When considering whether to phase your home remodel into smaller chunks, investment, disruption, and isolation are the three most significant factors to consider.
Learn about Charlotte’s housing history which is rich with a diversity of architectural styles and themes that represent popular trends.
Originally built in 1993, this bathroom was starting to show its age. Angled walls were common practice in nineties construction and this Lake Norman bathroom remodel was no exception. Luckily, the overall layout worked pretty well, so instead of completely redesigning the entire bathroom, small changes were made to maximize the space available.
If we polled everyone in Charlotte and asked them to describe their ideal shower set-up, there would be more similarities than differences. We’ve pulled together a list of the six most common requests we get for shower upgrades anytime we remodel a bathroom—whether it’s for the owners or the kids. Many of these upgrades are just expected in modern shower designs, so while not technically necessary (hence the term upgrade), we consider them standard features.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a shower as, “an enclosure in which a person stands under a spray of water to wash.” You’ve probably been in a shower that’s as basic as that at some point or another, and while it’ll get you clean, it may not be an enjoyable experience. No one wants to start their day showering in a phone booth.
For years our clients were nervous about eliminating their seldom-used tubs in favor of larger showers with better features. They were afraid it would ruin their resale value. But given the choice of a phone booth shower and a large tub they never used or a decent sized shower with no tub, most people are going to choose the latter. If there’s room for a great shower and a tub, that’s a bonus.
Recessed Shower Niches
Gone are the days of suction-cup accessories from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Recessed shower niches are one of those upgrades that have become standard features, even in secondary bathrooms. While there are standard-sized inserts available, we prefer to frame most of ours on-site so we can control the exact size and placement for an integrated, custom look. As a general rule we line them up with the surrounding grout joints, but it really depends on the intention of the final design. The height placement will vary based on the chosen field tile and the height of the homeowner. Recessed niches in tub/shower combos in a kid’s bathroom should start about 30-36” from the floor (you want to be able to reach them while on your knees bathing a little one), while 42-48” may be more appropriate for the owners’ shower.
Built-in shower benches are another upgrade that’s become relatively standard. Whether it’s a corner bench or a long bench that stretches across the whole shower, homeowners of all ages enjoy the peace of mind they get knowing they could easily use their shower in the event of an injury or health condition requiring them to stay seated.
For easy maintenance, a cleaner look, and a more comfortable seat, we prefer using solid surfaces to top off our shower benches. Usually, we’ll use the same quartz or stone from the countertops to coordinate the shower with the vanity.
Not sure you really want an entire bench seat? Lower corner shelves made out of the countertop material make excellent foot props for shaving. Assuming your shower is large enough, an aftermarket shower seat would be a temporary option in the event of an injury.
Multiple Shower Heads
We could write a whole post on shower plumbing alone, but the brief version is—Charlotte homeowners expect multiple shower heads in the owners’ bath. A fixed head and a handheld on a bracket or an adjustable slide bar are most common. A handheld shower is a necessity, if for no other reason then because it makes the miserable task of cleaning the shower easier and quicker.
While it may not be worth the investment to have two heads in the kids’ bath or the guest bath, there are now a variety of showerheads and shower columns that function as both a fixed head and a handheld all in one system, eliminating the need for an additional valve. These are also great for the owner’s bath if you’ve got a tight budget. We show two different installation methods for how to tackle these at our South End design studio.
Decorative Grab Bars
Many of our clients intend to age in place as part of their active and healthy lifestyle. Decorative grab bars that coordinate with the rest of the plumbing suite provide safety in the shower without sacrificing style. Falls can happen at any age, so it’s a comfort knowing there’s something to grab if you slip. They’re also the perfect place for wet washcloths or bathing suits to drip dry.
Whether aging in place or just after a cleaner look, curbless showers are also gaining in popularity. The first four shower upgrades are minor in terms of the financial investment required to include them in your shower design, but a curbless shower requires a very strategic design and a decent budget. To drain properly, the shower drain must be parallel to the shower opening and the floor must slope to allow water to flow properly. Depending on the layout of the bathroom, this may not be feasible in an attractive way. Half walls are a great way to hide the build-up of the floor to allow for a one-directional slope.
When done properly a curbless walk-in shower allows for wheelchair access, and at the very least it eliminates a possible tripping hazard.
