Old baths need new look


September 06, 1992|By Rita St. Clair

Despite all the problems of central cities -- not just in the United States, but throughout the world -- many people still consider an urban apartment preferable to a house in suburbia.

One of the advantages of city living is the availability of architecturally interesting residences. Sometimes, too, these older homes are more affordable than a place in a recently built development. At the same time, however, a move to a pre-war apartment usually means doing without many of the technological conveniences introduced during the past 50 years.

The photograph shows what a careful renovation can produce in such a space. The original bath, though once handsome, had become a victim of simple wear and old age. The window, stuck with layers of paint, no longer opened. Years of exposure to dampness had rotted the window frames; walls and floors were cracked beyond repair; the seal around the tub had ceased to be effective. Besides healing these wounds, the new resident wanted to install some modern conveniences, such as a washer-dryer and a shower stall.

As you can see, the transformation created here by designers Jerome Hanauer and Joseph Minicucci is impressive. Out came the tub, sink and toilet; in came the latest fixtures. The window was boarded up, and handsome floor-to-ceiling tile, a cinch to clean, was installed in its place. A mirror that extends to the ceiling was placed above the small but adequate sink.

On the opposite wall, above the tile wainscoting, another mirror allows a look at the back of one's head while also visually enlarging the room. And where once was a shallow old tub, the designers inserted a spacious shower stall, equipped with a narrower-than-usual, custom-sized door.

Three patterns of ceramic tile distinguish different parts of this combination laundry-bath. The largest pattern has been placed on the floor, the smallest on the wall, and the mid-sized on the interior of the shower. The added full-size washer and dryer can be concealed by Flexalum Decor metal mini-blinds designed by Hunter Douglas. Brushed in aluminum, the blinds go well with the other metal finishes in the space. All these materials were selected with an eye toward durability, easy maintenance, moisture-resistance and -- certainly not least -- their beauty.

The wise renovator will keep in mind the need for electrical voltage sufficient to handle a whole new array of appliances. Proper lighting is vital as well. Small showers need their own lighting source, preferably a vapor-proof light on the stall's ceiling. Also, light fixtures for makeup, shaving and general illumination could be placed above face-level and on either side of the mirror. Because they cast shadows, ceiling lights are seldom flattering. Though white is the safest color to choose in a small bath space, I admit it is also rather boring. Some liveliness can be introduced by applying a boldly colored paper on the ceiling or, more easily, by buying a few decorative towels.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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