The Mountain House: Master Bathroom Design Process
My design process is much longer than it used to be. The other day, my best friend commented (as she has before) that she tries to channel her “inner EHD to quickly pull triggers” when making design decisions when I reminded her that I’VE CHANGED. I’m still faster at styling and decorating than most, but the permanence and high expense of renovation have proved to be just as paralyzing as can be for many of you. Well, that coupled with the fact that millions will see and judge my work. I’m actually consciously trying to get back to my “perfection is boring, let’s get weird” version of myself that is less worried about making sure that I’m doing what is “right” and “by the book” and more just wanting it to feel good and like us (with function also being important – but not the sole focus).
For the mountain house’s master bathroom, the ultimate goal, as you know, is to create a “Modern Mountain Spa.” So, while the two options I presented last Monday aren’t that different, they can’t really be because the design end goal is the same. I think it’s fun to show different tiles and give you some new resources and even bathroom combinations that look good, despite being similar. This I Design, You Decide was never about two wildly different choices – it’s our house, so we obviously want it to feel a certain way. That means that while most things are different, the ‘feeling’ of the two options are consistent. OH and when we first started doing this, we had different tubs, sinks, faucets (as you can see below). Ultimately, though, we needed to order these things because waiting was holding up the framing and the plumbing, so as to not delay the house by months and months, we decided to only give options on all the other bathroom elements. In case you are new to renovations, you need the rough plumbing first (which are the specific plumbing elements like valves that go with your specific faucet, so while you don’t need the actual faucet for months, you can’t really get past framing without installing the ‘rough’).
It’s truly option overload in my brain, of which you’ll see below – an exercise I thought worthwhile for you to see. Option One really only had a few different versions, whereas Option Two evolved over 30 different schemes. Let me walk you down mood board memory lane, where I’ll show you my thought process and general mania.
Option One Design Evolution
Okay, I was pretty happy with this out of the gate, but this was months ago and many things changed:
First off, we thought we had a normal ceiling in the bathroom. We later discovered that it’s not only really high but also not centered, thus pendants are out of the question.
I was going to use Kohler’s Composed collection which is super modern and BEAUTIFUL in the vibrant polished brass (not yet available) but ultimately, Brian thought it was too modern for the house (the rustic versus modern “battle” may never be over – but we are “working through it”). He was right that it was super modern but I thought the whole house was going to go more modern so I was down with it, initially. The more we paired it with elements like the pebbled tile, the more I got scared that it was just too contemporary and the combo could go ’90s really easily.
The same thing happened with the initial tub selection. I had picked out the Veil tub which is GORGEOUS, but we were faced with a similar concern – is it too contemporary, not classic enough to work with such risky elements as pebbled tile??? Keep watching…
But the blue Clé tile (not yet available), the white Ann Sacks tile, the marble counter and the warmth of the brass in the faucets were NEVER up for question.
We traded out the flooring in the toilet room and the shower floor for marble slab (mostly because I thought it would look better with the modern toilet). Once we decided to not make it its own room, it changed. In case you are wondering why we took the door off the water closet, it’s so that the toilet area could be smaller and match the shower room wall, thus flanking the vanity with symmetry. Brian also was super anti-toilet room all of a sudden, as were ALL THE MEN ON THE JOB SITE. The three female designers’ minds? BLOWN. To the fellas, they felt claustrophobic, as if they would be suffocated by their own *ahem* air. When you put it like that, it’s disgusting. I was more concerned that the bathroom was starting to feel kinda small, and taking that wall back made it feel so much bigger.
As a side note, I joked with Brian that we should give him a flip down table – like on an airplane, for his mug and newspaper and he was VERY excited. THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. MEN ARE DISGUSTING.
So that was Option One, which really didn’t give me too much of a headache. In fact, we just wanted this one to win. In case you are just landing on this post, here is the FINAL version of Option One (without lighting, mirror or hardware).
Blue Clé tile (not yet available) | Purist Wall Mount Faucet with Cross Handles | Caxton Sink | Jute Vanity | Real Rain | Purist Showerhead | Water Tiles | Purist Hand Shower | White Ann Sacks Tile | Purist Bath Filler | Sunstruck Freestanding Tub | White Pebble Tile | Purist Toilet Paper Holder | Veil Toilet
For Option Two, I purposefully tried to make it feel different while still working in the Modern Mountain Spa style. This one started out airier and brighter and then, of course, changed a lot. Was I regretting having to do two options? Of course. But this exercise is making me SUCH a better designer. I’ve learned of so many new resources, and by being forced to experiment so much, I really homed in more on what I do like and what I veer away from.
