marble elongated subway tile is really speaking to me. I also love that rectangular drain and that she sunk the shower instead of adding the curb to keep water out of the bathroom. These floors are also a showstopper.


And here’s the second half of this monster post, including the design board.

Master Suite: Updated Plans

Thank you all so much for your feedback on our master suite layout. Over the past week, we made some tweaks to the plan, but feel really good about the direction:


  1. We reduced the width of the bathroom from 5”6 to 5”, which is a standard width for a long and narrow bathroom like this one. Since the space is laid out with all the fixtures on one wall, the 3 feet of egress will definitely still work and not feel too cramped. That large window also helps to keep the room feeling bright and spacious.
  2. We moved the door from the closet to allow for a double vanity. This part of the plan is very dependent on how the joists run in the bathroom once we’ve pulled up the subfloor and is liable to change.
  3. We stole the 6” in width from the bathroom for the closet to allow for hanging on both sides. Since we’re using our original hardwoods, we’re going to have to feather some of the boards we’re pulling up in the original closet to make up the 6” of floor currently tiled in the bathroom.
  4. The dressing area became a bit larger  and we have updated the closed storage for everyday essentials and hampers to be deeper for greater storage capacity.
  5. In the bedroom, I reoriented the bed to be on the right wall so we can center it under the window. In order to do so, we’re going to have to cap the radiator there and move it over to the top wall so that we don’t end up trapping all the heat under the bed.
  6. I’m also strongly considering adding a mantle to the bedroom on the wall you enter on to bring some more character to the space. Crossing my fingers I can find a vintage marble one on Craigslist in the coming months.

We feel really good about this plan and are super excited to start demo next week.

And, some inspiration for the direction of the master suite: traditional architectural details meets fun, modern elements with punches of colour.

We’re loving this wallpaper on the ceiling and the blue walls, which we’re going to be doing both in the walk in closet.

Another pop of blue with a built in bench, also inspiration for the closet.

I desperately want to add a (non-functioning) fireplace mantel to the bedroom and replicate that herringbone marble in both the mantel and shower.

Introducing: The Master Suite

One of the huge selling points for us on this house was that it had a master suite (not one other house we viewed had a proper ensuite and walk in closet), but we knew from the get-go that there’s huge potential to make the master suite fabulous. In the existing layout, there’s a ton of dead space, which makes for an unnecessarily enormous bedroom space and a cramped bathroom and walk-in-closet. As part of our plans for the remodel of this space is a complete redistribution of the space to allow for a sizable bathroom, much larger walk-in-closet and more efficient bedroom area. If you want to see photos of our current bedroom, it’s over here.

Below is the current layout:

snapshot-Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19-25-32 GMT.png

As you can see, the master suite is large (by northeast standards). The footprint is actually the combined space of the living room and dining room directly beneath it, for some perspective.

Some of the challenges we ran into in rethinking the layout are:

  1. Fixed window placement on the front of the house. That large window in the bathroom can’t be changed, since it matches the others on the facade. All of our plans to split the bathroom and closet on this side of the room ran into the challenging width of the window.
  2. Radiator placement. We didn’t want to lose the heat sources in the bedroom. We do still need to investigate having the plumbers run another radiator into the bathroom, since there isn’t a heat source in there and it gets cold in the winter! Our planned in-floor heating may be sufficient here though. It’s not in the rendering, but the radiators are beneath the window in that right side of the bedroom and under the left window on the top of the rendering.
  3. Current duct work that routes AC to the sunroom and living room presently goes through two corners in the existing closet.
  4. Key dimensions for the closet: while our walk in closet is large right now, it’s awkward, tight and it feels silly that we only have hanging space on one side and no space for anything else. But to gain hanging space on both sides, we’d need at least 6’ in width, which we can’t find in the room.
  5. The existing plumbing lines. Yes, moving the bathroom and closet to the opposite side of the master suite would absolutely allow us to have side by side closet and bathroom BUT the plumbing stack cannot be relocated 18’ across the space without a very high price tag, ripping up the floors and whole host of headaches. So that’s a no-go.

As of last week, this is the plan we had in place:

snapshot-Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19-23-52 GMT.png

Some things we liked about this plan:

  1. The bathroom feels a lot less cramped with the addition of space stolen from the old closet.
  2. The bedroom layout feels clean and simple
  3. The closet has a huge amount of hanging space (the left wall) and drawer and shelf space (on the right side.
  4. In the closet, we’d create a window seat that would hide the radiator and create a moment in the closet.

Some things we dislike about this plan:

  1. We don’t love splitting the bathroom from the closet, since Cory wakes up much earlier than me and would need to walk across the room twice to get out of the house in the morning without waking me up.
  2. The walkway in the closet is tight at 2′ wide. It would feel very narrow in here.
  3. We want to create a little dressing space in the closet with a hook for clothes, a large mirror and a spot to put on shoes.
  4. We lose the double exposures in the bedroom by losing the right window to the closet.

And then, on a whim, I remeasured the current distance from the bathroom to the end of the closet and realized we could get more width out of the closet if we moved it to the other side of the room.

snapshot-Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19-13-45 GMT.png

What we like about this plan:

  1. The bathroom and closet are right next to one another, so getting dressed is much simpler.
  2. We gain an extra few inches of walkway space in the closet that will help it feel less claustrophobic.
  3. We still get double exposures in the bedroom with light coming in from the East and South sides.
  4. We get a nicely sized dressing area in the top of the closet in the above floorplan, where we’d add a built in window bench under the window to enclose the radiator. Plus a full length mirror and built in storage for hampers and daily essentials.

What we don’t love about this plan:

  1. We’re a bit up in the air on our feelings about splitting up the double sinks (I have some good inspiration shots below).
  2. Is it strange to walk through the closet? If so, do we need to turn this into a hallway and put doors on both sides of the walk in closet?
  3. We’re losing some hanging space, but we still think we can make it more efficient than what we have now.
  4. The bedroom is laying out a bit strange with the window offset on the wall. I can solve this with a wall of curtains behind the bed or we can move the bed to the right wall, but need to figure out a plan for putting a bed in front of the radiator – any ideas here?

So that’s where we landed! Let me know if you have any thoughts on alternate floorplan ideas – it’s very much appreciated. We’re still not 100% committed.

And some great bathrooms with double vanities:

And walk through closets:

Looking at these, I’m thinking maybe we add a pocket door to the bigger hanging section and leave the right side open to showcase some very pretty built-ins, the mirror and the window seat.

One other note, we debated long and hard how to fit a freestanding tub in the bathroom in addition to the shower and just couldn’t make it work without sacrificing the vanity size (SO important) or shower (also important). What are your thoughts on forgoing the tub?