This time last year, demo had just started on our master bath; we had to move into our guest room (not knowing it would be a three-month stay); and the contents of our walk-in closet got moved to rolling racks in the living room so the workers could access that space behind the bathroom walls.
Needless to say, we’ve come a long way between this:
We started the design work in the summer of 2017, and the layout went through many iterations as we tried to decide how best to use this fairly ample space. (You can see our thought process in this previous post.) The one thing that never made sense to us was how small the shower stall was, tucked way back into the corner:
My poor husband Jim, who’s 6-foot-4, either knocked his head on the frame or stubbed his toe on the curb every time he tried to get inside that stall. And it was so tight in there that I developed a permanent bruise on my elbow from knocking into the soap dish on the wall.
Because neither of us take baths, we spent 18 months after we bought this house envying all the space the tub was taking up. I’ll say this without apology, despite a story in the latest House Beautiful saying tubs are necessary for resale — we both are over the moon with our huge new open shower!
The plumbing was re-routed from the partial wall on the right to the back (and behind that is our walk-in closet, so you can see why we had to get everything out of there), so now we’re not squeezing into the corner, but using most of that back wall where the tub used to be.
Working with designers Nadia Suburan, Megan Padilla and Kelly Emerson of Aidan Design, we looked at lots of different tile options for the shower wall, but on Jim’s suggestion, we went with natural stone, which came from just down the road at Sisler’s in Falls Church. It echoes the stone fireplace that anchors the open family room/kitchen/dining area.
So: I’m seriously burying the lede here, but The Washington Post has just profiled our bathroom! The reason I mention it here is because the writer asked us about the cost, and I answered: $60,000. It hurts to write that number, and suffice to say, we didn’t go in thinking we would spend that much, but we don’t intend to leave this house, like, ever.
Isn’t the stone wall beautiful though? The stone itself is a lot cheaper than tile, but the mason spent three days cutting it and placing it just so, ensuring that the stone coloring would be arranged evenly and that each piece of the puzzle would fit perfectly. Kelly worked with him to get the grout color right — originally we were thinking maybe a gray tone, but Kelly nailed it when she asked for a coffee-color tint to warm it all up.
Another big part of the bill was the hand-finished cherry cabinetry by Wood-Mode.
We first considered more budget-friendly painted cabinetry, but with all the natural elements going into this room, we concluded (with advice from my friend, designer Victoria Sanchez) that the natural wood would be a better fit in the space. Now that it’s in, I completely agree.
A commenter on The Post story said, “My husband would fall over dead if I suggested spending 60k on our master bath!” Ouch. It’s true, this was expensive, but as I get older, the phrase “you get what you pay for” reasserts itself again and again. We paid for great design, and we got it.
Without a designer like Nadia and her team, we wouldn’t have had any idea where to source things like the trough sink in the countertop (thanks to Nadia’s brother, Richard Suburan, for making that happen), or the Neolith slab and glass panel for the shower (kudos again to Richard for handling all the measuring and logistics).
And that’s nothing to say of the invaluable assistance we got with the space planning and all the technical measures that have to go into consideration before we chose all the pretty stuff. One day, Nadia’s husband (yes, Aidan Design is a family affair!) came in to figure out how we could get a plumbing line through the ceiling beam so we could attach the shower head—and which kind of specs we needed to order the right product so it would fit. If we had to figure that out on our own for the contractors, it wouldn’t have turned out so nicely.
I also benefitted from the help of Vincent Sagart at Poliform, where I discovered the amazing steel shelf where we hold the soap and shampoo bottles. Behind that front panel, the shelf has slats on each side where the water drains. It’s a piece of sculpture, made to order through Agape in Italy. Vincent also helped me order lights by Delta that hide behind the beam in the shower to wash the Neolith wall in light that seems to come from no discernible source when it’s on. It’s almost embarrassing how much we paid for those things, but they make showering an ethereal experience—one that we get every day. As for price, another good designer friend memorably told me years ago that “you only cry once.” If you get cheap stuff that cracks or breaks or wears down or gets dated, you end up crying again and again!