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Country Charm

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Mar 24, 2010

City bathrooms often embody an aesthetic dominated by streamlined simplicity, spa-inspired Zen-style palettes, and an overtly modern approach. I know lots about this as I've renovated my fair share of bathrooms over my career.
Country Charm

I'm always in favour of tailoring the look of the renovation to the style of the home, and of doing what's right to create flow and consistency with the rest of house.

How refreshing and wonderful for the vibe of the bathroom to be inspired by a departure point of laid-back charm, cheery colour and century style. Forget dark wood, minimalist details and modernity: I dived right into the realm of shabby chic for this makeover!

Take A Lesson From The Birds And Bees

I've always been a fan of botanical engravings and happened to find a beautiful Sanderson fabric that featured my all-time favourite blooms (peonies) with other countryside-appropriate flowers, bees and butterflies. Instead of looking traditional, stuffy and old-fashioned, the monochromatic citrus-yellow colourway I found had a crisp, bold energy.

I chose the fabric when the house was back to the bricks, and the grounds resembled an excavation pit, but I imagined the artwork of this fabric as a linking reference to what might grow in the south-facing garden that could one day be planted just outside this window. You might be thinking drapes in a bathroom are impractical, but they lend a touch of softening, and can be washed whenever needed if you choose a printed cotton.

Don't shy away from using fabric, but do make sure you leave the tub far enough from the wall that the finished drapes don't touch it (about six to eight inches ought to do it).

Country Charm

Make A Classic Choice

Creating just the right mix of modern amenities with traditional styling is never easy. After selecting the fabric, we zoned in on the sketched black and white elements and tried to reference the classic charm of an ice cream parlour black-and-white floor.

Since pure white stone isn't the best choice for a laid-back country house, I decided that grey-veined, tumbled Carrera marble would be more casual and more forgiving for wear and tear. The black accents in the floor mosaic, paired with a single line of black mosaic in the shower stall, and black tones in the artwork, provided all the linking needed to tie the scheme together.

Get Vintage And Value Together

Nothing rivals the comfort or sculptural beauty of a cast-iron footed bathtub. Reproductions range from $1,200 and up, but the real deal can often be found for a bargain! After scouring some of my favourite haunts for an old tub in great condition, I finally found a gem. A five-foot tub (with the enamel in great condition) was a can't-pass-it-up find at $200.

It's imperative that the interior enamel be smooth and well-preserved because tub refinishing is actually just an epoxy spray-on finish that is a temporary fix (up to five years), and not a lifetime solution. I'm speaking from experience here, so trust me.

Country Charm

Don't Be Picky About Provenance

The perfect vanity for your bathroom doesn't necessarily have a glamorous past. Mine was originally a tool bench/cabinet and came complete with years of grime, dirt and some vintage machine tags. A diamond in the rough at less than $300, it just happened to be the right height, depth and size for my needs (not more than 36 inches high, and 20 to 22 inches deep is a good standard).

Lots of scrubbing with tri-sodium phosphate to remove the grime, and a new, honed marble countertop for $700, and I had created a terrific vanity for under $1,000 with oodles of storage. You can save a little extra cash if you opt for a countertop that's just 3/4-inch thick instead of 1 ½ (a simple bevelled-edge profile looks better and is less chunky than the go-to standard that requires doubling up the edge).

Put Up A Wall

A separate, enclosed shower stall is a luxury in any bathroom, but giant walls of glass can be an impractical choice if your country abode has hard water that will leave deposits (a water softener is a worthwhile investment as it saves your beautiful bathroom, and makes the water feel fantastic).

I find full walls of glass too contemporary-looking as well, so opted to build a half wall that would allow tile installation on the lower section, but open glass on the upper to keep the room feeling open (about 44 inches to the top of the wall is a nice proportion if you are considering this treatment).

Country Charm

Reinterpret Your Accents

Instead of painting the walls in a bright hue, why not think about applying colourful touches to other areas for unexpected impact? The outside of the bathtub is a natural place for colour, and looks far better perked up with a bold shade than left plain white. With paint to spare, I couldn't resist repainting the boring brown frame of a mirror (found for $65) in the same sunny shade. If the urge ever strikes for a new colour accent, it's a quick and easy fix that doesn't require a big repaint.

Bathrooms tend to be outfitted with all things new and shiny from the big box store, but if you try to source older items, vintage finds and unique touches, your country bath will be a thing of beauty.


Drapery fabric Sanderson available through Telio www.telio.com | Vanity, decorative shelf, yellow chicks, black & white photo, wood bucket Christie Antiques Show www.antiqueshowscanada.com | Countertop Elite Stone; www.elitestone.com | Tub Century Olde Salvage; www.centuryoldesalvage.ca | Sink, toilet Taps Bath Centre; www.tapsbath.com | Faucet, tub filler, shower system, towel bars Rubinet available through Taps Bath Centre; www.tapsbath.com | Water softener, towels, bath accessories, bathrobes Sears; www.sears.com | Pendant light, sconces Legacy Vintage Building Materials & Antiques; www.legacyvintage.com | Glass shower enclosure Adanac Glass; www.adanacglass.com | Floor tile, shower tile Saltillo Imports; www.saltillo-tiles.com | Marble shower jambs The Home Depot; www.thehomedepot.com | Floor registers, hooks, door hinges The Door Store; www.thedoorstore.ca | All trim Brenlo; www.brenlo.ca | Heated floor system Nuheat; www.nuheat.com | Paint Colours: Para Paints; www.para.com Lower walls Trendsetting Style P5220-24 Upper walls & ceiling Fresh Cut P5116-14D Trim & chair rail Soapy Water P5223-14D Mirror frame and bath tub Net Game P5051-41D

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