KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

May 03 2010

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Before and after: a simple green remodel for a suburban bathroom

Sometimes the best solution is the simplest one. Old friends of mine in New Jersey wanted to renovate their insanely out-of-date bathroom in their Craftsman-style home. This was the only bathroom in the house and had serviced the family of four for many years.

Now that the kids were grown, Mark and his wife Linda decided to finally remodel the bathroom. The considerations: They wanted the greenest remodel possible, and had a limited budget as well. I had no problem selecting some nifty green materials for the bathroom, but my primary concern was to have the space remodeled in the shortest time possible, due to the fact that there wasn’t an alternate bathroom to use in the interim. And of course, the budget is always a consideration. Green products or not, materials and labor can escalate the cost of a renovation quicker than you can possibly imagine.

I decided that the best way to tackle the design was not to move a thing, keeping the tub/shower in the same place and also the vanity and toilet. Removing the fan/light combination in the ceiling and replacing it with a separate, classic light fixture and quiet exhaust fan took away that cheesy “builder” look and started to give the room the custom look I was aiming for. The old fiberglass tub and surround were replaced with a simple porcelain tub and inexpensive white subway tile, under $4.00 a sq. ft. By adding a border of 1×1 glass mosaic tiles ($20/sq. ft.), it gave a little glitz to the tub without adding a lot of cost.


The layout was left intact (left), while a new tub and white inexpensive subway tile (right) and a new light fixture give the bath an updated look.

I continued the glass tiles around the vanity top and finished the top edge with a piece of cherry molding that matches the custom vanity and medicine chest from Terra Cabinets, a local green cabinet shop situated near the renovation. By using local materials and suppliers, the carbon emissions used to transport materials were significantly reduced. The IceStone countertop, the only real “splurge” in the bath, is also from a local company, located in Brooklyn, NY.

I think it’s important to add a couple of upscale features to a budget bath in order to bring it from mundane to spectacular. Some of the other green elements in the bath are the dual-flush toilet from Toto (under $350 dollars), fluorescent light sconces from Rejuvenation Lighting, and WaterSense-rated faucets and shower fixtures. A faux slate floor from DalTile ($6.25/sq. ft.) added a nice Craftsman-style touch without impacting the budget. Also, adding some thick trim to the existing window made it appear larger than it was before.


The vanity area (left) gets a fresh, new attitude with custom cabinetry from a local maker and an IceStone countertop (right).

The most important thing was to have ALL of the materials on site before the job was started. By doing so, it was possible to have the room put together enough in three days so the homeowners could use the shower and toilet. The entire renovation took about two weeks. And I came in on budget!—Patricia Gaylor

This entry was posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2010 at 10:49 AM and is filed under Bath Design, Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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    Love your thinking on projects like this! Thinking through the green aspects, along with a little luxury and keeping budget in mind isn’t an easy task for consumers (me). Good to have a resource like you who can simplify a complicated task, while reminding us of the value designers bring.