Euro-Style Bath Remodel Spotlights Form and Function

Some people, when faced with a challenge, tend to give up the chase. Gerard Ciccarello, CMKBD, turned the chase into a shelf.

Last year, Ciccarello was hired to design a master bath for a client's upscale condominium, located here. The owner of Westbrook, CT-based Covenant Kitchens and Baths, Inc. faced limited space and several immovable obstructions, chief among them a chimney chase jutting out from the corner of the room. Rather than throwing in the towel, however, Ciccarello built a place to store it.

"There was a chimney in the one corner that we had to work around," says Ciccarello, "and we recessed the medicine cabinets in the space that was in front of that. In wanting to put the shower there, I had to increase the wall that the chimney was part of. That created a void, so instead of just wasting it, we popped a little medicine cabinet in there, and that worked out pretty well." These cabinets, mounted without doors, allowed for the storage of hand towels and other smaller items.

Knock On Wood
The clients, a professional couple with no children, had lived in their country-style condo for several years and felt it was time to update the house -- in particular, the master bath.

Ciccarello applied "a very European kind of feel" to the room, which was exactly what the clients wanted. "In terms of describing the look and feel, that was a description they used that we tried to incorporate in," he notes.

"The wife [also] wanted a very rich, elegant feel to the room. So the wood we chose for the cabinets and the tile were really the major players in the look and feel of the space," continues Ciccarello, who also redesigned the couple's kitchen.

After considering several options for the master bath, the couple ultimately chose mahogany for the cabinets and tumbled marble tile for the floor. Holly Winslow of Elements/Tile America in New Haven, CT, was brought in to create the tile design, and Heirloom Cabinetry of Mifflintown, PA, provided the cabinetry. The remodeling and construction work was performed by Killingworth, CT-based general contractor Bogel Builders, with Ciccarello overseeing the project, and providing design plans and materials.

The "wains" panels of the cabinetry drove the design of the bath. The clients had chosen them because they wanted wood in the tub area, but did not want a laminate or painted finish. Thus, the mahogany was picked to lend the room a rich texture, notes Ciccarello.

The tiles, Ciccarello continues, were also "a big winner" with the clients, adding a classic touch to the design. "The mahogany cabinetry, the furniture details… [and] the tumbled marble all did a lot to add to the elegance of the room," he remarks.

Unfortunately, the existing room conditions were inadequate for Ciccarello's plans. The bath had originally been designed as two separate rooms, with a sink located outside the bath area. To meet his design's own specifications, Ciccarello utilized the space of an adjoining walk-in closet, adding it to the bathroom space. This allowed him to enlarge the room, gaining enough space to fit both a shower unit and a jetted tub.

Jet Therapy
The tub was a necessity due to medical limitations on the part of the husband, notes Ciccarello. Thus, he chose a MAAX Topaz tub with eight jets, an inline heater and a 6" grab bar with mahogany wains panels surrounding the base, a marble deck along the top and a removable middle panel for access to the tub's pump and inner workings.

"He had a bad back," Ciccarello recalls, "and that particular tub we chose has the best concentration of jets I've ever seen, right along the back and neck area. I spoke to the clients a year-plus after doing the job, and they said they still use that tub a lot. [So] I think that was a big plus in terms of fixtures."

A broad archway was also built over the tub area to emphasize it. "The client had seen something similar in a magazine, and I incorporated it into the design," explains Ciccarello. His original plans had called for a more elaborate design than what was ultimately built, with additional cabinet detailing and molding details.

When that design threatened to bring the project in over budget, however, he simplified the design with a new window and a simple sheetrock arch above it. "Then we used those cubbies -- the towel cubbies at each end of the tub -- and that was enough to dress up that space," he notes.

Previously, the couple had only a small window and a strip of lights mounted over a mirror, which provided inadequate lighting for the whole space. To provide more light, the designer installed a larger window right above the tub. "It was on the private part of the yard," Ciccarello explains, "so [privacy] wasn't so much of a concern."

In addition, recessed can lights were installed in the ceiling, and a light was added above the shower. Wall fixtures were then placed in front of the mirrors to disperse light in the room. All lights were switched independently, allowing the
clients to adjust the lighting levels to their liking.

Thanks to its placement and the lighting, the tub now serves as a focus for the bath design. "When you walk into the room," Ciccarello says, "your eye is drawn to that end of the room with the larger window, the arch in the ceiling and the cabinet paneling detail."

Coming Together
The designer installed undermount Kohler Linia sinks with Roman/Classic Travertine countertops and 18" towel bars adjacent to the tub on either side. A knee wall was built near the toilet for privacy, and a subdued palm tree design was used for the wall treatment.

Overall, Ciccarello feels he brought a sense of balance to this master bath, and to the house as a whole. By combining two existing small spaces, he created a larger room that was actually quite long, but in placing the tub at one end, he managed to avoid any overt problems with proportion. Moreover, by placing "his and hers" sinks on either side of the room, he helped to reinforce the state of equilibrium.

"There's a balance to the whole room, just even with the tub itself," the designer points out. "You have the cubbies on each end and the window right in the center, but also in the room you've got a vanity on each wall, and that adds to some balance. And then the heavier, kind of bulkier items are at either end. The tub sits at one end, the shower and linen cabinet are at the other, and the focal point would be the tub area."

This coordination of material choices, he says, made the room come together.
"Tying those elements together, I think they were coordinated well here -- even the mirrors. If you looked at this room just on a floorplan view, yeah it would make sense and be functional, but the materials choices were very key in terms of making this room sing," he concludes.

Project Highlights

  • A chimney in the corner may have seemed a difficult obstacle to overcome, but Gerard Ciccarello, CMKBD, used it to his advantage. He extended the chase out a bit and built recessed shelving above the counter, providing both storage and a sense of balance.
  • The clients asked Ciccarello to pack a lot into a small room, so the designer fused two spaces into a single master bath. By placing a shower at one end of the room and a jetted tub at the other, he maintained a sense of balance in a space that might otherwise have seemed too long.
  • The jetted tub, a MAAX model with fluted 'wains' surround panels, was required in order to soothe the husband's sore back.
  • Mahogany wains panel cabinets and a broad arch detail above the window were driving elements in the room's design, adding a rich, dark texture to the room that resulted in an elegant European feel.
  • To make up for the loss of a linen closet -- which was absorbed into the bath design to make more room -- additional linen storage was built into the head and foot of the tub, while the couple's clothes closet was made bigger.
  • Products include: a MAAX Topaz jetted tub with fluting; two Kohler Linia sinks; Roman/Classic Travertine countertops; tumbled marble floor tiling; two 18" towel bars; Kohler Revival shower trim and tub fill, and a Kohler toilet, handshower, paper holder, trip lever, robe hook, faucets and grab bar.