Naturally focused

When reflecting on this home’s lakefront location, interior designer Robin Colton of Robin Colton Studio, Austin, Texas, had the idea to remodel the bathroom in such a way as to showcase how a rustic design can be contemporary, and vice versa. “They have a beautiful view of the lake from the second story,” Colton says. “The home had a very casual, comfortable lake house feel we wanted to continue into the bathroom.

“That was the starting point — the idea of making sure the home felt very connected with nature. The concept became the idea of outdoor showering and bathing,” she continues. A curvilinear structure with steel supports and ipe hardwood slats defines the shower space. It was finished with hand-troweled textural concrete to lend a soft, natural look. “We wanted to bring that idea inside and make it feel like you were actually outside,” she explains.

Colton also designed the room so the owners could bathe vertically or horizontally, mimicking the feeling of being in the rain or lying in a stream. As such, the tub deck was extended with a bench wide and long enough for someone to lie on and is surrounded by five body sprays. The tub is large enough for two and is designed — thanks to a ceiling-mounted filter — so the water can spill over the sides then redirect into the tub without losing water level.


Time and reality

This bathroom was featured on the HGTV and DIY Network’s television show “Bath Crashers.” The show operates on the premise that the host, Matt Muenster, approaches a random, unsuspecting couple in a home improvement store and offers to remodel their bathroom. Muenster brings in a team of experts, including Colton and Austin-based GreenTex Builders, to tear out the old bathroom and make a new one — all in the time frame of a mere three days.

“It’s a whirlwind process,” Colton remembers. “Normally a bathroom could take six weeks to remodel, but this is accomplished in three days. I showed up midway through the first day. The team had started early and already had the floor and subfloor ripped out. I’ve never seen the chaos that was in that bathroom. There were probably 20 to 25 guys working in there at all times.”

Colton said one of the keys to meeting such an aggressive time table was to ensure all necessary paperwork with the city was filed and to have all materials onsite. “Normally you might order and wait for the plumbing fixtures, or subs are working on different jobs so there are delays there,” she says. “That can’t happen with this type of turnaround.”


Indoor forestry

“Just because it was a lake house bathroom didn’t necessarily mean it needed to feel very rustic or like an imitation of the outdoors on the inside,” Colton says. “It was more about bringing elements of the outdoors in.” An obvious way to achieve this was to bring a plant inside, but Colton exercised creativity, took the less obvious route and instead burned a tree silhouette onto a wall made of reclaimed barn wood.

Muenster and one of the homeowners sketched a tree silhouette onto a 4x8 piece of plywood, cut out the silhouette, soaked the plywood with water and nailed it to the wall. With the wet plywood in place, which acted as a stencil, they used a blowtorch to scorch the tree’s silhouette on the barn wood wall, then removed the plywood so all that remained was the burned-in image.

The dark, late-gray color finish of the 10-ft. vanity embodies the night sky while the curved, solid-cast glass sink mimics water’s calm. Even the element of fire was incorporated: Colton transformed one wall into a double-sided fireplace.

Measuring just more than 400 sq. ft., the bathroom radiates a classy, contemporary vibe. “To keep it from feeling too rustic or outdoorsy, I wanted to have a nice blend of modern and rustic where the rustic looks updated,” she says. “A lot of times people will say modern is cold and has hard lines, but it’s all about the context. If you take a rugged barn wood wall and put it with something like the vanity, which has very modern clean lines, each one helps tame the qualities of the other so they blend together nicely. You don’t end up with a modern space that feels cold and uninviting or a rustic space that feels like you need to pull the grass out from between your toes when you’re done.”