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Part of an expansion of a Shingle Style house on Cape Cod, this bath makeover created rooms within rooms with decorative sliding doors that don’t block sunlight. Design by Hutker Architects. Photo by Brian Vanden Brink.

Bathrooms en Suite

by Mary Ellen Polson on March 1, 2011

in Kitchens & Bathrooms

ABOVE: Part of an expansion of a Shingle Style house on Cape Cod, this bath makeover created rooms within rooms with decorative sliding doors that don’t block sunlight. Design by Hutker Architects. Photo by Brian Vanden Brink

It’s the rage in today’s construction: master bedroom and bath as a suite. Here’s how to do it—with period details—to get an expanded or an additional bathroom in your old house.

Houses built before about 1880 were lucky to have indoor plumbing, much less a bathroom exclusively for the “master” of the house. Fortunately, those with older houses have discovered many ingenious ways to include en suite baths, whether sumptuous and modest, in their homes.

Two options present themselves: conversion of existing space, or building an addition. While some conversions do indeed swallow an entire bedroom or even a full floor, other baths are chiseled out of “found” space, as under the attic eaves, or from closets, even placed in hallways.

Whether it’s tucked in or added on, treating the bathroom as an extension of living space makes the transition from the bedroom seamless. Use a complementary wallpaper pattern or related paint colors, don’t skimp on trim details, add a sconce (or chandelier!), and hang pictures.

Period-friendly, well-furnished details include wallpaper, a Roman pedestal tub, and built-in storage. Photo by Brian Vanden Brink.

Period-friendly, well-furnished details include wallpaper, a Roman pedestal tub, and built-in storage. Photo by Brian Vanden Brink.

Add on or expand
Sometimes it’s just more cost-effective to create an addition, especially when work is required on more than one level of the house As part of the renovation of a Shingle Style house in coastal Massachusetts, the owners created a master suite filled with period details that meld effectively with the age and style of the house. Like a window seat, a Roman pedestal tub is recessed into the light-filled alcove, and built-in drawers, cubbies, and cabinets abound. Next to a marble-topped vanity with double sinks, a pair of sliding doors with leaded glass insets admit natural light from an adjacent hallway. [shown in two photos above]

Linking the bedroom to the bath by way of a “master hall” equipped with storage, sinks, and a vanity is an economical use of space in the retrofit of a 1913 historic building by David Heide Design Studio. Photo by Susan Gilmore.

Linking the bedroom to the bath by way of a “master hall” equipped with storage, sinks, and a vanity is an economical use of space in the retrofit of a 1913 historic building by David Heide Design Studio. Photo by Susan Gilmore.

Put it in a hallway

In a historic 1913 building with Tudor details that had been converted to condominiums in the 1970s, the goal was to return architectural integrity to the interior spaces (which included a later wing addition) while restoring period details. In remodeling the wing to create a bedroom suite, architect David Heide created a “master hallway” between the bedroom and the main bathing area.

The rest of the bathroom, too, has a built-in, furnished look. Photo by Susan Gilmore.

The rest of the bathroom, too, has a built-in, furnished look. Photo by Susan Gilmore.

Along the comfortably wide linear space is a mirrored vanity with dual sinks, a built-in dresser, and other storage. In the tub room, decorative moldings around the mirror give tribute to a Jacobean plaster relief ceiling in the apartment’s living room. In other words, the bathroom is treated as another room, not a service area. [shown above and to the left]

Convert a bedroom
The owners of an 1887 Queen Anne in New Jersey, after years of discussion, decided to convert the bedroom next to their own room into a new master bath, skillfully packing it with amenities that include a shower for two and a walk-in closet.

In an 1887 New Jersey house, a privacy wall between bed and bath includes a salvaged leaded-glass window; design by Michael Burns Architects. Photo by Bruce Buck.

In an 1887 New Jersey house, a privacy wall between bed and bath includes a salvaged leaded-glass window; design by Michael Burns Architects. Photo by Bruce Buck.

They also managed to cadge enough space for two new closets: one for linens in the hall, and a tiny one for the bedroom on the other side of the new master bath. The room is a tribute to salvage: contractor Jeff Loux removed and re-used the original floorboards and incorporated salvaged tiles, a pedestal sink, and a leaded-glass window into the retrofit.

Though simple, the bath (converted from an extra bedroom) includes a salvaged, stained-glass window to admit light into the walk-in shower. Photo by Bruce Buck.

Designers
Architect Hutker Architects, Falmouth, MA: (508) 540-0048, hutkerarchitects.com
Architect David Heide, David Heide Design Studio, Minneapolis, MN: (612) 337-5060, dhdstudio.com
Architect Michael Burns, Michael Burns Architects, Lambertville, NJ: (609) 397-5508, michaelburnsarchitects.com • with Carpenter Jeffrey Loux, Jeff’s Workshop, Morrisville, PA: (215) 736-2258

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