clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Before and After Bathroom: Creating a Relaxing Retreat

A once dark and dated primary bath gets a breath of fresh air with soothing neutral finishes, including wood and marble.

Sink vanity of a newly renovated bathroom
A slightly bigger single-sink vanity offers more storage space. The medicine cabinet is a surface- mount—it backs up to a plumbing stack—with outlets inside for charging electric razors and toothbrushes.
Kyle Caldwell
Before: Dated dark-brown tile reflected by mirrored walls, plus ceiling soffits and a curtained tub/shower, closed in the space, which felt at odds with the 19th-century house. Dim lighting made matters worse.
Jennifer Vreeland

Mirrors may make a space feel larger, but when they’re glued to the walls they also magnify existing flaws—in this case, dated chocolate-brown tile and beige fixtures from the 1970s. “It was bad news,” says one of the Englewood, NJ, homeowners of the drab primary bath she shares with her husband. Dreaming of modern upgrades like a walk-in shower and heated floors, the couple called in designer Jennifer Vreeland to see what she could do.

“They really wanted the bath to have a spa-like feeling,” Vreeland says. “But anything too modern would have been jarring with their home, built as a carriage house in 1869.” Gutting the space exposed the 12-inch-thick stone exterior wall, and pipe and vent stacks that couldn’t easily move. So, keeping the footprint and general fixture placement, Vreeland put a large shower where the tub had been, giving it a bright, airy look with pale tumbled marble tile and frameless glass.

Left: The mosaic-tile floor’s blend of gray, tan, taupe, and creamy-white marble ties the bath’s new palette together. Beige-painted wainscoting rings the room and blends with the shower walls for a seamless look. Right: Custom built-in shelves put towels and decorative accents on display, while a lower cabinet hides away toiletries. A library sconce lights the recess.
Kyle Caldwell

A traditional wood vanity and a custom built-in offer needed storage space; layered lighting makes it comfortable at every time of day. The owners’ reaction? “They love everything,” Vreeland says of the relaxing result. “The large shower feels luxurious, and the space is so much lighter and more open.”

Renovated bathroom shower and tiles
Left: Flat-panel wainscot painted a warm beige ties into the shower walls and follows the lines of the room. The shower’s frameless-glass enclosure preserves an open sight line, making the space feel expansive. Right: Vreeland went to a local stone yard and matched the vanity’s prefab Carrara-marble slab to one she used for the shower bench, niche shelf, shower saddle, and window seat. Tumbled 12-by-24-inch beige-marble tiles cover the shower walls.
Kyle Caldwell


Floorplans for renovated bathroom Ian Worpole

Working with the bath’s existing footprint and general fixture placement, the gut renovation turned a tub/shower alcove into a large walk-in shower.

  1. Took the bathroom down to the studs removing the drop-in bathtub and its decking; seized the opportunity to install in-floor heating and a high-efficiency vent fan.
  2. Built a partition wall to create a new walk-in shower with a bench seat and a ceiling-mounted rainfall showerhead.
  3. Added a custom built-in with open shelves over a closed cabinet in the corner between the bedroom and shower walls.
  4. Made room for a wider 551/2-inch single-sink vanity with a 40-inch medicine cabinet above it by shifting the toilet closer to the exterior wall.
  5. Swapped a cluttered open shelf under the window for one that looks like a marble-topped window seat; it holds a lamp and a few select accessories.

Get the Look: Classically Styled Home Products