If you’re looking for the ultimate luxury shower upgrade, a steam shower is about as close to a spa experience as it gets. Steam showers have been proven to help our bodies detoxify and relax among other health benefits. Whether you steam first thing in the morning to wake up, after a hard workout to relax your muscles, or before a long soak in the tub, you’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
Steam showers come with a larger price tag due to the extra material and labor involved to fully enclose the space—plus the cost of the actual generator. Typically, we’ll drop the shower ceiling or build a dropped header with a pivoting glass transom over the shower door. In either scenario, it will require more glass, and more tile than a standard shower. Don’t forget you’ll want a built-in bench to sit on while steaming and a really powerful exhaust fan to get the steam out effectively once you’re finished.
Other Options to Consider
Regardless of how fancy you want your finished shower, there are a few other things to consider:
- We highly recommend glass coatings for keeping your shower glass looking new for years, especially if you have hard water.
- Integrated towel bars in the shower glass are also a nice option when there isn’t enough wall space for a conveniently placed towel bar.
- Decorative framed enclosures are gaining in popularity as homeowners and designers search for new ways to make bathrooms interesting. While not appropriate for every space, they can really add a wow factor to your shower design.
Whether you’d like to incorporate one or two of these upgrades in your redesigned shower, or all of them, we’d be happy to speak with you about your options. Schedule a call with us today to get started!
Background on tile and wood look porcelain or wood tile bathrooms
Tile started to become a mainstay in American bathrooms about a century ago due to its tough, sanitary nature. While tile trends have certainly evolved over time and will continue to do so, one of the more relatively recent innovations we’ve utilized over the last several years is porcelain tile that looks like wood.
Natural wood gives a beautiful, organic, and unique look to home design which is why it’s still the number one flooring choice of Charlotte area homes. The natural imperfections and variations of hardwood add interest and visual appeal, bringing subtle texture to your spaces and unifying more open floor plans.
But when it comes to bathrooms or other wet areas like laundry or mudrooms, natural wood isn’t always the best choice. Because wood is porous and apt to cup when exposed to water or significant humidity, the general guidance is to avoid putting it on floors or walls in bathrooms. Some people do it anyway, and are diligent about water spots and ventilation, but most people just avoid it to be safe.
We were excited when the first faux wood tiles appeared on the market around 2013 but the selection was limited. With new advancements in technology and manufacturing, the industry has boomed since then and you can now get the natural wood look without the hassle of natural wood maintenance.
High quality and great selection mean the sky’s the limit in the application of wood look porcelain tile today!
Porcelain tile that looks like wood is resilient, water-resistant, and so similar in appearance to the real thing you might be tempted to reach out and touch it to make sure it’s tile! Grout lines and tile rigidity are what give it away on close inspection, but for durability and resistance to moisture, it’s a fantastic option for bathroom floors, shower or accent walls behind tubs, and messy spaces like laundry rooms and mudrooms.
Apply Wood Grain Porcelain Tile as Flooring in Your Bathroom
Before you select tile flooring for the bathroom, consider how you typically use the space. Large-format tiles with a smooth, shiny finish get slippery when wet. Do you get water on the floor when you step out of the shower or tub? Is the bathroom used by children who may be less aware of their splashes and drips? If the answer is “yes” then a tile rated for wet areas is ideal, but the additional texture is even better. Because adding texture to the tile makes it look more realistic, most wood look porcelain tiles are especially slip-resistant.
Minimize the Grout
If you want the spacing of your porcelain tiles to resemble actual wood, it’ll be important to select a style that has a rectified edge, meaning it’s perfectly straight and square. Usually rectified edges are found on higher-end, premium quality tiles.
Unfortunately, due to the longer plank-like nature of wood look tiles, most have a natural tendency to warp ever so slightly, making tiny grout joints impossible if the edge isn’t rectified. ¼” spacers are typically what’s used, but it will vary based on each manufacturer’s recommendation.
If tiny grout joints are important to you, make sure to bring this to the attention of your bathroom designer, so he or she will be able to pull selections that would be more appropriate for that type of installation. Selecting a complementary grout color similar to the tile will also help them to be less noticeable.
Get the Look You Like with Less Maintenance
Real wood is beautiful, but it has a life cycle. It will need to be refinished, repaired, or replaced eventually. Refinishing is an involved process that’s best done every 10-15 years as part of a larger home remodeling project. But for those high-traffic or wet areas that get heavy use, digital technology makes it possible to duplicate the look of any kind of wood so you can use tile instead.
Installing porcelain wood look tiles makes for less maintenance over the lifetime of the floor. No resurfacing, refinishing, waxing, or shining is required. We always recommend using a high-quality grout with a built-in sealer so you don’t have to worry about periodic resealing either.
