Master Bath Combines Classic Style with Modern Function

BALTIMORE, MD What do you do with a small, skinny master bath that lacks heat and blocks the natural light from one of the few windows in a master suite? Gut it and start from scratch, of course.

That's exactly what designer Jean McHale did for this master bath, located in the Homeland community here. "It was a small, old-fashioned, colonial-type house, originally with one bath. To gain an extra bath, the previous owners simply walled off one end of the master bedroom, cutting off the light from one of the windows. There was no room for the husband and wife to brush their teeth at the same time. It didn't even have heat because of the location of the heating ducts," explains McHale, president and CEO of Gaines McHale Antiques, also based here. "It was one of the most challenging baths I've ever worked on."

When the new owners a couple with older children came to McHale for a better design solution for their 4.25'x16' master bath, she felt the only thing to do was to completely tear it out and start anew. However, there was no way to expand the size of the bath.

Forced to stay within the existing footprint, McHale began reworking the layout, cleverly tweaking it to maximize its function and give the owners exactly what they wanted, which included a full shower and two sinks.


Upon assessing the bath, McHale found the door to the bath was off center. "It was offset enough so that it blocked the light from the window into the bedroom," she explains. Her solution was replace it with a 30"-wide pocket door and move it so that it was on center with the window and could let the light in from the window in the bath.

As a result, McHale saw an opportunity to create a focal point that could be seen from the bedroom. "Since there was no other place in the bath to place the sink except under the window, I decided to make it a focal point and installed a cut-glass vessel sink under the window," she relates.

In order to place the 21" sink and the above-deck, brass faucet in such a way so as not to block the window on which she used the wife's choice of window treatments she lowered the height of the custom vanity, which she designed and her firm built from reconstructed wood.

"They didn't want regular kitchen or bath cabinets, so I saw this Louis XVI cabinet and was inspired to design the vanity. I bowed out the front of the vanity a little bit to accommodate the vessel sink, then installed some 15"-deep cabinets on either side," explains McHale. This made sense because there was no room for a bank of deep cabinetry that could accommodate a sink.

Designing the vanity and the rest of the cabinetry this way also gave the bath some visual interest. She had all of the cabinetry hand-painted in an off-white color, then glazed and distressed it to make it look aged.

To give the owners the extra room to brush their teeth at the same time, McHale devised a clever solution. "Because the space constraints were so challenging, there was no way to include a second sink inside the master bath," recalls McHale. "So instead, I designed a bedside table, in the same style as the bath cabinetry, that conceals a second working sink in copper under a table top finished with coppery glass tile that opens up. It's located next to the bath 3" from the wall, where it's plumbed in through the wall. That's how I got around the double sinks in the bath. It looks amazing, and I think it's one of the most interesting things about the design."

On the other side of that wall in the bath, McHale was able to conceal the Duravit wall-mounted toilet behind a short retaining wall, she notes.

On the opposite side of the bath, McHale gave the owners the full shower that they really wanted. She enlarged it, finished the floor with glass mosaic tile surrounded by a tile border, and hung a glass door to maintain a more open feel in the small space.

Inside, she installed 19"-wide, flip-down seat, an 18"Wx21" H shampoo/soap niche, a rainfall showerhead, a hand-held shower spray, several body sprays and a center drain. She also carried in the same tiles and border tiles she used on the bottom half of the bath walls, and tiled the top half of the shower in 12"x12" tiles on the diagonal.

McHale addressed the lack of heat by installing a Runtal Omnipanel flat-panel radiant heater/towel warmer.

Lastly, to tie the bedside table/extra sink and her whole master bath design to the bedroom, she designed an antique French headboard for the king-size bed.

Complementing the look as well is an Empire armoire and a wall with British closets containing grill work. Finally, fabrics chosen by the wife completes the look, McHale concludes.