Master Bath Renovation Explores Themes from Great Falls’ Bucolic Past.
By John Byrd
Talk about rustic charm.
In 2007, Bill and Brenda Bosch purchased what boutique remodelers sometimes refer to as a “barn conversion” – specifically, a spacious modern home which, five years earlier, had been constructed inside the exterior of a 1935 diary barn.
With its metal roof, stucco siding and silo, the 5,800 sq ft five bedroom Great Falls residence fairly exuded nostalgic references to the community’s bucolic past. It was an eye-catching testament to the “unique living” credo, and a local landmark. It was offered convenient access to the city and a great place to raise kids.
Getting the house to owner requirements, however, entailed a commitment.
For starters, the second level primary living area (formerly, a hay loft) was too dark and poorly finished, and offered only limited views of the splendid setting through re-purposed skylights. An early renovation effort focused on “gutting” the kitchen, dining room and family room, and introducing a more appropriate glazing solution that included dormer windows in key locations.
More recently, as the children moved on to college, Bill and Brenda began to see the house from an empty-nester’s perspective.
The first level master bathroom was plainly still unacceptable. With its circa 1990s white ceramic tile, tiny vanity and walk-in shower stall, the design was like something out of a builder-grade starter home.
Moreover, at 90 sq ft, it was cramped and pinched, offering no opportunities for such upscale necessities as built-ins for toiletries and towels, a showering option for every whim, unhurried zones to dry-off and re-acclimate, and (especially) a breathtaking view of classic Virginia countryside.
Views, in particular, ranked high on the couple’s wish list.
“We wanted to see our beautiful surroundings from the bed, but this wasn’t feasible,” Bosch recalls.
The problem: the southwest corner of the house where the master suite was located was wrapped around 80-year old post-and-beam supports that held up the second floor. Given the critical structural consideration, the original master bedroom had been configured into an L-shape (sleeping quarters with a sitting room addenda). Moreover, under the existing plan, one entered the bathroom though an equally-size sitting room, an arrangement which Bosch saw as wasted space.
“We wanted to reconfigure the rear corner quadrant of the house to improve both the space plan and the view fields,” Bosch say, “I just wasn’t sure how to do it.”
Enter Chris Arnold of Foster Remodeling Solutions, the firm that had successfully renovated several aspects of a friend’s home over a ten year period.
As Arnold recalls: “We were asked for ideas for a sweeping interior makeover, but nothing could happened without implementing a significant structural change.”
Arnold’s plan: shift second floor loads to an 8” x 17′ steel beam attached to vertical supports concealed behind interior walls. The move would widen available bedroom floorspace by 50 square feet and add another 20 square feet for an upgraded master bathroom.
To reinforce the emerging design statement, the exposed steel beam is to be wrapped in reclaimed barn board. The new bedroom flooring is, likewise, made from old barn wood that’s been milled to specification. As a final grace note, one enters the commode via a reclaimed barn door mounted on antique rollers.
With the additional floorspace, the couple’s new king-sized bed is now positioned on a wider interior wall that features a spot-on view of rolling paddocks and grazing horses.
Though augmented by a comparatively modest increase in square footage, the new master bath is, likewise, far more comfortable.
“Brenda and I can occupy the new bathroom at the same time,” Bosch says, “which was difficult before.”
Meanwhile, at 21 square feet, the “curbless” walk-in shower – fitted out with a bench and personal cubbies – boasts many cutting-edge amenities, including a programmable control that remembers each user’s preferred water temperature.
Consistent the broader design goals, the shower now features a window with an adjustable screen that affords a panoramic view of wooded back acreage.
The interior itself is a study in textural and tonal contrasts that reinforces a softly relaxed ambiance.
The porcelain tile flooring – which Arnold found after careful research – is an exact match for natural blue stone. As an added nod to personal comfort, the flooring is heated via electrical coil integrated into the underside of the tile itself.
Other design details, explore themes from the 1930s and earlier. Period cabinetry provides drawers and shelving for towels and personal toiletries. Quartz counter surfaces and mirrors framed in polished nickel help to balance the light and dark contrasts. The scones are early-electric Edison-style replica with an exposed filament.
Foster Remodeling Solutions periodically offers workshops on home remodeling topics. For Information call: 703/550-1371, or www.fosterremodeling.com
John Byrd has been writing about residential architecture, building and remodeling for 30 years. His work has appeared in House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Southern Living and many national and regional publications. He has also written and produced segments for HGTV and other cable outlets. His work has received numerous Press Association awards for excellence in journalism.