Fall in love with Ms. & Ms. Masterful Bathroom

Fall in love with Ms. & Ms. Masterful Bathroom

“I want your job.”

“I wish I could do what you do.”

“Your job is so cool!”

I have the privilege of living out what many folks experience vicariously through magazine before and after pictures, cruising around on Houzz, pinning on Pinterest boards and watching one of the many renovation shows on television. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked “Could I just ride along and shadow you for a day?” – well, I wouldn’t be rich but I could buy a round on a hot night at my neighborhood pub.

I love my little reno niche. I am grateful to do satisfying work that brings me and my clients joy. I celebrate the many opportunities I have been given to make a difference with folks who want or need to renovate. It’s called work for a reason, though. All renovations come with hiccups. I’ve yet to see a reno that didn’t require a change order. After more than a decade renovating properties with all kinds of budgets, styles and personality types, I am here to tell you that there is no such thing as a perfect renovation. While many of the reno issues that we see on television may translate into staged drama, I have yet to see, hear, taste or touch a real life reno that does not have some television worthy element.

For example, let’s talk about this unique renovation. A few moons ago a friend of mine, a well-known interior design guru, referred me to his dear friends (think faux-aunts) for their master bathroom renovation. He told me they were great people whom he loved dearly and that I would enjoy working with them. He was entrusting his family of choice to me, so, you know . . . (insert mega performance anxiety here).

Although a stone’s throw from the bus line on the north end of town this wonderful bungalow is nestled on a few acres on the side of a mountain. Think “Little Cabin in the Woods” but close to the grocery store. The driveway meanders between a quaint natural wood-scape with ancient trees and mountain laurel and a picturesque professional landscape with stone terrace around a koi pond with a bog garden.

On my first visit I pulled into the parking area which sits above the 1930s charmer. After parking the car I made my way toward the house through a nice metal gate and through a stone terraced garden to the obvious–though not original–entryway. There I was greeted by two most welcoming clients. They have owned and loved this house since 1986 (I was a sophomore in high school.) It is obvious that they appreciate the roof over their heads. Both the home and property are much loved and well cared for. Also glaringly obvious – the fantastic relationship between these two women. The way that they navigated my intense Q&A showed me that they were best friends as well as partners. I am telling you these two gals totally love and respect one another.

As we did the ever important getting-to-know-you we made our way to a list of several renovations they had completed over the last quarter of a century. In addition to the standard floor refinishing and window replacement the owners have gradually rid their home of outdated home design elements such as sheet paneled walls, vinyl floors, and aluminum siding. They have taken on a few major projects including renovating a space that serves as both everyday home office and on-demand guest room, a to-the-studs kitchen renovation so impressive it was published (kudos Richard Fast) and they renovated the home’s only bathroom. They have made this property their own with major undertakings such as terracing the hillside that the house is nestled on and building an inviting entry with herb and flower gardens tucked into a custom stone wall signalling clients’ green thumb and love of Mother Nature’s finest.

After twenty-eight years of owning this precious 976 square foot cottage my clients were super clear about their next home project – a proper master bathroom. And by proper, I mean an intentional, planned bathroom with plenty of elbow room and a few of the luxurious amenities they have enjoyed on their worldly travels (including shower you can bend over and scrub your toes in without your bum opening the shower door).

So I rolled up my theoretical design sleeves and started to imagine where we could put this Ms. & Ms. Masterful Bathroom. Over the last decade I have sprinkled my reno dust on homes expanding kitchens into original keeping rooms, enclosing porches to create mudrooms, tweaking sitting rooms into walk-in closets, and turning tiny bedrooms into wonderful bathrooms. But one did not need a lick of renovation expertise to realize Peter had no money to pay Paul. To create the master bathroom they were dreaming of, we must leave the footprint of the house.

Over the next two months we did our pre-reno homework by establishing an understanding of the current home, making a scaled drawing of the current master bedroom and pondered the options of where we might add on to the house. It seemed obvious that what my clients needed was modest addition to the master bedroom, with a passageway through an existing window, tying this new structure into the current roofline. From that place we created three bathroom floor plans for the Ms-es. There were things that they liked about each of the three bathrooms I presented. The Ms-es were tickled.

As we dialed in the components of their desired bathroom I started estimating the addition. And this is where we hit a nasty brick wall. We had dreamed and designed believing we could easily tie into the cottage’s current roofing system but when “the tool-belts” were on site to estimate the job they said that would be impossible. The addition’s roof would not work with the current roof framing. Any addition, on any side of the house, would require that the entire home’s roof be reframed. Cue my internal hissy fit. How did we get here? This ain’t my first rodeo! Ugh, we did our homework people. I brought in the “tops” and I need a whole new roofing system-? After I wrapped my head around this fiasco I arranged a pow-wow with the Ms-es and we hashed it out. They were gracious and understanding and a lot kinder to me than I was to myself.

We agreed to do a modest mock-up of a new roofing system and traveled that road for a wee-bit. Within a few weeks we had a reasonable addition with a handsome and realistic roof planned. We knew the cost and had a timeline. But while the client’s loved the design – none of us could pull the trigger. I work so hard to protect the original structure and not jeopardize the integrity of the home. I felt like there was something left to consider, there had to be another way. We needed a miracle.

That’s when we started talking about the front porch.

For the more than two dozen years that my clients have owned this home, owners and guest alike have approached, arrived and entered the home through the back door. But where is the original front door? Lovers of homes and diehard renovators like myself couldn’t leave this alone. There was a story here. Though a property division some years back had rerouted the driveway and sent traffic through the “back” door, the front porch was never abandoned. They were using the porch, with the original front door into the living room, as an outdoor covered space to download the day with wine and cheese, put together a puzzle on a rainy day and to host their bridge parties. I wondered, could I snag half of that space for the bathroom? We would have decent ceiling height and square footage that would allow for a nice walk in shower. Could my clients let go of that soaking tub? Could they live without a walk-in closet? With the right product selection and detail-oriented craftsmanship, that porch could seamlessly house that master bathroom we were looking for and still provide a sweet, covered outdoor space. Would the original architect roll over in his/her grave? Would the original owners disapprove and come back to haunt me?

Fast forward to three seasons later and here we are. We took many of the design components that we had intended for the addition and spun them into this design. The siding and trim will gracefully tie into the house . The windows will allow for natural light, suggesting more square footage than the footprint allowed. A full light opaque glass pocket door from the master into an intentionally open floor plan that respects a little modesty, a walk-in shower with room to touch your toes and a corner seat and plumbing fixtures with multiple shower functions, an ooh-la-la towel warmer and perfectly scaled built-in storage, locally crafted steel base and concrete top vanity, exquisite “quilted tile” floor and no-corner-is-cut subway tile walls from floor to ceiling.

Every renovation – from concept to construction to completion is a journey. No matter the property, client or budget there are changes, tweaks and at least one expletive worthy moment. Just like TV? Or just like life?

This one is television worthy. Cameras rolling or not, this could not be done for a “reno show $10k” nor could it be turned around in a television “two weeks.” We did not have super tall, overdressed identical twins to draw a crowd or a blonde bombshell with a tool belt and a backhoe to reel it in. It cost more and took longer than the telly would tell but the journey is rerun worthy. You’d dog-ear the magazine page of this one’s before and after. She’s a keeper, kinda like Ms. & Ms.

Stay tuned for the before, during and after pics in our third metamorphosis at sallyspiegel.net. You can check out two other great renovations start to finish on the Metamorphosis tabs above.

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