Bathroom Style is definitely square!
Bentleyville house sports modern dressing room

By Jennifer Atkins

Modern is not a typical home style seen in Northeast Ohio. There’s the perception that modern architecture is cold and box-like, but the style, which focuses on clean lines, simplicity and functionality, is often airy and inviting, not to mention fascinating. It’s of little surprise that Bob and Debbie Darden lean towards the clean, artsy yet often industrial look, since the busy couple builds commercial and retail sites through their family-owned construction firm, The Darden Company. “We have always wanted to build from the ground up,” explained Debbie. “So when we had maxed out our current lot…we’d added on until you just couldn’t go anywhere but up anymore... Bob and I started looking for a lot.”

Having found the perfect spot on Liberty Road, the Dardens approached Herschman Architects who had worked closely with them on many commercial projects in the past. “They wanted a house that they could build [through their construction company],” explained founder and project lead Jerry Herschman. Herschman Architects specialize in mostly modern commercial buildings, but also pride themselves on their extremely custom home designs. “We’ve been doing stuff like this for a long time and the key is the little details – things that you won’t expect.” There are certainly many intriguing details throughout the Dardens home. Herschman’s design creates the illusion of a series of geometric planes that intersect, but never quite meet. This is partially accomplished with hanging flyovers floating over the living space, which provide light that shines both up and down. Base molding was eliminated, instead the floors end with a clean finish against a recessed beige wall, that are then covered by additional walls or panels that begin several inches above the flooring. Finally, large windows virtually disappear against the beautiful Bentleyville landscape. The structure itself is the decoration, a celebration of the beauty and simplicity of industrial materials and a study of line and volume.

It’s no surprise that the home is beautiful given the time and personal attention the Dardens were able to give by serving as general contractors. Of course it also helped that the couple had a clear vision in mind. This is true for their master bath as well. “We were always making notes… ‘in the next house, I want to have…’ lists,” explained Deb. “ We poured over all the home and architectural magazines and created a binder. We actually saw a bathroom that merged with the master closet in one of those ‘great bathroom’ magazines.” The room is large and uber-functional, combining the master walk-in closets with the master bath into a single dressing room.

“When you stop to think about it, this room is private as a bathroom, but also by its very nature as the only truly interior room in the house,” mused Hershman. “We wanted to make it very functional and then sound-proofed all the walls, so that someone could utilize it without disturbing anyone else.” As a mom of three (two fairly young), Debbie had other practical needs as well. “With the original layout, we would have had to walk a long way around to get to the kids’ rooms,” said Debbie. “I wanted a door so that I could get there fast if someone needed me.” To that end, what is the most unique feature of the room was created...the “secret door.” From inside the master dressing room, the door looks just like any other, but…just try to enter from the outer hallway! This hallway accesses the children’s rooms and is lined on one side with mahogany panels, a source of both architectural beauty and sound-proofing for the master suite behind them. To keep the look consistent, the “secret door” was created to be hidden behind one of the panels in the more public hallway.

Besides the general structure of the room, the other challenge would be keeping the dressing room focused on being very functional, yet consistent with the look of the entire house. After all, cubes and rectangles are not typically the shapes that come to mind when thinking of a bathroom. Yet, these geometric forms are the theme throughout the Darden’s home. To maintain an overall home aesthetic, small features of design are always used to create a consistent background upon which the picture of each individual room is painted. For example, every room has radiant heat, floating walls and neutral but warm colors. The dressing room would also need to blend with the very artistic finishing of the master suite. Dark wood panels reach and stretch across the walls of the master, and even the ceiling, to emphasize the shape and volume of the room. This creates a wide band of color that eliminates the need for artwork, as well as serving as the headboard in the modern bedroom.

