Modern Small-Bath Makeover

A spatially challenged bathroom is reborn into a Palm Springs-inspired retreat using a black, white and gray color scheme.
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November 25, 2014

Photo By: Photographer: Christina Wedge

Midcentury Bath Makes a Comeback

Inspired by the clean, rectilinear lines of Palm Springs architecture, this guest bathroom was remodeled in a midcentury-modern style paired with shades of black, white and gray. Its neutral palette allows for accessories in virtually any accent color. The violet accents give an overall masculine appearance. By switching the accents out for hot pink, sea foam or lavender, however, the space can easily take on a more feminine feeling.

Blah Beginnings

Prior to the remodel, this contractor-grade 7x9 bathroom lacked architectural detail, color and personality. With a budget just under $10,000 and a timeline of three weeks, the midcentury-modern style of Palm Springs inspired this open, airy, clean and unfussy space.

Splurge vs. Save

To accommodate the budget, this remodel used a mix of high- and low-end materials. While the modern, square-profile commode was a splurge, the ready-made vanity was picked up at a national modern home furnishings retailer for less than $300, a fraction of what similar styles cost at designer showrooms.

Palm Springs Print

Art is often overlooked in bathroom design. To give utilitarian spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms a more personal touch, consider how and where you can introduce pieces. To add an artistic touch of Palm Springs flair, photography featuring a home in one of the city's most iconic neighborhoods, Las Palmas, was printed and framed in black. To hang art properly on a tiled wall, use a ceramic drill bit as well as heavy-weight anchors, then add a screw and attach the art with picture wire.

Don't Replace, Just Reface

An excellent way to save money on bathroom remodeling is to reface or refinish any permanent fixtures which may require messy removal. To avoid the messes and costs associated with removing the bathroom's existing steel tub, it was professionally resurfaced in place. Resurfacing involves etching a tub or shower's worn surface with hydrofluoric acid, spraying a primer, then spraying two to three finish coats of the chosen color. The process takes approximately three to five hours from start to finish. In this case, the resurfacing of the tub cost $400.

Clear Shower Door

One of the easiest ways to make a modest bathroom appear even smaller is to partition off the shower area with a curtain or enclose it with opaque doors. To keep this bathroom open and airy, a custom steel-and-glass sliding partition was added on an industrial track that spanned the width of the tub. Keeping the partition 16 inches lower than the ceiling supplies proper ventilation and helps prevent fogging of the glass. Constructed of the same raw steel and tempered glass as factory windows, the sliding partition allows the maximum amount of light to flow throughout the space and also keeps water from splashing out of the shower area.

Geometric Design

Palm Springs architecture, design and decoration typically involves rectangles, and asymmetrical slopes and angles. Rather than incorporating a standard round or cylindrical showerhead into the bathroom's new design, a square chrome version was chosen.

Convenient Shower Dispenser

Prior to the bathroom's remodel, bottles cluttered the window ledge. For ease of use and a clean aesthetic, inexpensive, refillable plastic shampoo and conditioner dispensers were mounted inside the shower with epoxy. Twenty-four hours after installation, the dispensers could support the weight of liquids poured from shampoo and conditioner bottles.

Iconic Atomic Fixtures

Midcentury-modern lighting is one of the easiest ways to bring Palm Springs flair to a space, especially since the angular, asymmetrical look of midcentury-modern fixtures is iconic to the era. The black vanity sconces used here are best described as "astro" or "atomic" in style, terms associated with the space age (1957 through the mid-1960s) in which they were created. Astro sconces are popularly used on the exteriors and entryways of modern Palm Springs houses. When adding sconce lighting to bathrooms covered in floor-to-ceiling wall tile, it's important to first decide exactly where they should be placed so that the pre-wiring of junction boxes can be completed prior to preparing the walls for tile installation.

Tile All Over

Floor-to-ceiling wall tile is an excellent way to change a bathroom architecturally without the arduous, messy and costly tasks associated with moving or reconfiguring walls. Although the costs for materials and installation are often more than double than applying tile at a chair-rail height, the final look often results in a space feeling larger.

Mosaic Floors

Popular flooring materials found in modern Palm Springs homes include mosaic tile, gradient glass tile, cork, walnut hardwood and geometric tile. To stay true to the era, mosaic tile made of white marble in a peacock flume pattern was used. For installation, the original contractor-grade ceramic tiles were removed, the subfloor was leveled and then the mosaic was installed in 12x12 sheets.

More Than a Commode

When remodeling bathrooms, homeowners often overlook the aesthetic potential of commodes. In smaller bathrooms where space is limited, consider splurging on higher-end, designer-grade styles. Before deciding on a commode, be sure to look at its specifications not only for dimensions, but also for proper ventilation and electricity-based reasons. Many commodes from high-end manufacturers may include elements of electricity which can drastically increase installation costs.

Mix and Match Finishes

Authentic midcentury-modern hardware is often pricey, sometimes costing upward of $25 for a single drawer pull, due mostly to its antiquity and the fact that it's hard to replace. Since contemporary, modern and midcentury-modern styles work well together, designers will mix the two within the same space. For the drawer pulls on the vanity, modern stainless steel hardware was picked for less than $10 from a national modern home furnishings retailer. Once paired with the other rectilinear design elements, the cost-saving accents effortlessly blend with the more authentic, midcentury features.

Bath Towel Pegs

Keeping towels within arm's reach is made easy thanks to stainless steel modern wall pegs. To install them, a porcelain drill bit was used so as not to damage the wall tile. Next, lightweight anchors were added before attaching each peg with screws.

Faucets and Other Fixtures

When mixing high and low price points in bathroom design, it's important to keep in mind that many manufacturers of modern fixtures create faucets and sinks which will only work with others within the same brand. Homeowners looking to mix a cost-saving faucet from one manufacturer with a higher-end sink from another may find that holes and connectors may not fit, hoses may not attach correctly, and some pieces may be too big to fit with others. The white porcelain sink and chrome faucet used in this bathroom were made to go together and involve hole placement unseen in products from other manufacturers.

Simple Aesthetic

Frameless vanity mirrors are a key design element found in midcentury-modern bathrooms. This less-is-more style of mirror is easier to install than heavy framed mirrors since they’re lighter in weight. In order to install the frameless mirror in this bathroom, clip fasteners were added to the floor-to-ceiling tile, first by drilling into the mortar with a porcelain drill bit, then adding a heavyweight anchor.

Vinyl Style

Basic contractor-grade interior doors can be given a cost-effective update with upholstery. Rather than completely replacing the entry door, door frame and jambs of this bathroom, the original hollow-core door was dropped off to an upholsterer who covered the front and back with batting, then attached durable vinyl and nail-head detail. Homeowners looking to do this should plan on purchasing at least six yards of fabric, leather or vinyl, three for each side of the door.

Fifth-Wall Flair

To give the drywall ceiling of this bathroom midcentury-modern flair, basic V-groove pine was installed using furring strips and a nail gun. Prior to installing the pine, junction boxes were added to account for new recessed halogen lighting, then holes were cut into the wood with a jigsaw to make room for each halogen fixture.

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