Master Bath 'Laced' in Tradition, and Tile, Wins Grand Prize

LANDER, WY - The right pieces certainly fell into place when John Mandel, CTC, NTCA, created this intricately tiled master bath here in Wyoming – so much so that it took top prize at the 2005 Spectrum Awards held in May in Orlando, FL during Coverings.

Indeed, it was named the grand prize winner for creativity and achievement for the use of tile in residential and commercial design.

The goal of this award-winning bath design was to create an elegant spa environment that extended in tone and taste from the master bedroom, according to Mandel, president of Red Canyon Tile & Stone, Inc., also located here. He also had to accomplish this within existing space constraints, as there was no room for expansion due to the structure of the home.

His use of Cepac tile in a lace pattern is what really caught the judges' eye. "Our judges recognized the remarkable craftsmanship and imagination through the use of color, texture and shape created with tile," states Tamara Christian, Coverings show director and president, National Trade Productions. "The luxurious and exotic 'Lander master bath' design epitomizes what the Spectrum Awards are about: the inspirational, yet functional use of ceramic tile."

Here, Kitchen & Bath Design News highlights Mandel's grand-prize-winning bath design.


Mandel designed the entire master bath, in tile, with just a basic mandate from the clients – a couple with a growing family.

The clients charged Mandel with the responsibility of simply creating a luxe look within the footprint of the client's existing master bath.

"The clients wanted to update the old master bath – which was pretty simple with a square, walk-in shower – and make it more luxurious with a jetted Roman tub and steam shower. They also wanted to take advantage of the spectacular view of the mountains," says Mandel.

"However, one of the interior walls was a bearing wall, so it couldn't easily be moved, and, therefore, prohibited us from expanding the space," the designer continues.

So Mandel decided to maximize the space he had, working the new shower into an oval shape at one end of the bath with a new Amerec steam function and several body sprays and a thermostatic valve from Sigma Designer Faucetry.

Next, he placed the new jetted Kohler Co. tub on an angle in a corner on the opposite side of the bath with windows that overlook the mountains behind it. The tub features a Sigma swan spout with two matching air caps that were done by a local artist in bronze, describes Mandel.

In between these two fixtures, the designer placed two Kohler Co. sinks into a custom vanity made by local Lander, WY cabinetmaker Bud Selley, with a mirrored wall above it. He also tucked a toilet behind a half wall of glass block from Glass House in Chicago, IL.

This new layout managed to give the master bath the illusion of more space, he notes.


In terms of aesthetics, Mandel brought the subtle Victorian feel of the master bedroom into the bath via the blue and cream color palette he created using ceramic tile.

"The bedroom has Victorian-style furniture in dark walnut and a primarily almond color scheme, with a little bit of blue on the Crema Marfil marble fireplace surround and stripe of blue in a skylight," says Mandel. "And the large doorway that leads into the master bath takes you right past the new tub, so that naturally it became the focal point."

But instead of giving the new bath a strictly Victorian slant, Mandel decided to err on the side of classical and Old World, which he feels coordinates nicely with the bedroom. To that end, he gave the tub two Roman columns, a look which he feels, "harkens back to the days of ancient Roman baths. It's classic, and the overall look feels very similar to Victorian style."

Mandel created an intricate, all-free-hand lace pattern using the blue and cream ceramic tile from Cepac and applied to the entire oval tub, curved surround and soffit, and the Roman columns that flank it all.

Overall, he feels that his effort to create a mosaic effect in blue and cream ceramic tile was well worth it, but it was not without challenges. As he explains: "One of the challenges was finding the right blue tile, and enough of it. Then we wanted to ensure that the blue did not overpower the bath. That's where the cream-colored tile and the whole lace pattern come into play. I think the tile really flows around the curves of the tub and soffit, giving it that unique mosaic effect."

Another challenge that was well worth overcoming was matching the color of the grout to the color of the tile. "Applying and matching the two-toned grout was tedious, given that there was less than 1" between each tile, but doing so achieved a crisper pattern," Mandel points out.

He complemented the blue tile with an Azul Domar blue stone vanity top from Brazil, but it was hard to find the right stone to match, given what he found to be a limited supply in blue. And, once again, to ensure the blue did not dominate, he chose a biscuit finish on all of the Kohler fixtures and installed 16"x24", chiseled-edge, honed travertine floor tiles from Mountain Tiles in Pocatello, ID.

Lastly, Mandel's lighting design completes and highlights the bath. "There's separate lighting over the tub, over the vanity and over each column. And, it's all on dimmers. It [enables the clients to] create a mood, or bump up the lighting [for tasks]," he points out.


Reflecting on his winning design, Mandel feels it was a unique departure on several levels for himself and his second-generation firm, Red Canyon Tile & Stone, Inc.

First, and most important, this bath showcases Mandel's desire to move away from granite and more toward unique designs using tile.

"You usually see this kind of detail with glass mosaic tile, [but] we were able to put a lot of detail into this bath using the ceramic tile," he adds.

Second, Mandel concludes, this project marks Red Canyon's shift back into residential design, after doing a "fair amount of commercial work" through the years.