The Ahh in Spa
Comfy Glamour Bath Remodel

by Melissa Lefelar

Spec houses are built by design to appeal to the widest common denominator. Colors, fixtures and other appointments are chosen specifically to avoid strong emotions. While you’ll probably not see something that you simply love, you’ll certainly not see anything that you absolutely hate. It’s like vanilla ice cream that hopefully a prospective buyer can imagine with any topping. But what if you don’t even like ice cream? What if you are a true foodie and prefer poached pears in brandy or a nice cheese plate. That’s how this Solon couple felt when looking at their master bath. .. Gourmets presented with plain vanilla ice cream.

The approximately 12’x14’ master bath was claustrophobic. To address the need for linen storage, the builder had framed in a closet that jutted out into the room, overshadowing the lone sink and crowding the toilet. The tiled shower was also tight. Its framed-in walls enclosed the foot of the corner jetted tub and made the entrance to the room seem narrow. The single standard-size window on the far wall let in limited light. “It was dark, outdated and simply not attractive,” explained the homeowner. “It didn’t make you think master bath.”

Familiar with interior designer Mark Wyant, the homeowners contacted his Akron-based firm to assist in the redesign of their space. Since 1988, Wyant & Associates has been envisioning both residential and commercial spaces throughout Northeast Ohio and the US. Originally from Ohio, Wyant developed a reputation for innovative architectural design while working for well-known design firms in New York, such as Angela Donghia. He prides himself on totally deconstructing a floor plan in order to re-form it around its function to serve. “It is truly the difference between design and decorating,” explains Wyant. “Anyone can paint a wall or throw in some fabric, but it is something else to create or alter a space specifically around the people living within it.”

“The first thing Mark did was ask me to really think about how I was going to use the space. I really use my bathroom,” smiled the homeowner. “I get ready in the mornings there. Plus, I’m a bath taker. I like to soak at night.” The design sketch demolished the intruding closet, allowing for a new L-shaped counter and cabinetry punctuated with a short armoire for storage. The shower was also due for demolition and redone with glass walls to let the light from the new bank of windows shine through the entire room. Wyant then recommended using a pocket door to replace the awkward closet door that swung into the space. The concept was a bright room that would automatically relax and pamper the user.

The homeowners hired Jay Banister of WSI Construction to fulfill Wyant’s vision. “I love it when I walk into a project and there is a designer involved, especially at this level of remodeling – it is vital,” declared Banister. “Mark has great ideas and my job is to make them come to life for the homeowner in the most cost efficient and effective way possible.” The biggest challenge for Banister’s Kent-based crew would be tearing out most of the wall to install the bank of picture windows. “Jay is great to work with,” said Wyant. “He pays close attention to small details and that makes all the difference.”

With the demolition planned, it was time to make some choices. The granite countertop was the natural starting point. “We went together to O’Brien Cut Stone and I had her pick out several patterns of granite that she liked,” said Wyant. “Then we went over the pros and cons of each one. This one would mean this type of color palette; that one will work with certain stains on the cabinets.” Eventually the pair settled on a dramatic slab of “Ivory Coast” with veins of brown and grey through fields of white and clear quartz.

Jay Funkhauser of O’Brien Cut Stone, has worked with Wyant on several projects and enjoys assisting in the design process. “We laid out the entire project on the stone in our showroom. It took nearly three hours to figure out just how to cut it. It was a challenge because the stone has such beautiful movement in the pattern. We pride ourselves on creating nearly invisible seams.” Besides cutting the countertops, Funkhauser also helped Wyant and the homeowner create inset shelves in the shower and a custom top for the built-in armoire. “O’Brien does amazing work,” exclaimed Wyant. “Just look at the gorgeous threshold into the walk-in closet they created by taking a scrap piece from the counter and framing it with black granite.”

The main color palette decided on by Wyant and the homeowners was quite obviously rooted in the granite selection, but could just as easily have been inspired by the winter view outside. “I love nature,” explained the homeowner. “We wanted to bring that into the room.” The deep tones of fallen leaves and stark tree trunks are echoed in the deep brown cabinets and the espresso walls. The plush white towels foretell coming snow that will soon fall on the very private backyard. The single hung windows were obviously chosen to minimize any distraction from the expansive views. They serve as a living canvas of Ohio nature that stretches across the far wall and wraps around the corner tub.

This is where the influence of the outdoors ends. No roughing it here…pure spa comfort and indulgence are the standard. The heated floor immediately imparts a sense of comfort and well-being. Designed to stand out, the floor is composed of large tiles painted to suggest pieces of slate intermixed with strands of small double 3/8 x 3/8 white marble squares. This same pattern is replicated in the back wall of the shower but in earth-tones. The sleek windows are topped by a brushed metallic valance that hides electric blinds, which glide smoothly into place when privacy is needed. The heated towel bar is the man of the house’s favorite addition, guaranteeing a welcomingly dry, warm towel every time.