The design of the dressing room picks up on this banding treatment, but offers a new perspective. Where the master features dark panels to bring attention to the volume of the room, the dressing room does the opposite, using light to create that same feeling of expansive space. The two-person open shower, whirlpool tub and island create a band of solid fixtures. This visual anchor allows the space to seemingly pull away from the center of the room, making it feel expansive. Additionally, the room is crowned with a long rectangular skylight that opens the space vertically and brings in natural light. “On a clear day, you can see the tops of the trees as you shower,” points out Debbie. “It’s great for knowing how to dress, you can tell it’s raining right away.” To offset the often dark Cleveland sky, large sconces flank the recessed space providing a constant source of light from above.

The geometric lines created by the skylight cut into the ceiling over the far wall and emphasize the angular frame of the open shower. The couple had wanted a complete departure from the glass-walled shower in their old house, so they designed a more European-style open one. Easily big enough for a whole family, the spacious bathing space features twin dual-headed rain shower heads that can be set to provide a gentle mist or a more forceful deluge.

Warmly lit by two large inset cans above and the slightly offset skylight, the shower is like a cove. “You’d think you might be cold, but it’s not…and no foggy mirrors since there are no doors to trap the steam,” explains Debbie. To ensure a cozy experience, heated floors warm the bathroom from the bottom up.

Industrial 2” rectangle tiles from Knotek run seamlessly across the bathroom half of the room, over the slight lip defining the shower footprint, and up the shower walls. The subtle grey, white and beige sheets of tile also flow over the low wall that separates the shower space from the room’s focal point. By design, the ultra-deep tub immediately draws the eye. The Sok Overflowing Bath for Two by Kohler has a dramatic infinity edge, the height of sensory relaxation. The continuous flow of water over the sides is maintained by thirteen jets that pump water from the reservoir that rings the rectangular basin. Besides catching the soothing waterfall, the reservoir also serves as a great lazy river for Barbies!

Flanking either side of the shower behind mahogany wood doors are his-and hers-water closets. “I only had a few requirements of the house. Besides radiant floors, the next most important was that there were two toilets in the master bath,” Deb said. “It sounds funny, but it’d be the middle of the night, I’d get up to take care of the baby and then I’d find myself in line to use the bathroom in our old house. I wanted my own space with no waiting.” For his part, Bob saw the perfect addition to add a touch of luxury while perusing a plumbing catalog – toilet seats. The Washlet C110 by Toto offers a streamlined control panel to one side that proffers a range of options for the temperature of the seat, as well as the direction and force of the bidet. The height of personal comfort and hygiene, the high-tech seat perches on a water-saver toilet.

Done in the same chocolate finish as the wood panels throughout the master suite, the his-and her-vanities run along the outer walls of the bathroom side of the room. Open bookshelves sit above low drawers that lock to keep medicines and toiletries safe. The cream granite threaded with beige accents is kept uncluttered with a minimal amount of decor. The white porcelain sinks are predictably square, enhancing the angular shapes of the modern faucets. The linens add a warm pop of earth tone color; butternut for her and rust for him. The butternut is picked up again by the benches providing seating in the dressing area and at Debbie’s vanity.

The rich chocolate color is picked up yet again in the custom-built closet solutions created by the Cleveland Closet Company. To design the ultimate dressing room, the Dardens hired professional Chuck Rudolph, who owns the local small business with his son Jeff. “It was great fun to work with Bob and Debbie. This project was not your run-of-the-mill job. It was a challenge to meet their desires for contemporary design, but this is the benefit of custom millwork versus a cookie-cutter solution.” Highly customized, the dressing room’s far wall is lined with tilted racks with silver rails for the couple’s shoes, next to cubbies for purses, boots or more shoes. Her side features a spiral corner rack, while frosted glass cabinets offer private storage on both sides of the room. Between the rods for clothes, hooks extend from the molding for robes, dry-cleaning or a day’s outfit. A neutral beige carpet offers comfort to bare feet fresh from the shower.

