Sometimes when I walk into a home, I really wonder what the architect was thinking.  I would take a guess that at least 30% of American homes have the awkward situation of a hall that ends with a bathroom.  If you’re fortunate, the view is of a towel bar or blank wall.  If you are unfortunate, the view is of a toilet.  Many of us choose to ignore and accept this vision, or we leave the door closed.

 I remember one home we worked on about ten years ago, as you walked up the stairs to the second floor the first thing that welcomed you was the commode in the bathroom across from the landing.  When we remodeled that bathroom, one of the things we did was move the toilet across the room to a more private location.  Suddenly the view of the trees through the window took precedence.

 Not everyone has the option to move a toilet.  It can be very expensive or even architecturally impossible to relocate a toilet.  So what other alternatives are available besides closing the door?

 First off, think of the doorway as a frame.  What are you framing?  Many times, towels and towel bars are a part of the picture.  While we try to make them look as pretty as we can, towels are just not interesting.  Something needs to pull focus.

 If you aren’t dealing with a view of the commode, place art work within the space – preferably something long and narrow that will fill the door frame.  Since the doorway is your “frame,” I recommend something on canvas without a frame.  The surrounding wall area becomes your “matting.”  If you want to draw attention to this space, then paint the wall a dynamic color that contrasts the walls of the hallway.  If you want this space to blend with the surrounding hall, then paint the wall a color similar to hall color.  I would not recommend wallpapering this wall, most “mattes” around paintings and photos are solid colors, not patterns.

 Take this a step further by adding an “Art light” to showcase the artwork.  (This is great if you entertain and you find people asking where your powder room is.)  A low-voltage MR-11 or MR-16 placed in the ceiling typically works best.  Housings with an adjustable socket allow for maximum control in illuminating the artwork.  For added drama, put the light on a dimmer instead of a switch.

 The same applies, if you have a view of the toilet through the doorway.  This time, hang a framed piece of art above the commode.  The “Art light” should be aimed so that no light spills on the toilet.  The sought-over effect is to draw attention away from the fixture.

 You may be tempted to install the lighting yourself.  However, I would recommend you find a contractor or electrician who has a history of installing these lights.  The size of your artwork and the angle of light along with its beam spread will determine the type and placement of the housing.  An incorrect housing and/or placement could result in a less than desirable result.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

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Window to the World

August 19, 2009

Natural light in our home is usually something we desire.  In fact, it is a major selling point in real estate.  However, having a window in the shower area is not so favorable and can be down right annoying.

It’s not unusual to walk into a older home and find that the tub/shower has two shower curtains – one to keep waterout of the room and one to cover the ackwardly placed window.  There are better ways to address this common problem.

Bathrooms need ventilation and before vent fans were an option, there were operable windows.  Older homes often used the same windows in the bath area as they used in the rest of the home.  This poses two problems, lack of privacy and wood rot from excessive moisture.

The quick and cheep way to tackle lack of privacy is to buy contact sheets for glass.  This material will adhere to glass and create a semi-opaque appearance.  It comes in a number of different textures like frosted and rain; it is available at many hardware stores and can be found online and in specialty catalogues.

The more expensive option is replace the window.  New vinyl windows can be fitted with textured glass.  New windows will also cut down on drafts and heat loss.

Vinyl windows are the best replacement window for the shower area.  Metal windows can rust, while wood windows rot.  Once you have decided to replace a window, the next step is to determine the window moulding.

Windows don’t need to be outfitted with moulding.  Tile or other shower wall material can be brought up right to the window frame.  But in many older homes, sometimes we want to maintain the original look to the home.  A solid surface material, like Corian, can be custom fabricated to look like the original trim to the house.   This works exceptionally well when the trim in the house is painted white (wood grains and stain finishes are impossible to match).  The new moulding is easy to care for and is impervious to water, so mold and rot are no longer an issue.

Now is the time to replace your bathroom window if you find that ice damns build up inside the window during the winter months.

Budgeting Your Remodel

July 21, 2009

In light of today’s economic climate, more than ever we are asking ourselves where we can scrimp, where we can save, and where we should spend.  When doing a remodel these are very important questions, which a respectable designer would be able to answer for you while keeping your budget in mind.  A dynamite remodel does not need to blow-up your wallet.

 This leads me to my first note of import; tell your designer your budget right from the beginning.  This will save time and frustration.  A loose range is fine, but without this important information your designer could design for you a dream bath that doesn’t fit your financial situation or they could design a less opulent space because they thought your budget was less than it really was. 

 Your designer should be your partner.  Just because you’ve given them a budget doesn’t mean that you’ve given them access to your savings account.  Your budget needs to accurately reflect how much you are willing to spend.  We’ve seen it happen, where the client is afraid that their prosperity will be taken advantage of by the designer, so they give the designer a lower budget than they really have in mind.  The designer respects the modest numbers that their clients give them and designs the space accordingly.  The result – client is disenchanted with the design and the designer, and then goes on to do business with someone else.  It is a big waste of time for everyone involved.  Honesty right off the bat is always the best policy.  If you share the same vision between multiple designers when quote gathering, you will know who is taking you for a ride if there is little similarity between the quotes.

 Based off of your budget, a designer will point you in the direction of particular products and structural possibilities.  Share with your designer what is important to you and what is less important.  Maybe removing the linen closet for a stand-alone shower is more important than exotic stone counters… or then again, maybe not.

 From a construction standpoint, there are places in the bathroom where you will want to spend the extra money.  Anything that is not easily removed and replaced should be carefully considered.  The list below illustrates which products can be easily replaced and upgraded and which products cannot be changed without major disruption of the room.

Least Disruption Accessories (TP Holder. Etc)
  Knobs/Handles
  Lavatory Faucet
  Toilet
  Shower/Tub Doors
  Shower/Tub Trims (This is tricky, make sure if you want to upgrade this later that the valve that is installed will work with the future trims.)
  Vanity Countertop
  Vanity Cabinet
  Tile
Most Disruption Shower Base / Bath Tub

 While this list is not exhaustive and it may not apply to your particular situation, it is a jumping off point showing that when it is time to make decisions as to where to skimp, save and spend there are guidelines that give you flexibility.  Open communication between you and your designer is the key to getting the room that you want at the investment you can afford.  A wise designer will know how to allocate your money appropriately for the biggest impact.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel (CBD).