Here’s a Mid-Century Home that Cleans Up Nicely

How to achieve a modern bathroom renovation.

by Sarah Richardson,

sarah richardson design real potential globe and mail bathroom

When my clients arrived at a funky 1960s-era rancher on a quiet cul-de-sac in a west-end neighbourhood with their newborn in tow, they knew they'd found their family home base. The street was idyllic, the detached house had a main-floor plan that solved all the dilemmas of their current home (a narrow, semi-detached Victorian in an "emerging" part of downtown with too many stairs and not enough open space). But, scooping up a mid-century diamond in the rough comes with its own challenges. A pink and tan bathroom with a cramped floor plan and a dire lack of crisp, contemporary style became item No. 1 on the renovation to do list, and yours truly was assigned the task of making it modern.

sarah richardson design real potential globe and mail bathroom

Beg, borrow and steal

The simple fact is that renovations are costly. If you are going to renovate and invest in the space that lies within four walls, start by making sure you’ve got the right amount of space. If ripping apart your bathroom and installing new fixtures and finishes still won’t really make it work, consider whether borrowing a few square feet from an adjoining room might take it over the top. By pushing into the guest room next door and appropriating an area 24 inches deep and 66 inches wide, we were able to create the space to allow for the vanity to be relocated, which resulted in achieving the clients’ goal of a separate bathtub and shower.

sarah richardson design real potential globe and mail bathroom

Pare it down

Your renovation style needs to suit your design aesthetic. Since this bathroom is located in a mid-century house, it lent itself well to a simpler and more contemporary expression of spa bath style. When square footage is limited, you might find the room feels airier and perhaps even larger if you opt for streamlined profiles and restrained ornamentation. A floating vanity keeps the floor area clear (and in a house with toddlers underfoot it offers a spot to tuck a stepstool out of the way). The use of a single-accent material in natural walnut brings a softer texture to the room and plays off well against the crisp white tile and marble and quartz surfaces used throughout the space.

sarah richardson design real potential globe and mail bathroom

Add a wash of colour

I can do minimal, but I draw the line at clinical. To address the wish list from my client of delivering a refreshing, soothing, restorative, spa-inspired experience, I started with a palette of no-fail white on white, then layered in the occasional wisp of barely there watery hues. Thanks to the tonal variations in Ming green marble, and the use of two different mosaic patterns, these “spa” colours came to life in a range that included aquamarine, jade, alabaster and celadon, offering just the faintest bit of colour to otherwise blank canvas.

sarah richardson design real potential globe and mail bathroom

Climb the walls

Standard-issue lavatory faucets for most ready-made vanity options are generally installed through the counter surface, but when space is at a premium, you might want to think about keeping the counters bare and install a wall mount faucet instead. It may require a bit more attention to detail on the part of your plumber (and you’ll need to know exactly what height you want the plumbing rough-ins installed long before you have a vanity in place to measure it against), but the effort and planning will be worth it.

sarah richardson design real potential globe and mail bathroom

Don’t be such a square

To make your pint-sized bath stylish and streamlined, it makes sense to reinforce the link between the various elements you are incorporating into your design. The rectangular motif that of the vanity design, the floor and wall tiles, the artwork, the lavatory faucet and the tub filler, and even the simple rectangular mass of the bathtub be subtle, yet it’s the repetition that leaves you with the feeling that it all “just works” together.