clock menu more-arrow no yes

Before and After Bath: Modern Makeover

Annexing adjacent spaces, moving the entry, and upgrading the fixtures and finishes allows a bare-bones en suite bath to become a stylish shared amenity

This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, bathroom overview
Shown: Expanding the footprint and relocating the entry made room for a wide double vanity, a walk-in shower, and a jetted tub. Clean lines and splashes of color give the room a fresh, updated look. Designer: Cillesa Ullman, CID, Cillesa Interior Design & Space Planning; General contractor: Clevenger Construction; Custom cabinetmaker: SKM Construction; Paint (walls): Benjamin Moore’s Whitestone; Quartz countertop, pony wall cap: Bianco Supremo, Teltos; Toilet: Toto; Mirrors: Wayfair; Recessed medicine cabinet: Robern; Window: Milgard; Sconces: Loft, Modern Forms
Philip Harvey
Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, before
Before: Cramped and dated, the 1970s builder-grade bath was marooned behind a double-width guest-room closet. Its only access was through the bedroom.

Few things irk a professional designer like living with a drab, dysfunctional interior. For Cillesa Ullman, one sore spot in her 1960s post-and-beam home in Oakland, CA, was the tiny, no-frills guest-room bath on the lower level. “I could not wait to tear it out­, so I literally did most of the demo myself,” she says. Her plan: Enlarge the space by relocating a laundry room and bedroom closet, and move the doorway so the bath could serve the entire floor, which was renovated to create another bedroom. To add a feeling of luxury to the new bath, Cillesa incorporated heated floors, a spa tub, and sleek new fixtures and cabinetry. She landed on her color inspiration when she came across a penny tile glazed in varying shades of aqua, “like a mermaid’s tail,” she recalls thinking. Using it to cover the tub skirt and line the shower floor, and echoing it on the double vanity, brought the space to life. “It’s both elegant and whimsical,” she says, “and with cool gray walls, it feels calming, too.”

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, shower, pull-out shelf tower
Shown left: A practical choice in a bath that serves a variety of guests: a height-adjustable shower wand that can move up and down on a vertical bar. White 5-by-15-inch tiles wrap the walls, while aqua penny rounds add traction and color to the floor. Shower door: Ronson Shower Glass & Mirror; Shower mixer, handshower: Ecostat, Hansgrohe; Towel bars: Hopewell, Top Knobs Decor | Shown right: Pull-out shelf towers on either end of the vanity provide smart vertical storage. The white vanity top and backsplash are made from low-maintenance quartz. Oyster-gray large-format porcelain tiles cover the floor.
Philip Harvey
Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, tub, shower niche
Shown left: Centered on the far wall, the focal-point tub’s narrow lip makes the wall-mount faucet easy to reach from the front, where penny-round tiles enliven the apron. An acid-etched awning window provides abundant light, airflow, and privacy. Tub: Americh; Tub fixtures: Hansgrohe; Window: Milgard | Shown right: The shower niche is bordered with a brushed-metal edge profile and accented with blue penny rounds to echo the shower floor and tub apron. The niche shelf and shower bench top are ¾-inch slabs of the same quartz used in a 1½-inch thickness for the vanity top. Shower niche profile strips: Schluter-Systems; Quartz shower bench, niche shelf: Teltos
Philip Harvey
Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, sink
Shown: Rectangular sinks, streamlined single-handle faucets, and white quartz surfaces add a sleek, contemporary look. Sinks: Verticyl, Kohler; Sink faucets: Metris, Hansgrohe; Quartz countertop: Teltos
Philip Harvey

Expert Advice

“Try orienting rectangular wall tiles vertically to emphasize the height of a space and give it a visual lift. It’s a twist on tradition that creates a refreshing, modern aesthetic.” —Cillesa Ullman, owner, Cillesa Interior Design & Space Planning

Floor Plans

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, floor plans Ian Worpole

Relocating a laundry room and a bedroom closet allowed for an 80-square-foot bath with two sinks, a bathtub, and a shower.

  1. Annexed the laundry and closed up its door to the bedroom to create a hallway entrance.
  2. Installed a 72-inch-wide double vanity, adding a partition wall at the end to create an alcove for the toilet.
  3. Put in an apron-front tub that spans the exterior wall beneath a new 42-by-32-inch awning-style window.
  4. Mounted a 30-inch towel bar on either side of the shower.
  5. Built a 36-by-39-inch shower with a bench seat and a toiletry niche where part of a bedroom closet had stood.

Get the Look

Take the plunge into watery blue hues and streamlined design elements like those on these pages.

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, paint swatch, wall sconce

1. Refreshing blue paint / BENJAMIN MOORE
For a poolside vibe in a hard-wearing, cabinet-friendly finish, try the Advance line of water-based alkyd paint in Santa Clara.
About $60 per gallon; Benjamin Moore

2. Cylindrical sconce / WAC LIGHTING
Clean lines and a soft glow distinguish this dimmable LED wall light with a brushed-nickel finish and an acrylic shade.
Turbo sconce, $70; Lightology

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, faucet, tiles

3. Sleek single-hole faucet / HANSGROHE
Smooth operation, temperature-sensitive control, and water-saving smarts meet understated style.
Cosmopolitan faucet in chrome, $225; GROHE

4. Porcelain penny tiles / ELITE TILE
Durable penny rounds glazed in varying soft-blue hues look both classic and modern. Their small size makes them a slip-resistant choice for wet-area floors.
$9.49 per square foot; Wayfair