Master bathrooms are a big deal when you’re designing a new home. Like cars, they’re pricey items that need to balance luxury and utility. And since clients tend to be emotionally invested in the space, it can be a place to spend a little extra to create a personal sanctuary. In this recent project, there was room for it. Located on the upper floor of a contemporary home in West Vancouver, it spanned 800 square feet. (I have friends who’d need to combine condo, patio and parking spot to hit that number.) The home’s organizing principle was “modern farmhouse,” and while we eventually got everyone on board, it was no cinch. Here’s how we answered the five biggest questions that came up.
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Why a barn door? Can you lock it? What’s a modern farmhouse without a barn door? We had two made – the other is in the den. The bathroom’s door is the larger of the two, and the first thing you see on entering the room from the master bedroom. A more obvious choice was French doors, but they’d do better in a traditional scheme. Besides, there’s something strange and magical about pulling back a huge, heavy door to reveal a light-filled room. It’s like finding a sunroom in the cellar. Technically, yes, you can lock a barn door – the customary fixture has a rod that that snaps into the floor. But it’s a breach of building code to use such a lock in a B.C. bathroom: In an emergency, it can’t be opened from the other side.
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Really? A tub in the middle of the room? Before the home was built, the original floor plan called for the tub, shower, and vanity to be pushed up against the walls, leaving an enormous space between every station of the bathroom. With the vaulted ceiling overhead, the room felt like a squash court. Our solution was to play with symmetry, aligning the doorway with the vault and putting the tub dead centre. That allowed for five feet of circulation space around the tub – generous, certainly, but not ridiculously so. The tub, resting on rough-hewn stone – a reference to fine European spas – is the visual lure. SOURCE: Tub, www.mirolin.com
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Is a chandelier necessary? Not strictly, no. It’s hard to argue that anyone needs grand light fixtures – you never see them included on Maslow’s hierarchy – but, a chandelier can be a big help in a room as large as this. What works about this one is its shape – its silhouette subtly follows the line of the vault, taking up just enough space to prevent the room from feeling cavernous. It’s a lesson you can apply broadly in matters of design. Although we tend to see and feel in “positives” – like the words you’re reading, rendered in black ink or pixels – the negative space surrounding them can provide meaning, emotion and force. In your rooms, consider the space as much as you do the objects that occupy it. Before we veer off into a koan about yin and yang, one more thing I like about the chandelier: the visual effect of the crystals, which sparkle in daylight and send light bouncing crazily off the walls. SOURCE: Chandelier, www.Quoizel.com
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Shouldn’t the floor be more refined? When clients want luxury in a master bath, the default is polished marble. And for good reason: Few finishes are more durably opulent. Here, though, polished marble’s sheen would feel too sleek and tense. With all the square footage, we decided that a textured finish was best – something that commanded more attention. The final selection was a travertine tile of varying sizes, laid out in an Old World pattern. The floor is soft and textured underfoot, and its traction is excellent when wet. I especially like its variation of warm and cool neutrals. SOURCE: Floor tile, www.juliantile.com
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Why two different millwork finishes? Won’t that look busy? Again, an issue of space. We felt it was vital to anchor the bathroom’s back wall with a substantial element. The two large oak linen cabinets we designed – one for either side of the vanity – ground the space, and the wood makes a visual connection to the barn door. A good magician never reveals her tricks, but, all right, we had one other reason for the large cabinets. The back third of their 36-inch depth conceals an unfortunate structural intersection in the room. By design sleight of hand, we were able to hide the spot where the roofline dips beneath the walls, a messy corner that was impossible to make functional or pretty up with drywall. SOURCE: Countertop, www.caesarstone.com