So here we go – how I (eventually) locked in Option Two’s final mood board:
Option Two Design Evolution
I started with a different vanity mirror concept altogether, which I still like (and hilariously might still be an option). We played with different floor tile, and flatter pebble tile, and tried this amazing mosaic backsplash that we ultimately realized would be weird with a medicine cabinet (even though now we might not even do a medicine cabinet). Plus, I thought that the style might be too Moroccan with the rest of the house and I hadn’t seen a sample (just a picture) which felt too risky. But I did like the idea of the darker floor, so we started hunting for a dark stone flooring. At this point, I was still really playing with my overall materials board and besides, Brian’s need for rustic really threw me. He loved Option One, but man we both struggled with two.
The stone tile flooring here is beautiful but I couldn’t find any in person that I loved – plus, I started thinking…was it fun enough? If anyone knows where to get beautiful (and fun) interior stone flooring, please advise. 🙂
I also had an intense medicine cabinet internal debate. Frankly, I’ve never had one (but want one). I aspire for this house to feel clean and minimal which means no stuff on the counters, so what do you need to accomplish that? A CABINET. But generally, I just prefer a dope mirror. More on that in its own upcoming post, but you’ll see here that I tried hard to make the medicine cabinet work.
You’ll notice that at first, we chose the matte black Purist line, which hasn’t fully launched yet so we had to mock it up here in Photoshop and it’s not reading as well (they currently sell the faucets but not the shower line). And then I worried that in this look, it seems a little cold without any color. In retrospect, though, I think black could have been GREAT in here and we are bringing it into the other bathrooms for sure.
I added the blue version of the Clé Moroccan mosaic tile which I love and played with an alternative floor tile, which felt too competitive. And once I realized that we would have wood on the ceiling, I worried that maybe we should do something else on the walls. (Welcome to my personal mania.) But I loved the idea of a pretty wood-clad toilet room.
I switched out the tile for a blue version of the tile in version #1. It’s SO BEAUTIFUL. I played with lighting. We played with a square vessel sink. I found a photo of this floor tile on Pinterest but I never found it in person, so I thought about custom making it. Brian didn’t love it though so we kept trying…
We added a shelf for toothbrush storage, but I’m unsure if the wall-to-wall mirror is the best thing. Besides, this version is very cute and I think it’s a good design, but it’s almost EXACTLY like Option One…I knew that if I didn’t at least make every element visually different, that you guys would call bullsh*t. I love that blue tile (handmade and actually the blue version of the white that ended up in the final Option Two). I love that cross tile. I love the leather marble shower tile.
In version 6, the shelf is set back – something that we are likely doing. And I love that tile above, but I only saw it on Pinterest in a bathroom in Sweden so I’m not sure it actually exists.
So I scrapped the blue tile altogether, championing myself that I could do it – I could design a bathroom without the color BLUE.
But man, mood boards and renderings can be boring without color.
Here, I realized that almost everything is white. EVERYTHING, except the faucets. I didn’t really want to be in that bathroom even though I KNOW it would be beautiful IRL. And if you are thinking that the tones of the white aren’t working together, in person we had all the samples and they did. I promise. It’s just hard to take a photo online of something with a lot of subtle texture and put it on a product board.
So I had a total epiphany…DARK PEBBLE FLOOR, polished gold fixtures…and screw it, let’s go for the classic, beautiful, perfect freestanding tub.
I apologize for me repeating myself, but here was my tub conundrum. The Ceric (seen above) is the most beautiful shape. It’s modern and classic. IT JUST IS. If I were designing this for a client, I would BEG them to use the Ceric. It’s beautiful but has less loungability. The Veil (the contemporary one in the all the previous mood boards) was a more ergonomic freestanding tub and had a more supportive sloping back. And I kept thinking about the bubble massage. The Ceric and the Veil don’t have bubble massage capabilities. The Underscore does (and so much more) but that is a drop-in. So I toyed for HOURS with the idea of doing a drop in, in a rectangular freestanding marble slab ‘tub’. We knew it wouldn’t look as good in the space because of the bay window, but was the sacrifice worth the delicate bubbles???
We went up to the mountain house and once in the bathroom, we all agreed immediately, WE NEEDED A FREESTANDING TUB. The Ceric, it is.
Then that night, after putting the kids to bed, I was chilly and kept thinking…man I wish I could take a long bath right now. It wasn’t even cold outside. We were in LA (where I don’t have a tub in the master). So I channeled my future mountain self, living up there for weeks over the holidays, and told myself “you have the opportunity to have a heated spa tub with bubble massage. If you were up there right now, how much happier would you be to have the added features, rather than a beautiful albeit very vertical tub to sit in, like the Ceric’?” So I got on the Kohler website, like a bathtub sleuth looking for the last clue before closing the case – there has to be a freestanding tub with bubble abilities and more of a sloping back and BOOM, there she was – SUNSTRUCK.