The increasing popularity of wood look porcelain tiles are driving the demand for higher-end options. Some of the more expensive product lines come with a greater variety of grain patterns which make them look even more like real wood. Whether you want something the mimics bamboo for a contemporary look or a rustic reclaimed style for your modern farmhouse, there are options for both and everywhere in between.
Shower Wall Application
Wood look tile accent walls are a great way to add texture to any space, but the contrast between that and sleek plumbing fixtures makes it especially effective in a bathroom remodel. Because it’s tile, there’s no need to worry about the expansion of the pieces due to high humidity like you would if you installed real wood on the wall.
Project by Jeff King & Company via Houzz
Porcelain wood look tile opens up a whole new world of design options for bathrooms and wet areas in our clients’ homes. The large linear format lends itself well to several different tile patterns and fewer grout lines mean it’s easy to keep clean compared to a subway tile or mosaic.
Open Your Mind and Bathroom to Wood Porcelain Tiles
The importance of a well-functioning master suite cannot be understated. After the kitchen, the main suite is the second most important space in your home. And just like the kitchen, the master suite is critical to a homeowner’s overall health and well-being.
To be at our best in a world that demands more from us than ever before, it’s imperative that we have a private, quiet space to rest, to nourish our bodies, and to begin and end our days in a way that promotes optimal health.
A Unique Master Suite Update
This couple wanted to create a unique master suite that not only reflected the style of the rest of the home but incorporated an international flare. While the design elements of a home’s more public spaces should flow to create a sense of continuity, private spaces like master bedrooms and bathrooms are a great opportunity to try something a little unexpected – like the graphic white and gold wallpaper they selected for the bathroom.
By redesigning the two spaces we were able to maximize storage and natural light within the existing footprint, expand the shower, and simplify the traffic flow. Plantation shutters were replaced with motorized roman blackout shades for optimal sleep. Two windows in the bedroom were replaced with bedroom French doors to provide access to the outdoors and allow more light into the bedroom during the day.
The solid bi-hinged bathroom doors were exchanged with frosted glass French doors to maintain privacy while allowing light from the large bathroom window to spill into the rest of the bedroom.
By optimizing for storage and natural light, and incorporating a balanced design throughout the entire master suite, our clients now have a unique, award-winning space that offers a relaxing retreat to start and end each day.
When you’re ready to makeover your master bedroom, give us a call at 704-759-3920. Schedule a call with one of our project developers to discuss next steps.
Tile design patterns are a great way to add personality to a remodeling project whether via temporary materials (think fabric and wall coverings) or permanent ones such as tile or even hardwood flooring. Patterns have the ability to elevate simple materials. Take subway tile for example. You can’t get much more basic than white 3 x 6″ ceramic tile. Set in a running bond pattern, subway tile backsplash will look traditional and understated, but take that same tile and set it in a herringbone pattern and suddenly it has more visual weight and movement.
When it comes to tile design, straight or grid patterns are often the default for home builders. They’re the easiest to install because there are fewer cuts. Fewer cuts mean less material waste and a quicker installation. Quite simply – it’s cheaper. But if you’re preparing to remodel your home, chances are you want something other than what the original home builder installed. Your kitchen or bathroom designer will make pattern recommendations appropriate for the materials chosen, the location and your desired aesthetic. Also remember that you always have the option between vertical shower and kitchen tile and horizontal shower and kitchen tile.
Popular Tile Patterns and Where to Use Them
Running Bond or Brick Bond
This tile works best for field tiles and mosaics smaller than 12″ x 24″. You can use this tile design with rectangular or square tiles, but traditionally it’s done with rectangular bricks, hence the name. Running this pattern horizontally will emphasize the width of a space, while vertical installations emphasize height.
The running bond pattern is popular for kitchen backsplashes, flooring, shower walls, and bathroom wainscoting. It offers a classic look when using traditional tile materials such as subway tile or marble, but it looks just as good with more contemporary porcelain or glass tile as well.
A variation on the running bond is the flemish bond, which also derives from masonry. A flemish bond usually consists of alternating square and rectangular tiles in the same course. While uncommon, it can make for a pretty and unexpected backsplash or shower enclosure. When mixing tiles it is absolutely critical they are the same height and thickness, so you would only do this if the particular tile you chose was offered in two sizes. Otherwise, the grout lines would have to be much larger to make up for the difference and the installation wouldn’t look as clean.
