Whatever it takes

by Kacey Larsen

Thirty-six square feet is barely enough space in which to turn around, let alone enough space to be considered a bathroom. Still, this is what David Hanson, principal at Hanson Carlen Construction in Spokane, Wash., and his team were faced with when taking on a bathroom remodel. The goal was to turn a master bedroom into a master suite by expanding the bathroom. “When you think of a master bedroom, at least for our area on the west coast, you think of most homes having a typical standard bathroom that you’d find off a hallway with everything in a row. When you think of a master suite, you’re thinking of something that’s a lot more upscale and maybe has, not only practical features, but also catches your eye,” Hanson says.

Back to the Drawing Board

A kitchen remodel with the homeowners three years before meant a certain interpersonal comfort level existed heading into the bathroom project. However, Hanson still asked the couple to fill out the questionnaire the remodeler asks every client to complete before starting the design process. “You might have different needs among members of a couple, or different storage requirements. Some couples get ready in the morning together; some couples, one person is sleeping while the other person is trying to go out the door, so you’re always trying to meet the needs of each family member,” Hanson says.

An initial direction for a big addition from the clients gave this Spokane remodel a starting point, but the initial designs would not come into fruition. After getting through the entire concept stage with plans for a big addition, the project hit a snag when the county vetoed the plans due to the proposed addition straddling a 10-ft. wide utility easement that included a major pipeline. So, Hanson Carlen Construction was forced to scrap the plans and start the design phase from scratch.

The needs within the new design remained the same, but conceptually the designers had to change their thinking. Being a design-build firm allowed the remodeler the benefit of the architect working directly with the builder to make sure the new space met function, design and budget needs. Hanson says options to remodel within the existing space and expanding into an adjacent guest bedroom were discussed and then discarded.

Despite some initial shock from the homeowners about the county’s denial of the initial plan, they quickly jumped on board with the project. “Our client believed in us. And so when Ryan, our architect, said, ‘The master suite will look this way,’ it wasn’t questioned. And so they have a strong belief in what we were doing,” Hanson recalls.

The project was revised to work with the existing space and by staking out where the pipeline was in the backyard to use every available inch. Hanson says, “When we found that [the original addition] couldn’t be done that was OK, because in some ways we came up with something that made us work a little harder.” The result was a 115-sq.-ft. six-cornered addition with a “stepped” exterior design that was mirrored in the interior.

“Details that Matter”

With a final design in place, Hanson says the goal became to add “tons of little detail that created an overall feeling when you walked into the room like, ‘Wow, this has really been thought through,’ and so there were a lot of fun things that we enjoyed doing.” With a build time of approximately four months, the design-build firm commenced on the project that is described as having a modern European flair.

To achieve that style, the bathroom was designed with none of its elements touching the floor. The toilet sits off the floor thanks to a hidden wall-mount system, and the custom maple cabinets were made in Hanson Carlen Construction’s cabinet shop. It is difficult to buy “off-the-shelf” cabinetry that fits many spaces, Hanson says, so it made sense for the remodelers to expand to include the cabinet shop. The cabinets were designed to attach solely to the wall to achieve the floating look, but had to be strong enough to support the 400-lb. Kenyan marble countertop.

The emphasis on the details, big and small, is evident in the design of the cabinets being “stepped” to coordinate with the interior and exterior “steps.” The drawers of the cabinets are illuminated with low-voltage LED lighting. The towel bars in the bathroom are heated and set with timers to turn on in the mornings. The towel bar is heated using hydronic, not electric, heat which is not typical, Hanson says.

The entire bathroom features the hydronic heating, which required the installation of an additional water heater and electric boiler in an unused basement closet. “The heating system is not typical being that it’s hydronic or water–based floor heat, and the whole house is forced air, so it’s got its own mini-mechanical room,” Hanson says. “So, we used a subcontractor that does our hydronic work, who we work closely with to get everything right because [in this case] we had a bunch of mechanical and plumbing details to work out.” Also in the mini-mechanical room is the system for the remote-controlled shower system the remodeler designed at the owner’s request. Remotely mounted fans by the toilet and shower make the room as noiseless as possible for another aesthetically pleasing feature.

“We like to do things that are hard, and that challenge our mettle, so to speak,” Hanson explains. “It’s also fun to work on unique projects.”



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