Sitting in line with the tub, the rectangular island is an impressive storage fixture balancing the tub on the virtual line down the room’s center. A warmly-colored single piece of granite, the countertop is shot through with complimentary browns and rusts. The stone was chosen specifically for its properties as a visual “extension of the wood.” Placed on top of the island is a flat-screen T.V. offering a romantic movie for an evening soak or the morning news during a shower. Simple yet elegant stainless drawer pulls compliment the finish on the bathroom fixtures, pulling the two separate spaces into a cohesive room.

Ringed by opulent dark wood, this expansive space is truly uber-functional. “My favorite thing about [the room] is that it is so open. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming, because all of your choices are available to you,” laughed Deb. “I also like that there are drawers and cabinets for both of us, because even if you hang all your clothes, you still need a place to store other stuff.” Another cool feature of the room takes particular advantage of Hershman placing the laundryroom right next door. An industrial stainless steel door pulls down to allow access to the “to-do” laundry bin in the next room. It is simply one of the more obvious signs that the key focus of design was consideration of how the family would live in the space and optimizing that.

It is no surprise that the Dardens entire home is simply gorgeous, given the personal attention they were able to give to the design and building process by serving as the general contractors. But what is a surprise is that they were able to continue this focus on architectural line in the most challenging places to do so – the master bath and closet. For any dream home to work, it must be like a cake, ingredients of all kind mixed together to create the perfect concoction. While Hershman’s design aesthetic serves as the flour, the Dardens themselves drove the functionality and edited details that are the spice and flavoring to this key room.

Want A Great Closet?
5 Tips to Get You There

1. Plan Early
Whether you are renovating or building a new home, don’t wait until after the framing to design your closet. Before building, meet with a closet organizer and determine what space you’ll need to house all the shelves, racks, etc. “ I can’t tell you how many times a client couldn’t do what they wanted, because they needed just another 2 feet for the closet that was wasted space in another room,“ explained Chuck Rudolph of the Cleveland Closet Company. “Once the walls are framed in and the drywall’s up, you’re stuck with the space.” Also, consider the proximity to other relevant functioning rooms, like the bath or laundry, to really maximize efficiency.

2. Not Just Hanging Out
Don’t think in just rods and hangers. There are so many options for a closet design today – from tilted shelves and drawers to racks that turn or rods that pull down. While it is maybe hard to visualize just what will be the best fit, the key is knowing how many clothes you have and whether you’ll store them hanging or folded. Rudolph explains, “the first thing we do is measure and count everything from clothes to shoes to determine a customer’s needs. Once we draw it up on a CAD in 3D, clients can really begin to picture how they would function in the space.”

3. Just Missing the Valet
It’s all about functionality and efficiency. Why walk from room to room to get dressed in the morning? Whether you design a closet and bath in one, or more of a dressing room complete with chairs and mirrors, you’ve got to get a handle on exactly how your family gets ready in the morning to create a room that will streamline the process. Closets today are often all about one-stop preparation. “The idea is that if someone has to catch a 5 am flight, they can get dressed and pack without disturbing anyone else in the house,” said Rudolph.

4. Luxurious Finishes
While a closet isn’t generally for public consumption, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t shine. Since you use it every day, pamper yourself and your clothes. Gaining rapidly in popularity, cherry, mahogany and other deep rich stains lend a furniture-like appeal to your fixtures. Stainless steel knobs and pulls and other accessories are both functional and beautiful. Granite or marble add a sense of opulence to any counter space. Finally, don’t forget to pick out plenty of warm lighting designed to make you and your clothes look their best.

5. Plan on Holding It All
Why not really make your closet a true dressing room... the total storage solution? This is an opportunity to forgo the large bureaus and keep your bedroom simple and uncluttered. Islands in the closet are the hot new trend. An elegant storage solution, an island’s top is also functional, providing space for folding clothes or filling up a suitcase. Perch a T.V. or music center on top and you’ve created a modern centerpiece for a room that meets your needs for beauty and efficiency!

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