Tiny bathroom transformed

Clever redesign takes this small space from dark & gloomy to bright & roomy

Story By Amy Newman • Photography by Inua Blevins

  • Photography by Inua Blevins Photography by Inua Blevins
  • Photography by Inua Blevins Photography by Inua Blevins
  • Photography by Inua Blevins Photography by Inua Blevins
  • Photography by Inua Blevins Photography by Inua Blevins
  • Photography by Inua Blevins Photography by Inua Blevins

Willis and Phyllis Kirkpatrick never imagined the impact a simple bathroom remodel could have on their lives or the difference it would make on the surrounding space – which is why it took them more than 30 years to update their master bathroom. Now, their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner.

“I feel a little silly talking about what a joy a bathroom is, but it really has a made a difference in the overall feel of the whole bedroom and bathroom, even though we didn’t do anything to the bedroom,” Phyllis says. “This (new bathroom) is a comfortable, pleasant surrounding.”

With the help of Jeremy Bauer and Jason Clifton, owners of Juneau design firm Bauer/Clifton Interiors, what the couple described as a cold, drab “room of convenience” was transformed into an award-winning bathroom that is both functional and inviting.

Small space, big feel

Built in 1984, the master bathroom in the Kirkpatricks’ home, which is located in Juneau’s Auke Bay area, was both outdated and non-functional.

With a jetted tub the same width as the walk-in shower, the 10x10-foot room was cramped, with a tiny vanity that could barely hold any toiletries and zero storage space for linens, Willis says.
Creating the storage and roominess the Kirkpatricks wanted without increasing the bathroom’s size took
some creativity.

“It was a little like Tetris in terms of design,” Jason says.

Jeremy and Jason created additional space by eliminating two of the bathroom’s three doorways – one leading into the common hallway and another that led out to the deck – and one bay window. With this new wall space, they were able to add recessed storage and shelving and install a large vanity with undercabinet storage and pull-out drawers on either side. Eliminating the extra doors and window also allowed them to relocate the tub and take advantage of the bathroom’s view of Auke Lake.

“Given the proximity to the ocean and the amazing views, it made sense to nestle the tub directly beneath that large window,” Jeremy says.

Thoughtful design elements also give the space a bigger feel. Abstract accent tiles from the tub deck overlap and flow into the adjacent glassed walk-in shower, so the eye flows seamlessly throughout the space.

“It’s just one of those little tricks for a small space that makes the tub and shower feel a little bit bigger,” Jason explains.

Phyllis was “pleasantly surprised” with how big the new bathroom feels. “When I go in, I don’t get the impression of, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s a small bathroom.’ I think they did a really good job designing it to get the maximum space that they could.”

Light, bright and warm

In its previous life, the bathroom was dark and gloomy, despite its large bay windows, says Willis – a feeling compounded by its navy-blue fixtures. The room was also cold, and frost accumulation on the inside window panes was common in winter.

To brighten the space, Jeremy and Jason drew color inspiration from the home’s natural surroundings. They paired a light, neutral paint color with a coastal blue vanity, and large, white ceramic tiles for the shower. The accent tiles along the tub deck, in the shower alcove, and on the vanity backsplash have a pearlescent glaze that “really does come to life in that natural lighting,” he says.

Recessed canned lighting in the ceiling and light fixtures above and below the vanity ensure the bathroom remains well-lit even during the long, dark winters.

Redirecting the bathroom’s ductwork allowed Jeremy and Jason to make better use of the bathroom’s heat source, while the addition of rigid foam insulation in the walls helps retain heat. In-floor radiant heating overlaid with a luxury vinyl tile helps keep things warmer underfoot.

Accessible design

As the Kirkpatricks age – they are both in their 80s – being able to remain in the place they’ve called home for more than 30 years began to be a concern.

“It was all about how could they make their home more accommodating to any potential aging issues,” Jeremy explains.

Jeremy and Jason took those concerns into consideration during the redesign. Grab bars and a built-in bench make showering safer, and a stool next to the toilet offers a spot to sit and dry off. The luxury vinyl tile is not only warmer and softer than ceramic or stone tiles, but also more tactile and slip-resistant than other flooring options.

The Kirkpatricks are beyond pleased with the final outcome.

“(In) the old bathroom, you took a shower and you got out of there because it was uncomfortable to be in,” Willis says. “Now we find that we probably are in that bathroom more than we thought we would be. There’s no reason to exit it.”