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Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Dec 13, 2013

... make room for a tub! Cramped space in the bathroom won’t do for a modern family of 
shot of entire room with tub and vanity
Sharing is an important life skill that we start practising as a toddler, hopefully perfect as a kindergarten student and sometimes need to be reminded of when searching for a family home. But some older houses take the concept a little too far. In their quest to find the right house (on the right street, in the right school district, with the right features), my clients committed to a house that was long on character but short on bathrooms. A family of four sharing one small bathroom just wouldn’t cut it.
Light brown wooden vanity with granite counter top

Room To Grow

If your house deed only comes with one bathroom, you’ll need to look closely at your floor plan to see if alterations can be made to the footprint of the existing room in order to accommodate the amenities you need. And when we are talking about a mom sharing a bathroom with a houseful of hockey-playing boys, my definition of “need” gets stretched. In my view, she needs a nice bathtub, separate from a shower stall.

I’m all for moving walls to achieve the best end result – after all, bath renovations are right up there with kitchens in terms of maximum return on investment, so it makes sense to get it right when the dust flies and the demolition is under way. By borrowing (okay… expropriating) three feet from the adjacent guest bedroom, the bathroom footprint became big enough to accommodate a freestanding tub, shower and vanity.

Know Your Lifestyle

The most important consideration in any renovation is to design your house to accommodate how you live. A bathroom that gets lots of daily use needs to be outfitted with durable, family-friendly materials.You may want to avoid tiling the entire bathroom to save dollars, but it’s important to have a durable and water resistant surface around the perimeter of the room. If a fully tiled bath is beyond your budget, considering installing tongue in groove panelling (which can be installed in individual pieces or as sheet goods), and paint it with good quality primer and trim paint to create a durable barrier that will repel the inevitable splashing and spraying.

Consider the height of your vanity when determine the overall height of your panelling so it can run at one continuous height around the room and double as a back splash for the sink. If part of your renovation agenda is to keep the classic charm in an old house, panelling can help balance the mix of old and new elements and keep your costs in check.

Close up of tile pattern
Close up of Square pattern
Granite counter top with washed steel faucets and frameless mirror
Close up of star patterned grate

Explore Your Options

When buying an old house and renovating room by room, every decision you make has a domino effect. The more you spend on the bathroom quickly impacts what’s left to splurge on any other area. Before assuming that everything you want needs to be custom made, I’d suggest that you spend some time researching what can be purchased ready to go.

You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the selection in ready-made vanities has improved vastly in the past few years. Who knew that I’d be able to find a whitewashed oak vanity when my client said she wanted a coastal inspired bathroom?

To make the renovation of your bathroom a little simpler, most ready-made vanities also come with a selection of counter tops that are pre-drilled for your faucet and are sold complete with the sink, which will shave a week off your timeline since you won’t be waiting for a custom templated counter to be made.

Slide and Save

I’m all for borrowing space from other rooms, but there are limitations to what can be taken without rendering the adjacent room useless. So, even though three feet made the bathroom vastly bigger than its original footprint, it remained a rather cramped space and required some juggling of measurements to squeeze everything in.

Instead of the usual custom shower enclosure, I installed a ready to go glass shower enclosure set that features a sliding door, so clearance into the room isn’t an issue. The uber-stylish hardware that operates the slide mechanism made the leap from custom enclosure to prefab kit an easy and high-impact design choice (and since the units come in pre-made sizes, you can also save on the normal week long lead time for a custom tempered glass enclosure.

Get Slim

If a freestanding bathtub is on your wish list, but square footage is limited, keep in mind that tub dimensions are not standardized and vary widely in width. A narrow tub with lean proportions and tall sides will still allow you to soak in bubbles up to your neck, but will fill faster and use less water than its more bulbous counterpart.

Another advantage of a freestanding tub in close quarters is that it requires no space around it for framing and cladding, so you can maximize the size of whatever other functions are adjacent to it. When having it all is your goal, a narrow freestanding tub may be your secret weapon in both style and space.

Standup glass shower
Washed Silver towel rack
Originally published in:
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Source Guide:

IOS bathtub, Victoria + Albert Baths | all tile, Saltillo Imports | Matrix shower glass system with sliding panel, Caml - Tomlin | Hexis series: shower system & body sprays LaSalle series (with Hexis handles): floor mount tub filler with hand held shower Hexis series (with LaSalle spout): sink faucet, The Rubinet Faucet Company | Rustic Chic vanity, basin & countertop, Fairmont Designs | toilet, shower basket & shell soap dish, Taps Bath Centre | all trim, Brenlo | window supply, Trillium Window & Door Systems | floral roman blind fabric (Cottingham), Sarah Richardson for Kravet Fabrics | light fixture & pair of sconces, Universal Lamp | waste basket, white coral, natural linen towels, round soap & shower products, Ginger's | blue and white striped towels & silver leaves in frames, Homesense | white shadow box frames, IKEA | shower jambs, towel bars, toilet paper holder, pivoting mirror hardware & rad cover, The Home Depot | mirror, Adanac Glass Limited | water colour painting, silver box, hammered silver flower pot & silver vase, Around the Block | vanity hardware & hallway pendant, Lowe's | flowers, Jong Young Flowers


contractor, MBKL Ltd Custom Contracting | electrician, Spindel Electric Inc. | installation of shower glass doors, Caml - Tomlin 

Paint Colours

walls & ceiling - Epiphany (P5159-24), Para Paints | trim - Chantilly Lace (OC-65), Benjamin Moore Paints