Today you are going to go deep into our life and hear about the debates we went through and the thought process that helped us come to decisions. This reminds me of a funny anecdote – while documenting the mountain house design process at a certain point (during the hyper-realistic SketchUp rendering reveals) a reader wrote, “WE ARE DONE SEEING HOW THE SAUSAGE IS MADE JUST SHOW US THE SAUSAGE”, and it was thumbed up a lot by others. We laughed a LOT about this in the office (Julie might not have laughed as much) because we were busting our butts to create these hyper-realistic renderings for the blog when many of you just wanted some sneak peeks and to wait to see the room IRL. And I get that. So this time around we aren’t doing SketchUp at all (which saves so much time and money), and I’m showing you less process. But this post is more for you “sausage maker” lovers… Turn away if you want to be surprised in 4 months with the reveal. 🙂
The Inspiration (Our Primary Mountain House Bath)
Like my patio at our former LA home, I am once again trying to recreate the vibe of my favorite room/s of all time – our primary mountain house bedroom and bathroom. Neither rooms are perfect, but our experience in them for a full year (and continuing) was/is wonderful. So after much analyzing why I loved being in them so much I’ve painstakingly included them here with a heavy farmhouse vibe.
Then we listed our priorities for the layout and I rambled this off real quick:
1. A relaxing spa-like tub area…
2. away from others/aka a sense of retreat…
3. in front of a big window (which now seems totally contradictory with #2)…
4. not facing west to avoid any afternoon harsh light…
5. visually very quiet…
6. with pretty elements that make it look and feel special, but not overly designed.
When we asked Brian what he wanted in this bathroom he agreed with the above and added: “a door on the toilet room” (we didn’t have one at the mountain house) and he 1/2 jokingly mentioned that he would like a tray table in said WC – like in an airplane. He suggested a cup holder would do. I actually think there is a hole in the market when it comes to what guys want in a bathroom (my brother is begging for a urinal in his). He wanted it simple and spa-like too, but otherwise, he put it in our hands.
We wanted this one to lean more traditional and add some color (since outside might be gray, whereas it was blue skies 300 days a year in Lake Arrowhead). Beyond that, we had to make some decisions. Over the years I have gleaned so much from you guys, being able to really crowdsource decisions based on people who are further into living than I am (especially in regards to kids). But now that we’ve lived life as an adult for a while, we feel more dialed into our needs both stylistically and functionally. So most of our layout and permanent design choices reflect that, and they might be so different than yours. Let’s get into it – the main bath.
What you are about to see is a billion iterations (ok a handful) of the design, none of which were flushed through or ready for public viewing. But I think it shows you the process and how we got to the final design:
Anne took a stab at placing things before we jumped on a zoom, where we told her almost immediately that we are “storage vanity” people (not open consoles – I don’t understand how those people live). I also totally forgot that at one point there was a fireplace in the bathroom – as requested by me which is SO DUMB. This is before I knew how bad unnecessary fireplaces are for the planet. I would be literally in a hot tub of water!!! Silly, “past Emily”.
This iteration didn’t really go far, once we told Anne we like shower rooms instead of open/glass showers (privacy, coziness, warmth). We would have customized the vanity so it looked actually good, but it’s fun to see the different iterations. Oh, and this was when Anne was in in the “let’s make it look like one flew over the cuckoo’s nest bathroom” phase (all white tile everywhere) which I almost got on board with but we shifted from it.
Here is where we experimented with a niche which we liked the idea of, but this arch didn’t make as much sense (remember when I wrote a post about how arches won’t make sense in everyone’s homes?)
This is getting closer to the final design. We added a storage cabinet on the right, which connected to and a bench under the window. We actually just cut the bench a few weeks ago for budget reasons (which I already regret). But that vertical cabinet is staying, just simplified. Originally I wanted to tile the entire ceiling, you know QUIET IMPACT, when we realized that it was going to be at least an additional $5k in labor alone. So this was our compromise – just the inside of the niche, but stopping there (Hot Tip – anything on the ceiling is wildly more labor/expensive).
The Final Design Plan
Here’s what we have going on here as you can see:
1. A double custom vanity (made by Unique Kitchens and Baths with a custom base of special joinery by a local carpenter)- It’s designed more like a piece of furniture (which means you lose storage space, which we are fine with). If you think it looks like a lot of storage know that the top drop under the sinks are dummy drawers (not usable due to plumbing) and the bottom drawer has a cutout for the plumbing. So we have the two on the ends and the middle.
2. Undermount sinks – Again we are a fan of the wall mount faucet with the undermount sink because its a really clean look (but can only really be done when renovating, not if you have to match deck mount rough plumbing).
3. Arched mirrors with different tile coursing along the top – I have too much to say about it to drop right here so stay tuned on what our thought process was and why I’m still ambivalent about it. Can you integrate a medicine cabinet here to look awesome? Yes. But we fear it will cost a lot in troubleshooting time in order for it to look perfect. It’s a whole thing, super hard to understand unless I really get into it. Just trust me that there are like 7 experts working on the situation and it’s not an easy solve. So we might lose the look we want or lose the function we want unless we spend $2k in the time and custom materials. I’m so sick of trying to troubleshoot this though… I might not have the energy to walk you through why an arched custom medicine cabinet inset into an arched brick backsplash, with soldier coursing around the top and how it might not work. Anything is possible but at a certain point, when you are paying hourly, you need to look into the future and ask yourself if it’s going to be worth it.
4. I also have the cabinet to the right for what Brian calls my “hair appliances” (aka tools) and my a basket of spa stuff for my nightly bath sessions (which takes up the bulk of my beauty supplies). We had a whole bench under the window with drawers but had to cut it for budget purposes so we’ll find something freestanding if we need it. There is also a possibly too big walk-in closet nearby for overflow so it will all be fine. See below.
My brother saw our shower and was dumbfounded why we chose not to have a massive open shower. I don’t love the exposure of a big glass shower and it also takes a while to heat up, but TBH I mostly bathe so we prioritized the space there. I wanted it in front of the window mostly because that’s how we had it in Lake Arrowhead and I love it so much. Cozy shower, airy/exposed bathtub – I understand the confusion but it’s just how we like it and mostly has to do with the experience you want in both. I think it’s also what you are “used to” and if you are used to a big shower, then a normal-sized one in a remodel feels small all of a sudden.
Here are some more angles so you get the whole picture.
If you are concerned about my privacy just know that I plan on a sweet little cafe curtain, shoulder height. Something I can easily open and close while in the bath. Hopefully, a fabric that just filters the light, and adds privacy without making it dark.
Here’s a messy little mood board for those of you tracking inspiration and some of the products we are using (note the tile coursing in the lower-left inspiration shot – that’s what we are going for). And note how Jessica Helgerson floated a furniture style vanity in that nook? That was a great inspiration for us. We loved how it looked traditional/classic in an interesting way.
So that’s where we are at as of now. Every order has been placed (months ago).