Designer’s Notebook: Dream Opportunity

by Kyle Clapham

It started with a leaking shower door—at least that’s what the owner thought. Although the door did not leak, a small brown spot in the garage ceiling indicated there was indeed a leak somewhere. Further investigation revealed the magnitude of this long undetected leak.

The subsequent damage caused by the leak would require removal of the entire bathroom floor, shower surround, whirlpool tub platform and the reconstruction of a portion of the exterior wall adjacent the shower. In order to make these structural repairs, the removal of the wood siding required careful and patient removal methods.


After recovering from the initial shock, the client decided to use this as an opportunity. The original bathroom was a typical production-home, cookie-cutter floor plan that had sufficient space; but it was poorly used. A standard whirlpool tub was surrounded by an oversized platform, which took up floor space but offered no functionality.

The toilet was tucked into a corner alcove, and the shower was small in comparison to the bathroom size. The double vanity practically interrupted entry to the bathroom. For a bathroom with a vaulted ceiling, the lighting was sparse at best. Once repairs were complete, work began on the client’s request of a “spa bathroom.”

A collection of awkward hallways at the entrance to the master bath and master closet were removed, which allowed immediate access to the closet and bathroom from the master bedroom. This created more working and storage space in the previously confined entrance. The toilet alcove was converted to a toilet closet, and a door was added facing the master bedroom doorway.

After re-plumbing the room for new and relocated fixtures, a barrier-free shower pan was recessed into the floor to offer an uninterrupted flow of the floor tiles. A double-entry, frameless shower enclosure was installed around the new base. To feature the shower wall, 3- by 16-inch tiles were installed in a herringbone pattern. For spa showering, the fixtures included three body sprays, a rain showerhead, wall showerhead and a handheld spray.

In order to accommodate the client’s showering products, a large vertical niche with a pebble inlay and teak shelves was constructed. The shower was relocated to the original vanity location, which gave the impression of an area with easy access to any part of the room. A towel warmer was installed outside the shower to ensure warm, dry towels when needed.

Wide, plank-style floor tiles were installed to accentuate the length of the room. The tile installers were able to incorporate the same large floor tiles in the shower while maintaining the required drainage slope by using precision cutting techniques.

The old whirlpool and platform were replaced with a large contemporary-style, free-standing soaking tub. A chrome contemporary-style tub filler with a hand spray completed the tub area. The tub was centered under the existing window as a focal point to draw attention upon entering the room. This positioning provided amble space on either side and made the area less congested.

Besides being poorly located, the original vanity had very little useable storage space. A new custom vanity was built with inspiration design by a piece of furniture in the client’s bedroom. The new vanity was colored matched to the client’s furniture piece with more drawers and has a soft-close feature and soft-close doors.

Oval undermount sinks were installed in the new white quartz countertop. The relocation of the vanity allowed for a larger cabinet, with individual mirrors over each sink, three wall sconces for abundant lighting and a lighted makeup mirror.

Using the old, reconfigured hallway space, a new custom linen cabinet was installed adjacent the toilet closet door. This piece was also color matched to the new vanity. The new cabinet has ample storage space along with a tilt-out hamper.

Considering the volume of the room, the original lighting plan was insufficient. The existing ceiling lights were replaced with new LED recessed fixtures. The additional lighting, along with the new sconces, completely changed the appearance of the room. It is now as bright and open as it was intended to be. Additionally, a ventilation fan with a humidistat was added to replace the small, poorly functioning ventilation fan.

The existing standard, colonial trim was replaced with square-edge stock to coordinate with the inset shaker-style vanity doors. The existing doors and new toilet closet door became single panel doors with shaker sticking. To avoid the previous bottleneck in the bathroom entrance, a new barn style door was installed for the closet entrance. Finishing touches included a teak tub tray and a teak shower stool.

Taking a client’s wishes and converting it into a design that meets those desires requires listening, planning and offering sound practical advice. The design and construction teams were able to provide the client with the luxurious spa bathroom she had dreamed of by listening closely, using the right materials and providing the essential craftsmanship. QR

Bill Keenan is president and owner of Keenan Building & Remodeling. He has 40-plus years of industry experience and is responsible for all field operations.

Tina Glover-Keenan is an award-winning kitchen and bath designer who attended Parsons School of Design. She provides the company vision while maintaining all office and design staff.

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