Choosing the right elements for the perfect bathing experience was important to the homeowner, who “lives in the bathroom.” Wrapped by windows, the corner tub is nestled in more granite. The Thermo-Masseur by Bain Ultra was specially chosen by the homeowner for its advanced air jet system that allows the use of salts, oils or bubble bath. The tub also dries itself automatically. The spacious glass-enclosed shower offers both wall-mounted body jets, as well as two massage showerheads; one mounted on a bar so that the height would be adjustable. To ensure the perfect shower, the homeowner was measured before the installation so that the jets would provide the most therapeutic benefit.

While many of the room’s details are subtle, the large mirrors stretching above the L-shaped counter are anything but. “She came to me with these glass mosaic tiles that she just loved,” said Wyant, “so I found a way to use them in the design.” The pearlescent tile offers glimmers of fuchsia, blue and green against the dark wood suggestive of inlaid mother of pearl. WSI Construction framed in the tile and mirrors to boldly reach the ceiling. The confluence of homeowner inspiration, designer vision and meticulous implementation has created a piece of art that anchors the room.

Wyant put his trademark emphasis on functional design by paying particular attention to the inside of the cabinetry. By repurposing drawers originally designed for spices, he created a uniquely organized home for the couples’ medicines. Utensil drawers hold accessories close at hand on either side of the his-and-hers sinks. Floating trays and double drawers with removable separators show careful thought about storage. The counters were set at bar height making sitting to do hair and makeup more comfortable. Hooks were installed underneath so that the hairdryer and other implements could hang unseen. WSI Construction worked with Wyant to hide every outlet, yet make them accessible. The homeowner loves that everything has its place and is easy to find. “It has truly enhanced my life. I wake up in the morning looking forward to getting ready.” Her husband also loves the lack of clutter. “They installed an outlet inside the armoire so that I could recharge my razor there instead of on the counter,” he explained. “It just makes sense.”

It is this type of attention to detail that really makes the room look and perform luxuriously. The use of metallics, the crisp contrast of colors and light create a very urban feel. These things merely provide a base upon which small luxuries, generous curves and rich appointments are layered, making the somewhat small room seem very lush and open. It is saved from being too stark and modern by the warmth of earth-tone paint and tile, and the furniture feel of the footed cabinets with paneled drawers. The armoire cabinet on the end is set at just the right height to avoid overpowering anything. It’s topped with a mix of light and dark granite, giving the impression of that art deco opulence without the distracting motifs.

The half bath downstairs also required Wyant’s creative approach. An unusually long L-shaped room with a high ceiling felt “like a long hallway,” explained Wyant. “The idea was to make the space more accessible and proportional without undergoing the expense of new construction.” To this end, the existing flooring, walls and toilet were left intact. To create a cozier atmosphere, Wyant had WSI Construction create a flyover, or floating frame, to suspend from the ceiling. “It was a real test of skill,” exclaimed Banister. “The measurements and cut had to be perfect since it was such a tight space.” The flyover is covered in a sage and sienna-colored grass cloth wallpaper to give it substance, then backlit with rope lighting and holds several can lights. New sconces were placed to either side of the sink, creating a soft glow, rather than dramatic shadows cast by the overly bright ones originally set above the sink.

Where the upstairs bathroom suggests art deco, the half bath has just a hint of Asian flair to add drama to its clean lines. The soft taupe of the walls is picked up from the glass raised vessel sink. The dark granite countertop ends in a large convex curve above the curved-face cabinet. This is echoed by the negative curve of the granite shelf installed just above the Jado faucet. “I like to design around opposing shapes to create a tension and yet maintain balance in the room,” explained Wyant. Like a Japanese reflecting pool, the mirrored wall behind the sink helps to fool the eye by elongating the granite forms, so that the entire fixture seems to reach out to the visitor. To tie it all together, the woven paper of the dropped ceiling is picked up again as matting for the oriental-style leaf print above the toilet.

It is no wonder the homeowner is radiant when talking about all the features of her new bathrooms. “Working with Mark was so easy. He really listened to me, but wasn’t afraid to disagree when necessary,” she said. “Every time he pushed me just outside my comfort zone, it turned out spectacular.” Banister agrees from a construction viewpoint. “I love the complete package. Mark had a vision and the homeowner really gave me the freedom to bring it to life.” Wyant’s subtle layers of luxury on top of a simple base of pure functionality have turned these generic rooms into showpieces and places of retreat for the homeowners.

Back to the top >