Blank Canvas Becomes Open, Airy Master Bath

Portland, OR — When Liz Murray’s clients first approached her about remodeling their late 1930s/early 1940s dwelling, they were looking for a classic, traditional style to go with the time period of their home. But after they remodeled a second residence in Brazil that featured open rooms and clean lines, they asked Murray to rethink the direction of their Portland project.

“They found they liked the openness,” says the owner of Liz Murray Interior Space Planning and Design, in nearby Lake Oswego. “But they wanted to maintain some of the classic features of the home – such as the windows, hardwood floors, fireplace and stairwell. They wanted to keep the original elements of the architecture intact, but give the space a more airy feel…more urban chic.”

The entire project included three levels, which features a theater, bar, bathroom and full-size laundry on the lower level; the kitchen, foyer and powder, dining and living rooms on the main level; and bedrooms and bathrooms on the upper level.

When it came to remodeling the master suite, Murray reworked a portion of the upstairs, renovating a guest bedroom into the new master bath, and turning the existing master bath into a walk-in closet. That gave the designer a blank canvas to create a space that more than doubled in size to just over 180 square feet.

Focal points

Murray initially opened up the space by vaulting the ceiling to 10 feet. “The roof line and the architecture are intact, but it provides more head space and clean lines,” says the designer.

The open, airy feeling is maintained with back-to-back floating vanities and a large shower with partial glass enclosure. Murray identifies both as focal points for the room.

The streamlined cabinetry – rift white oak with flat-faced doors that were custom designed by Murray and crafted by Elite Woodworks, Inc. – features finger pulls instead of traditional hardware to preserve a flush look. The same cabinetry is used throughout the home to provide a continuous, uncomplicated look.

Its back-to-back design in the master bath offers a unique twist on the clients’ desire for individual his/her sink areas. “My clients wanted separate spaces, separate counters,” she says. “But they didn’t necessarily have to be next to each other. I offered several designs and we kept coming back to this one.”

The vanities are topped with Mocha Cream limestone. The same material – in honed, large-format tiles – sheaths the floor and shower. Radiant floor heat keeps the space warm and dry. Duravit Caro white sinks are highlighted with wall-mounted Axor Cittiero faucets in a polished chrome finish.

The backsplash is created with Ann Sacks iridescent white and glass mosaics in a custom Breeze blend. Stacked horizontally, they provide a balanced design to those stacked vertically in the shower. “Classic design typically incorporates mosaics,” she says. “Stacking them vertically is sort of a bridge between the old and new.”

Their iridescence also creates interest, Murray notes. “Light plays beautifully on them,” she explains. “The band in the shower was designed to simulate water. When you step one way or the other, light plays on it and it ‘dances’.”

His/her medicine cabinets are recessed into the wall, while back-to-back mirrors are accented with side and pendant lights. Benches match the vanities and provide functional storage as well as a place to sit.

The large, walk-in shower includes several customized features, such as a toiletry niche and anti-fog shaving mirror, tailored specifically to match the height of Murray’s client. Hansgrohe showerheads – including stationary, handheld and rainhead/ceiling mount models – feature thermostatic valves to maintain temperature.

A bench, with a floating design, hovers over a trough drain to maintain clean lines.

Saving space

To the left of the shower, Murray incorporated a water closet with a Geberit concealed tank and carrier system that let the designer hide the toilet tank inside the wall, in a model that allows installation between 2"x4" studs. The wall-hung Duravit Caro toilet maintains the wall-mount theme created with the vanities, faucets and shower bench. The Geberit Tango actuator plate pairs well with other plumbing fixtures used throughout the space. “Because you don’t have to have the tank, you can save space,” she notes.

Adjacent to the water closet, Murray turned the former guest bedroom closet into a space for a urinal, which also features a concealed tank design and actuator plate by Geberit and a Duravit unit.

“It was a challenge to find space for the urinal that allowed for easy access without making it a focal point,” she says. “The former closet was a perfect choice.

Final touches

Murray’s clients also requested that a washer and dryer be included in the master bath to eliminate the need to walk up and down two flights of stairs to the main laundry room. The designer accommodated that wish by adding a stacked washer and dryer behind frosted glass doors just to the right of the shower. Shelving offers additional storage.

Murray rounded out the design with customized lighting that includes a large, 3' diameter fabric/paper pendant drum light combined with cove lighting, concealed under-the-vanity lighting and task lighting. “I used a variety of different lighting to achieve that open airy look my clients wanted,” she says.

Finally, Murray covered the walls in a flat white finish that allows the art to speak. “My clients are art collectors,” she relates. “They have a lot of color in their pieces. On white walls, they really pop. It offers more contrast, giving it a gallery-like feel.”