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Tile stars in this bathroom, newly designed for this Edwardian-era home in San Francisco. The built-ins have a strong role, too, and the large shower with a tiled seat, niches, and two showerheads is one-of-a-kind.

This timeless bathroom in a 1912 house is actually all new.

This timeless bathroom in a 1912 house is actually all new.

Though the room echoes original elements in the house, it's a complete makeover, with nearly double the space. The original bathroom was a tiny, uninspired room with a shower retrofitted onto a small clawfoot tub. The curse of the clinging shower curtain got to be too much to bear. To increase the size of the room, the homeowner borrowed 3' from an unusually large hallway. There is still a generous landing at the top of the stairs, so the room sizes don’t seem unusual.

built-in storage cabinets

The room features elegant built-in storage cabinets.

Homeowners worked with Dan Owens from Design Built Systems on the renovation and its details. All agreed that the tile should have some color, in keeping with the rich, historical Benjamin Moore paints in the rest of the house. They chose heather gray with a crackle glaze—not common, but still timeless, and with an Art Deco leaning. A subway-tile wainscot picks up on the (faux) wainscot that was in the old bathroom. That’s supplemented by square tiles in the shower, tile moldings, and a tile floor (over radiant heat).

Hexagonal floor tiles and the unusual hand-cut border are marble, from Subway Ceramics.

Hexagonal floor tiles and the unusual hand-cut border are marble, from Subway Ceramics.

The floor’s marble border tiles were hand cut, each to size, so that full tiles finish the threshold and pony wall. The tiling was done by a superb craftsman from Dan’s company. (Each tile was laser leveled; this is the most square and plumb room in the house!)

This drop-front cabinet is painted to match the walls.

This drop-front cabinet is painted to match the walls.

The drop-down, built-in cabinets—one set finished naturally, the other painted—have polished-nickel, spring-loaded hinges designed for screen doors). The cabinet design was based on the original linen drawers in the hall, which are distinctive enough to be noticed by guests. The smaller cabinet was finished naturally, as it is set in the doorway woodwork. The other is painted. Window and door trim follows what’s in the house, but because the original bath trim was plain, they left off the fancy headers found in other rooms. Push-button light switches from Rejuvenation are another period detail.

original drop-front linen drawers

The new bathroom borrowed a few feet from the hallway, where original drop-front linen drawers, the model for bathroom units, are visible.

The period chandelier is from eBay; the wife insisted on a feminine touch in the very functional, otherwise masculine-leaning Arts & Crafts room. Both like the way the “wedding” crystal reflects jewel-toned light around the room. The brass sconces are antiques pulled from storage to light the room “temporarily,” until we were ready to order custom lighting in polished nickel. But their warmth and simple design have grown on the homeowners, who say they’ll probably stay.

The bathtub is a new reproduction, with fittings at center instead of one end. The shower door, a slab of glass, is etched in a pattern often seen in floor borders of this period. The mirror, which dates to 1912—the year the house was built—had been sitting with broken glass in the garage until it was restored for this project.


Floor and wall tiles: Subway Ceramics  by Heritage Tile
Toilet and sink: Duravit
Mildew-resistant Aura® Bath & Spa paint: Benjamin Moore
Medicine cabinet: Rejuvenation

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