Having tub confusion right now? Here you go:
There they are – the four tubs that I debated about for months. The Underscore (so comfortable with a ton of functions), Veil (beautiful but possibly too contemporary), Ceric (stylistically perfect) and Sunstruck (freestanding with sweet, sweet bubble action).
The Sunstruck has the features I want and is freestanding. Do I visually like the Ceric more? Sure. It is more refined because it doesn’t have to house the mechanism for my bubble massage. If I weren’t a bath lover, I absolutely would have chosen that beautiful tub. But I am. I took a bath every night when I was pregnant with both kids in our old house. I set up a laptop on a stool next to hotel bathtubs when I travel so I can lay and watch “Younger.” A person that actually bathes, designer or not, should choose a tub that will make that bath the best experience possible. I am that person. I have found my freestanding bathtub in Sunstruck. It’s my firm belief that this tub was designed for exactly me and this bathroom – the need for a freestanding tub with spa features was clearly not lost on Kohler. They saw a need and filled it…with GLORIOUS BUBBLES.
Also, we strongly considered the smart Verdera Voice Mirror, which is Alexa enabled. I figured if I was going to have an intelligent bathroom, I need a highly intelligent mirror – and my Alexa is SMART. I could ask her for the weather that day before getting dressed. I could have her add my eye cream to my shopping list the second I realize that I’m out. Also, the two lights were perfect vanity lights, making it so we didn’t need sconces. But ultimately it felt too “hotel” for our cozy (yet modern) spa bathroom.
Here’s where we finally landed with Option Two, after all the design switcheroos:
White Ann Sacks Tile | Purist Wall Mount Faucet with Cross Handles | Caxton Sink | Jute Vanity | Real Rain | Purist Showerhead | Water Tiles | Purist Hand Shower | Thin Herringbone Thassos by Artistic Tile | Purist Bath Filler | Sunstruck Freestanding Tub | Charcoal Pebble Tile | Purist Toilet Paper Holder | Veil Toilet
Additionally, you’ll see that we found some dark pebble tile that we loved more than others, and with black grout, we knew it would be easier to keep clean. The bathroom wouldn’t be as airy, but I wondered if a dark pebble tile would be more modern, slightly edgier. It certainly grounds the bathroom and balances out the wood ceiling. Brian wanted dark pebble tile with the blue Clé tile wall and I didn’t disagree with him, but I couldn’t do a third version and I was actually starting to have a tiny mental breakdown just thinking about revisiting both options again. I couldn’t. We loved Option One. We loved Option Two. Putting the slatey blue Clé tile with the dark pebble felt dark to me (although maybe I’m totally wrong), but it also felt WAY too close to the first final option and not different enough from either!! At some point, you have to wonder if the decision making stress is proportionately reflected in the beauty of the final result. You could go on and on and on AND ON, playing with different tiles, and stones, but ultimately what my former boss taught me years ago remains true: “Pretty always looks good with pretty.” Sure, there are rules, but if everything is beautiful… and you consider the basic rules, you kinda can’t lose. Besides, what is being an artist if you follow every. single. rule? More on that later.
You might be wondering: why aren’t the lighting, hardware and mirror in this post? Well, honestly because that’s a puzzle to figure out that deserves its own post, but here’s the quick version – the vanity is blocked in on both sides (thus looking built-in) with the shower and toilet room walls, which means that we don’t have room for a mirror that would work above two sinks (to where you’d be able to see your face while brushing) AND fit sconces, and yet we can’t do pendants because the ceiling vault isn’t centered and a long cord would amplify that. It wasn’t a matter of choosing two sconces, a chandelier and a toilet light. It was more “how do we properly light this bathroom based on the current challenges?” We have myriad solutions, but none are ideal stylistically. Stay tuned for the lighting/mirror and hardware options that we are ALMOST confident about.
But who knows with me…
To refresh, here’s a fun video with Brian and me that shows how we got to the final two options:
As of Sunday night, Option Two is winning by about 10%. So for those of you who haven’t yet voted on an option, today is your last day to weigh in (PRETTY PLEASE VOTE):
I Design, You Decide
Master Bath: Overall Style
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I’m SO HAPPY because I wanted Option Two but man I miss the shower tile from Option One and I’m still a little nervous about the pebble tile – even in gray. And man, it’s not something that you can tear out easily.
Don’t be mad. I’m not saying that we are changing; I’m just opening it up for discussion. And if you are wondering if the indecision has caused stress, duh, but this process is incredibly fun. It’s exhilarating. It’s exciting for all of us. Once the poll went live last week, we were all riveted watching it. The office was a-buzz. Thank you so much for all of you who voted and commented. This community is incredible and while this process is more complicated than usual, I hope that even through the options, you are learning of new resources, understanding the process, getting some great design plan options for yourself and, perhaps, relating to the insanity :).