Bath Transformation Embodies Elegance and Grace

Marilyn Monroe brought a certain aura of sophistication to the big screen during her relatively brief acting career. However, her likeness captured in a black-framed poster that adorned the 1970’s-era master bath wall of this home in Minneapolis, MN, did not embody the same grace and elegance.

In fact, the entire bath, while functional, was only that…functional, and lacking any style. “It fit the requirements for being a bath, but offered little else,” says Paul Knutson, Knutson Residential Design, in St. Paul, MN. The residential designer worked with general contractor Ben Quie and Sons to transform the space into an award-winning bath that captured the 2014 NKBA award for best ‘Before & After Bath’ and the 2014 Regional Chrysalis Award.


Gaining Architectural Cohesiveness

The clients had actually considered selling the house before the renovation because the bath just didn't fit the rest of the house. “It really affected the way they were looking at the entire home,” he says. “They were ready to move out and find something that was already renovated, in a style they both liked.”

A number of aesthetic and functional challenges prevented them from enjoying the space. Visually, the bath lacked cohesiveness with the rest of the house, especially with the master bedroom, making it difficult for the couple to consider it a ‘master suite.’

There was little in the way of sophistication or refinement, and poor material and color choices made the space feel dark and dreary. Functionally, it felt small and cramped, despite its relatively large size. The bathing, vanity and toilet areas were poorly organized and disconnected. Inadequate lighting made the space feel dark and static and storage was limited, with the bulk of it inconveniently located in a hall closet.

“They were looking for something that fit their style, with a little more elegance and grace,” he says.

With a laundry list of challenges, Knutson set out to give the couple a glowing, traditional bath with the same sophistication and cohesive architectural vocabulary as the rest of the home, all while providing a more open and organized plan with better lighting and storage.

Knutson started with the entrance to the bath, widening it and adding 30" French doors accented with frosted glass. “When they enter the bath, it feels like they’re walking into a special place,” he says.

The designer enriched the aesthetics by including 4"x12" Manhattan Calcutta marble floor tiles in a honed finish, laid in a herringbone pattern. He accented it with an inlaid marble tile ‘rug’ that is bordered with New Ravenna Verdi Alpi mosaics.“ It really makes an impact,” he says. “It’s rich and graphic.”

Knutson then upped the ante by adding silver leaf – crafted by a local artisan – to the tray ceiling. “The flooring and the ceiling make the design stand out,” he says.

Additional enhancements to the ceiling include a Schonbek crystal chandelier that “throws a bit of light around the room” while adding a level of sophistication and refinement. It also provides an important layer of light that complements the Restoration Hardware sconces that frame the custom mirrors.

“We introduced a layered lighting scheme that allows for optimal and flexible light levels throughout the day,” he explains. A light palette and reflective surfaces – including the lacquered, custom white cabinetry from Aanes Furniture Company and Titanium granite vanity top – add to the bright, fresh feel of the space.

A tiled niche above the BainUltra Naos freestanding air tub, which is highlighted with a Brizo open channel faucet, offers a place to display flowers or artwork.


Enhanced functionality

Functionally, Knutson reconfigured the space, organizing it to make it more useful. In that effort, he treated the bathing, vanity and toilet areas as individual, formal compositions, “using symmetry and a repetitive rectangular motif (the tile ‘rug’, the niche, tray ceiling, shower pan and mirrors) to connect them to one another for a more unified architectural expression,” he explains. The repetitive use of rectangular recesses not only unifies the bath, but connects it to similar forms found in the master bedroom,” he adds.

While the toilet couldn’t be moved, the designer added surrounding custom furniture-style cabinets that help address the homeowners’ storage concerns. “She loves all of the storage we created for her,” says the designer. “Previously she had to go through the bedroom and into the hall closet to get items such as linens and tissue. Now she has enough space to house toiletries in the bathroom.”

Knutson also reconfigured the vanity area, actually decreasing its footprint while improving functionality. The new vanity, which features Kohler sinks and Brizo faucets, is nearly 8.5' long. The previous L-shaped vanity was a mix of ‘his’ and ‘hers,’” he says. “There was no definition. Now, each has clearly defined spaces.”

The new shower features glass and marble mosaics, glass walls – which help to open up the space – and multiple showerheads that add to the luxurious bathing experience.

“The clients just love their new master bath,” says Knutson. “She told me that she goes into the space every day and says ‘I love my new bath!’ At first it seemed like something sweet that someone would say to another person who helped turn their space into their dream. But it’s more than that. She really does love her new bath!”