An Unused Bedroom Becomes a Functional Bath
How a rowhouse gained space for a master bathroom, dressing area, and more
Generally, it's good to avoid stairs in the black of night. But for Jill Becker and Drew Phelps, descending the steps in darkness was tough to avoid. The master bedroom in their 1853 rowhouse was the only room on the three-story home's second floor, thanks to a rental apartment that had been carved out in the 1950s. That two-bedroom unit made reaching their only bath, on the first floor, a literal nightmare. "To get to it," says Drew, "we had to navigate 13 steps, walk through the dining room, the kitchen, and a downstairs hallway."
Shown: Marble mosaic and white subway tile are among the finishes that help the new room look at home in the 19th-century house. Here, 3-year-old Jackson Phelps tries out the console sink's cross-handled chrome faucet.
The couple, who had bought the Cambridge, Massachusetts, house with the intention of restoring its single-family configuration, longed for a master bath within shuffling distance of their bedroom. And while they wanted it to feel right for their 19th-century home, they also wanted 21st-century amenities like a steam shower and radiant heat. Local designer Charlie Allen reintegrated the rental unit to add a vintage-look master bath and dressing area. As a bonus, the couple's daughter got spacious digs as well. The redesign entailed a few compromises—having to cross the hall to get from bedroom to bath, for one—but the couple has no complaints. Says Allen, "Now they can roll out of bed and step right into the shower."
Shown: A pedestal sink in the toilet room creates the illusion of his-and-hers baths.
Homeowner Tip: "Double sinks don't have to match. Ours have different profiles—one curvy and feminine, the other masculine—to help set the spaces apart."
—Jill Becker, Cambridge, Mass.
Frameless glass and square hinges create a sleek shower enclosure. A lean-legged console sink with a cross-handled faucet and a wood-framed medicine cabinet from Waterworks give the room an old-fashioned yet clean-lined look. Reproduction sconces help brighten the windowless space.
Homeowner Tip: "You can get a vintage look without a claw-foot tub. We felt a shower would be more useful—we needed a place to hose down our 90-pound dog!"
—Drew Phelps, Cambridge, Mass.
Retro black-dot tile on the shower floor mixes with marble mosaics. The rest of the bathroom floor is covered with more contemporary 12-by-12-inch squares of Carrara marble.
Vintage-style finishes, including beadboard paneling, white subway tile, and chrome hardware from Nostalgic Warehouse, lend an antique look to the newly built bath. A heated towel rack adds extra warmth, as does the radiant heat under the floors.
Architectural extras including built-in wardrobes and peaked-pediment door and window casings connect the new dressing area to the home's Greek Revival roots. Linens stored in the wardrobe connected to the bath are accessible from inside the shower room as well. The wide-plank white oak floors are made from reclaimed barn wood from Longleaf Lumber.
The second-floor rental unit that had been carved out of the house in the 1950s made getting from the master bedroom to the downstairs bath a chore.
The rental-unit bedroom sat in what would become the bath and dressing area.
One wall was moved 15 inches to create a slightly larger 130-square-foot space to be divided among the new rooms, and the old entry was closed off. Now the dressing area serves as a passageway to the new bath as well as to the rest of the second floor.
What They Did
1. Annexed a bedroom from the former rental unit for the combined bath and dressing area.
2. Bumped one wall 15 inches into the adjacent bedroom to expand the new bathroom space, making room for an oversize shower and lots of storage.
3. Divided the space in two with an interior wall sectioning off a dressing area from the bath. The original bedroom door was eliminated, and entries were added at either end of the dressing area; the bath is accessed via a door in the interior wall. This created an unorthodox but easy flow, with the bath across the hall from the master bedroom and the dressing area serving as a passageway to both the bath and the child's room.
4. Split the bath to allow for multiple users at once. A 35-square-foot main room contains the shower and a sink;
a separate pedestal sink was added to the 25-square-foot toilet room.
5. Lured natural light into the windowless bath with clerestory windows and frosted glass–paneled doors.