When they moved into their 1820 Colonial home in Holden, Massachusetts, this young couple didn’t have a typical vision for the downstairs bathroom. “We all referred to it as ‘the sanctuary bath washer-dryer spa,’ ” interior designer Lynne Benoit says with a laugh.
Over the years the home had expanded through several additions done at different times. During the 1980s, a full first-floor bathroom space with a contemporary cathedral ceiling and bay window was added. To create a cohesive look throughout the house, the current homeowners wanted to update its classic bones with artful, sophisticated touches. Benoit helped them create a personal space with a timeless and crisp black-and-white palette and vintage-inspired elements.
Bathroom at a Glance
Before: With two young sons, homeowners Jay and Angie Morales decided to make a change from city living to life in a rural area of Massachusetts so they would be closer to family. They both work in creative fields and they had a clear vision for their home, one that would bring a city feel to the country surroundings. Jay is a documentary filmmaker and photographer and Angie, a retail buyer, studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“They put together a big presentation when we first met about who they are as a family and their concept for the house,” Benoit says. The couple wanted to acknowledge the past and the present through a style inspired by classic brownstones — crisp, clean and sophisticated, both updated and timeless. They also wanted to showcase and celebrate artwork without making their home feel like a museum.
The couple determined the functions and style of the bathroom and chose a few favorite things that were must-haves. Benoit collaborated to help them pull it all together.
The main role of the space is as a powder room — there are no bedrooms it serves on this floor. “They also wanted this to be their Zen place away from the busyness of the household for baths, and they also specifically wanted the washer-dryer in here,” the designer says.
The blocky layout of the existing bathroom didn’t feel very Zen. There was a whirlpool tub with a large deck around it and a tight shower stall with a long vanity across from it. The couple wanted the bathroom to serve as a special space for family and guests. They didn’t want a shower or a vanity downstairs. Benoit worked within the room’s original footprint.
After: A stunning claw-foot tub the homeowners found replaced the large drop-in tub. Benoit centered it in front of the bay window to create a focal point. One important aspect of the project was moving the bathroom door to center this view. “This makes the focal point more dramatic,” Benoit says. Moving the door was also important for the washer-dryer setup. It gave her enough room to place the machines in an out-of-the-way spot on the left.
The chandelier was another important choice that the two aesthetes debated. “Jay really wanted this one, while Angie was into a capiz shell option,” Benoit says. “But after we presented both options in a 3D rendering, this chandelier won.” The style of the light fixture, which the couple purchased in the Houzz Shop, plays beautifully off the ornate brass claw feet of the tub. The couple’s selections and the way Benoit centered the view from the door paid off. “People are awestruck by the classic claw-foot tub, the cathedral ceiling and the chandelier when they open the door,” she says.
As part of the 1800s brownstone vibe, the couple wanted polished brass faucets; they found this tub filler online. Benoit centered it on the bay window. The ornate fixture continues the elegant look of the tub’s claw feet and the chandelier. “Not all of the brass finishes are exactly the same but they tie together beautifully,” Benoit says.
Before: The room was dated and not very welcoming to guests. The family had no need for the large vanity on this floor as they use the upstairs bathrooms to get ready.
After: Once she had her star players — the tub and the chandelier — Benoit filled the room with supporting actors. “We paired them with the simplicity of the sink, toilet and subway tile,” she says. She chose Kohler’s vintage-inspired Memoirs pedestal sink to nod to the history of the space. The sink is in the spot where the shower stall used to be. The faucet with crossbar handles also has a vintage look. The two rose paintings are from the couple’s collection.
Benoit had to work around a few existing elements. The bump-out seen here is a chimney, and the heating unit on it was something the homeowners wanted to keep. She also had to address the way the flat ceiling met the cathedral ceiling. This included careful planning to make the crown molding a cohesive element that tied the heights of the ceilings together.
The subway tile evokes both past and present. “They loved classic subway tile, but I talked them into going with a 3-by-8-inch subway tile instead of the standard 3-by-6-inch subway tile,” Benoit says. “It’s a more updated look that elongates the width of the room.” She topped the tile with a traditional wood chair rail. The black line between the chair rail and the tile is the same black grout she used on all of the wall tile, applied in a thicker line.
The flooring, a classic 1-inch black hexagonal tile, also hearkens to the past. The crisp contrast between black and white is striking and timeless. All of the tile work was completed by KASA Remodel & Design.
The couple wanted to have their washer and dryer in the beautiful room, providing a spa-like feel to a daily chore. And it’s easy for their boys to strip out of muddy clothing at the laundry station and then jump in the tub. “The boys love to hop in the bathtub together,” Benoit says.
She designed the built-ins and they were crafted and installed by Gene’s Woodworking. The cabinetry includes a stained cherry counter for folding and space for laundry and bathroom supplies and extra towels. Benoit designated the recess on the left for detergent so it would be easy to grab. The cabinetry also conceals a plumbing chase along the wall in between the washer and dryer. The family stashes a handy stepladder between the machines in the area in front of the chase.
This floor plan shows how the bathroom door is centered on the view of the tub, window and chandelier. It also shows the chimney Benoit had to work around on the right and the plumbing chase the laundry built-ins conceal on the left.