As wood-look porcelain and large format tile has increased in popularity in recent years, we’ve started seeing a lot more of this pattern and for a very practical reason. When porcelain tiles are longer than 18″, they tend to bow ever so slightly in the middle, it’s just due to the properties of the material and the manufacturing process. When staggered in a traditional running bond (above) the center of the tile may stick up slightly higher than the edges, causing what is referred to as “lippage”. Because of that, it’s industry standard to install anything greater than 18″ long in a ⅓ offset if it’s not set straight.
Beware – When using three courses of this pattern on a wall, it can look like stair steps, but on the floor, it’s less noticeable (and more desirable for a wood-look). If stair steps aren’t your thing, but you’re dead set on that longer tile, try setting it in two courses instead. It’ll look like a tighter running bond and there won’t be any lippage. We also use this pattern with smaller tiles on backsplash applications.
Straight or Grid
This straight pattern — which is typically made up of square tiles — ends up looking like graph paper. Much like its design, this pattern is simple to install and uses very little waste. When installing rectangular tiles in a grid, that’s often referred to as a soldier stack (standing vertically) or a horizontal soldier stack. Soldier stacking rectangular tiles can add a contemporary touch to your backsplash, or shower wall tile design. We’ve also used this pattern for tile flooring that was a larger format.
“On-point” is just a fancy way of saying we want the grid to look like a diamond, at an exact 45-degree angle. While less popular now, it was all the rage in the earlier 2000s. Anytime a tile is set on point it makes the space feel larger, so it’s great for small powder rooms. You can even dress it up with a running bond or mosaic border around the baseboard.
While the basketweave pattern is typically used in masonry for patios, it also makes a great mudroom floor or backsplash. It’s a more artistic version of the stacked stile backsplash. To get more of a woven look, consider a basketweave using two materials of varying sizes. Basketweave stone mosaics are a popular choice for traditional shower floors and bathroom accents, but they don’t tend to look as appropriate in kitchens.
This is a classic pattern that works well as both an accent and as the primary, uninterrupted tile pattern in a living space. It does require lots of cuts, making it more wasteful, and expensive to supply/install. Herringbone can add flair in a small mosaic format of your kitchen backsplash or as part of a larger tile design across an entire floor. You can even try herringbone shower tile. Keep in mind that the longer the tile is, the more exaggerated the pattern will be. While you can install herringbone tiles straight — which would result in that same stair-step pattern — it’s most commonly installed “on point”, which resembles a W.
The term “tile mosaic” refers to a collection of pieces smaller than 4″ x 4″ that are joined together using a fiberglass mesh backing or paper. Attaching these smaller pieces in pre-made sheets makes installation quicker and easier than installing thousands of smaller tiles. That being said, installing mosaic tile takes a great deal of experience and skill. If an expert remodeler creates the tile design, you shouldn’t be able to pick out the seems between sheets after the tile has been grouted.
Mosaics can be designed from glass, stone, ceramic, porcelain, metal (see below) or even wood. Generally speaking, the smaller the individual pieces making up the mosaic, the more expensive it will be. Because of this, mosaics make great accents. If you really want to make an impact, take a mosaic and use it as the field tile. When used in large quantities, mosaics take on a wallpaper effect creating that “wow” factor. Mosaics are also used on shower floors due to the sheets’ ability to curve with the shower pan to allow proper drainage.
Whenever we work with homeowners to redesign their kitchen or master bathroom, it’s almost inevitable that at some point during the process they’ll ask, “what would you do?” While they are asking for our expertise based on what we know about their specific needs and desires, and not what we as designers would choose personally, we know that most of our clients are curious about our personal choices when it comes to our own homes.
Have you ever been curious about what a general contractor and a kitchen and bath designer would choose for their own house? Now’s your chance to find out! Last spring, we (Brad and Chelsea – yes we’re married!) bought a new house with the intent to pursue an immediate master bathroom remodel, with plans to complete the rest of the downstairs, including the kitchen, in a second phase at a later date.
What Was Wrong with the Master Suite?
When you buy a house that wasn’t custom-built for you, there are bound to be functional adjustments that need to be made for the way you live. The original master bedroom had brown carpeting and a door to the back porch that we knew we would never use, which threw off the symmetry of the back wall and limited furniture placement in the room.
The master bathroom was dark, and felt much smaller than its true size, as a large walk-in shower took up most of the floor space. The transom windows in the shower faced opposite the vanity mirrors, so without window treatments, the neighbors across the street could look out their second-story window and see into the master bathroom.
The original space was also missing a hand-held showerhead – a nightmare for trying to clean anything – and instead featured four body sprays, which use an enormous amount of water. The vanity only had three drawers (which isn’t ideal if you want to limit the arguments in the bathroom when sharing space with a spouse), and there was no place for storing extra toilet paper in the water closet.
