Visual Effects Expand Showhouse Bath

Minneapolis, MN - Not every kitchen and bath remodel has to break the bank. Just ask Michael Anschel of Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build, in Minneapolis, MN.

The design-build firm, which is focused on urban development and city living, is also dedicated to green building and providing affordable remodeling options.

That's why he and his firm were eager to tackle the remodel of a 1929 bungalow-style home in the Howe/Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. It was a part of the 2005 Minneapolis & St. Paul Home Tour, held May 7-8.

Now in its 18th year, the Tour is presented by the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) and the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Spanning across a weekend, the living showcase draws thousands of home enthusiasts together to share home remodeling ideas and new ownership and rental opportunities.

The home that the firm redid truly tested the mettle of Anschel and his design-build team. In fact, it demonstrated the company's ability to do creative work on a budget, Anschel notes.

Nooks & Crannies

Though the homeowners started with more ambitious plans, their budget confined them to a full bath remodel, as well as a kitchen spruce-up, an upper half-story redesign and a nursery update.

When it came time to redo the bath, the owners had numerous requirements, such as updating the home's original bath to add storage while making the small 5'x6' room feel more spacious. "However," notes Anschel, "we couldn't move any walls or doors."

So Anschel created a visual cubbies motif to lend more storage and spaciousness to the bath. Recesses were installed into the walls, going back to the wall studs of the plaster-and-lathe house. "At the back of each cubby is a piece of very thin drywall that's glued to the lathe of the opposite side of the wall," he explains.

"We chipped out all of the old mortar, glued the drywall to the back of the lathe, framed these little boxes, and then dry-walled them," Anschel continues.

To add more depth, Anschel used five different paint colors from Benjamin Moore. "By forcing the eye to stop as it moves around the room, it gives the illusion of [more] space," the designer says.

Multiple colors also help define space. "I call it the permanent shadow theory... You force an object to become three-dimensional by deciding which planes will stay in shadow all of the time, whether bright light is shining on them or not," offers Anschel.

"If a bright light shines on an object, it usually flattens out. We want to make sure that doesn't happen, so we'll use different shades of a color or different colors entirely to create that effect. When you do that, the eye typically likes to register the object it's looking at before it moves on to the next object. So, it slows the eye down as it moves across the room," he elaborates.

Anschel also notes that while a few of the cubbies are placed symmetrically, most are placed asymmetrically, adding to the illusion of depth. "The more detail you add to a structure, the more the eye slows to take it all in," he believes. "The cubbies are not all the same height or size, so as the eye goes around, it has to actually register each as an individual piece."

Each small cubby acts as a minimal storage placement area, and a space for decoration. Larger cubbies act as the major storage areas.

One of the larger ones is located along the back wall of the bath. Measuring about 2'Dx1'Hx1'W, the recess is designed to hold toiletries and other items, and hides behind a panel, where the bulk of the storage is," Anschel notes.

"There's also a recessed medicine cabinet for toothbrushes, etc. [behind the mirror above the sink]" he adds.

An open cubby, made of blue tile and located underneath the mirror, holds soap dishes and other toiletry items for the sink.

Even the toilet paper roll is recessed into a cubby. "Before, it was sticking into your knees while you were sitting there," notes Anschel. With the new recessed design, the whole area is more functional – and spacious.

Fixture Focus

Adjacent to the toilet paper recess sits a new Memoirs Comfort Height toilet from Kohler Co. in white, coordinating with the new white pedestal sink, also from Kohler. The sink is finished with chrome faucets from Delta Faucet Co.

The shower was given new faucets from American Standard in a satin nickel finish, but the tub was resurfaced in white to stay within the budget.

Replacing the dated pink and aqua tile that originally surrounded the tub is white tile, which is broken up by large yellow squares of tile set in a diamond pattern. A thin line of blue tiles also divides the white tile into an upper and lower section for more detail.

"We were looking to make it airy and light – putting color in there, but not oversaturating the environment with color," Anschel recalls.

A recess in the shower, backed with the yellow tile, holds shampoo, toiletries and towels, complementing the cubby motif.

To keep with the era of the home, the owners requested 1" hexagon tile flooring. Anschel used flat-cut tiles – rather than tiles with a beveled edge – in white with a real matte finish.

"It's a very traditional floor for that period of home," Anschel comments.

The owners' desire for natural light meant keeping the placement of the large window in the shower, notes Anschel. And, budget constraints meant that the designer needed to work with the original wood window.

To enhance the shower's privacy while allowing for the requested natural light, Anschel replaced the clear glass panes in the French inswing window with frosted glass.

"The owners can also open the window when they're not in the shower and have more light coming through," he states.

Through the use of some new fixtures, paint and ingenuity, the bath in this showhouse underwent a dramatic transformation without dramatic alterations, believes the designer.

"Though it was a [true] budget project, it proved to be successful," concludes Anschel.