This Windowless Bathroom Exudes Nothing but Bright, Light Energy
A specific tile made all the difference.
Published Apr 8, 2021 12:56 AM
For hands-on advice from designers and pro DIYers, plus more scrappy before-and-after transformations, subscribe to Reno. Let your in-box do all the hard work—for now.
Sara Gray, cofounder and principal designer of Studio Gray, starts all of her projects by asking her clients the same question: If you were having the worst day, what’s the one thing you would grab from your closet to pick you up? “You can pull from that and translate it into a physical space,” she says. It was an especially fitting place to start for her latest remodel in Portland, Oregon. The homeowner, Megan, a fashion industry veteran, had lived with a tiny, less-than-75-square-foot bathroom that had gone untouched for 10 years—plus it didn’t echo her penchant for elevated black and gold accents. “We really wanted it to be a reflection of Megan; somewhere she could see herself staying for the next 10 years,” says Gray.
The fact that the door slightly grazed the side of the pedestal sink every time you entered the bathroom wasn’t even the worst of Gray’s worries (the threshold could easily be tweaked). There was no window—a bummer for any beauty lover—and there was almost no storage to speak of. “You sort of just felt trapped in there,” recalls the designer. A full-length custom medicine cabinet and a vanity for hiding the basics (hairdryer, curling iron, etc.) solved the latter. As for faking natural light, Gray had to get creative with the materials she brought in. “I’ve always appreciated quality over quantity,” says Megan. “I tell my clients it’s important to invest in timeless pieces for your wardrobe. This renovation was my investment piece.”
If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It
Today you’d never know the tub is the same one that was there before. The basin was in decent shape, so Gray decided to avoid the logistical hassle of replacing it and instead clad the deck and side in Calacatta Gold marble. Rather than purchase a pricey slab, the designer picked up remnants at the stone yard that were just enough to cover the zone and also make a sink and small shelf under the medicine cabinet. “We basically got the material for half of what we would have paid for an entire slab,” she says. Gray saved the parts with the most dramatic veining for the tub (now the focal point of the room) and played off the warm yellow tones with brass plumbing fixtures.
Expand Your Storage Beyond the Vanity
Instead of carving out a simple niche for the integrated marble sink, Gray added a next-level bespoke touch by carving out small shelves on either side of the faucet where Megan can set her toothbrush or hand soap. “We needed to maximize every square inch of this bathroom,” says Gray. The ribbed oakwood vanity, outfitted with two deep drawers, effectively doubled the storage in the room. The dark stain is meant to match the chocolate-toned floors in the rest of the home.
Make Your Own Light
Gray’s window work-around? Floor-to-ceiling zellige tiles. The reflective surface bounces the light coming from the globe sconces and recessed fixtures around the room (the giant mirror helps complete the illusion). “I can finally do my makeup in there without the fear of walking out and looking like a clown,” says Megan.
While outlet covers and light switches tend to be an afterthought in most projects, Gray wasn’t going to leave this small detail up to the electrician (after all, it’s something you touch and feel on a daily basis). She ordered custom-size, unlacquered brass pieces from Forbes and Lomax. “I squealed with delight when they showed up,” she recalls. The panel includes two dimmer knobs (adjustability is key for doing makeup) and also a control for the heated flooring. “To think I lived with pea green walls for so long is crazy,” says Megan. “But it was worth the wait.”
Get the Look
Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.