But the biggest problem behind the design of this master bathroom? No bathtub. While many people never use a bathtub and much prefer a larger shower, we determined we wanted to have both. Since going upstairs to the tiny tub/shower combo in the kids’ bathroom was a deal-breaker, we decided that either the bathroom would get remodeled immediately to make space for our dream soaking tub, or we weren’t moving – it was that important.
Luckily, a 66” freestanding tub would fit and still allow ample space for a decent-sized shower, but it would require removing and replacing all three windows, patching the siding and completely repainting that side of the house, and securing HOA approval. No big deal!
Working with the Existing Layout
Due to the placement of the walk-in closet, laundry room, and stairs, the overall layout had to stay the same, but the shower was drastically reduced in size to make space for the freestanding tub. We set back the shower curb a few inches from the closet door casing to make more space in front of the vanity, with the frameless glass shower enclosure making the space feel more open and spacious.
New frameless cabinets in Annapolis Green by Benjamin Moore feature full height door sink cabinets with roll-out shelves inside for easy access. Frameless cabinet construction provides more storage space than framed cabinetry, which is always welcome in a small space. A shallow, matching wall cabinet was placed over the toilet in the water closet to house extra supplies.
Master Bathroom Materials
Our inspiration started with the turquoise vanity and brushed brass hardware pulls — the rest of this master bathroom remodel took off from there. The counters, shower curb, and foot prop are made of Silestone quartz that has all the beauty of Calacatta marble but none of the maintenance. The subtle gold veins coordinate with the brass metal tones throughout; since the turquoise vanity anchors the room, we made sure the remaining materials and finishes were neutral.
We chose a 12 x 24” porcelain from Dal-tile that looks exactly like a vein-cut limestone. Not all limestones are suitable for wet locations, and we didn’t want to deal with the maintenance of natural stone. Instead, we used a large format 6 x 18” ceramic tile with a white eggshell finish in the shower. The larger size meant fewer grout joints and the eggshell finish does a remarkable job of hiding water spots between cleanings. A 1” hexagon mosaic tile with a slight non-slip texture makes the perfect surface for the shower floor. The finish it off, we installed shower drain cover from Newport Brass with a hexagonal motif that coordinates perfectly with the surrounding tile. Nothing needs to be generic, even shower drains!
The plumbing was one of the easiest parts of this remodel – when it’s your own bathroom, you’re able to use your favorite things! In this case, we included the Victoria and Albert Amiata tub, for its clean and graceful profile. The propriety material is heavy, so it feels substantial when you’re inside it and it doesn’t bounce like thinner acrylic models sometimes do.
We chose the Kohler Pinstripe faucet suite for its classic, slightly masculine lines — and if we’re being completely honest the octagon-shaped hand towel rings. Even though chrome is a classic finish that goes with everything, we would have preferred polished nickel fixtures. Unfortunately, the Hansgrohe shower heads (a non-negotiable for Brad due to their raindance technology) were only available in chrome, so chrome it was. An advantage to using a chrome-like finish is that you can mix and match manufacturers to get exactly what you’re looking for. Not all plumbing suites have every configuration, so knowing which ones we could mix and match easily was key to using parts from several manufacturers.
Since the Pinstripe line didn’t have a wall-mounted tub filler, I found one of comparable quality by Brizo that coordinated well. It has a similar escutcheon to the Pinstripe faucet, and lever handles. Since they’re not right next to each other, you’d never notice they weren’t the same faucet suite.
A Bathroom Remodel Without Challenges? Not Even for The Pros
We’d love to say that because we were the “clients”, everything went off without a hitch, but construction doesn’t discriminate — there will always be stress and there will always be delays, no matter how well you plan. Even we had to deal with a missing part and some damaged materials. One side of the house was without siding, exposed to the elements the day before the rains from Hurricane Florence hit! Luckily our team got the siding up just in time so we didn’t have to worry. Our house was a dusty construction zone, and not wanting to have our new custom upholstered bed delivered before or during construction, we slept on a mattress upstairs on the floor for four months while we planned and executed the project. It was not glamorous. Remodeling is uncomfortable, but a few weeks or months of discomfort is worth years of enjoyment later.
Just as we would have advised our clients, we rolled with it, lowered our standard of living for a few weeks, and took comfort in knowing we would have a beautiful master suite once it was completed. And now, we absolutely love our new master suite – it’s the one space in our home that feels complete. We can’t wait to tackle the kitchen, fireplace, and back porch, which will make the home finally feels like ours. All in good time.