Perfect Function in a New Arts & Crafts Tile Bath

Gray subway tile, built-in storage and a marble floor shine in this San Francisco house.

Tile stars in this bathroom, newly designed for my 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. Though the room echoes original elements in the house, it is a complete makeover: We nearly doubled the space.

The original bathroom was tiny, an uninspired room with a shower retrofitted onto the small clawfoot tub. The curse of the clinging shower curtain got to be too much to bear. To increase the size of the room, we borrowed 3' from the 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.

We worked with Dan Owens from Design Built Systems on the renovation and its details. We all agreed that the tile should have some color, in keeping with the rich, historical Benjamin Moore paints in the rest of the house. We 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). 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 Russian craftsman from Dan’s company. (Each tile was laser leveled; this is the most square and plumb room in the house!)

The drop-down, built-in cabinets—one set finished naturally, the other painted—have polished-nickel, spring-loaded hinges designed for screen doors (from Crown City Hardware). We based the cabinet design 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, we 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; my wife insisted on a feminine touch in the very functional, otherwise masculine-leaning Arts & Crafts room. We both like the way the “wedding” crystal reflects jewel-toned light around the room. The brass sconces are antiques we 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 us, and 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 TILE,
Bathtub and faucet: SUNRISE SPECIALTY,
Toilet and sink: DURAVIT,
Specialty hardware: CROWN CITY HARDWARE:
Mildew-resistant Aura® Bath & Spa paint: BENJAMIN MOORE,
Medicine cabinet: REJUVENATION,
Contractor: DESIGN BUILT SYSTEMS, San Francisco,

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