Q: We want to remodel a spare room adjacent to our bedroom so it can serve as a spacious bath and dressing area. Can you suggest something other than the usual double-sink vanity?
A counter top that long strikes me as an invitation to clutter. We'd also appreciate advice on colors, materials and window treatments.
A: Clutter won't be a problem on a long counter top if your remodeling plan makes provision for plenty of storage space. Difficult-to-store items such as hair spray, tall bottles and hair dryers can all be accommodated in a properly designed cabinet below a double-sink counter.
For maximum efficiency, it should be outfitted with tall and narrow pull-out shelves, each divided into a series of compartments. They will be easily accessible and remain hidden from view if installed behind a drawer-like front.
An alternative would be a pair of shallow, built-in wall cabinets, one over each of two sinks. The hinged cabinet doors should be mirrored and decoratively framed.
The cabinets might also be separated from one another by strips of make-up lights or wall sconces. That arrangement has the added advantage of ensuring that both sink areas will be adequately illuminated.
A solution of this sort is shown in the photo. Here, the separate sinks with individual tops of green-and-white veined marble were manufactured by Kohler. They certainly anchor the room in an emphatic fashion, establishing the basis for a classically styled setting with a contemporary approach to the use of materials.
Fittings for soap and toothbrushes can be attached to the wall. And the sink tops are spacious enough for the placement of additional bath accouterment.
But it might be wise to build or buy an additional cabinet for towels and other items that won't fit into the wall-hung units. In a large bathroom, the stand-up cabinet could be quite sizable, and would thus lend itself to treatment as a decorative focal point.
The choice of materials for the room will depend mainly on your budget. I would personally favor elegantly smooth surfaces -- such as marble for the counter tops, tub surround and flooring -- along with a differently textured material for the walls.
In the photo, marble is used on the horizontal surfaces, while wood paneling was added beneath a very small patterned wallpaper. This setting also features an interesting and somewhat elaborate window treatment, consisting of fabric tie-back panels hung over white sheer curtains.
Notice, too, how the bright metal fittings add sparkle to the room. In this case, chrome finish was used for the plumbing fixtures, mirror frame, beaded molding and various accessories. Without that touch, the room would not be as elegant.
Q: We're thinking about adding a fireplace to our master bedroom. Do you have any advice regarding both the style of the fireplace and the height of its opening? We do prefer contemporary design.
A: As you probably know, the addition of a fireplace is not a simple matter. It involves a number of functional and design considerations.
The height of the opening should be directly related to the fireplace's location in a room and the angles at which it will be viewed. In a contemporary setting, the mantel-hearth configuration need not be defined as strictly as in a traditionally styled room. You thus have quite a lot of license in regard to the size of the fireplace opening and its height off the floor.
If the fireplace is to be viewed from the bed -- and how could you not enjoy seeing the play of the flames from a sleepily prone position? -- then the bottom of the opening needs to be at least 24 inches above floor level. That should also be equal to about 10 inches above the mattress height.
If the fireplace is to be situated in a sitting area of the bedroom and viewed from lounge chairs, the opening need not be so high. But I would still urge you to place it at least a few inches above the hearth for safety reasons as well as for ease of maintenance.
A dramatic and contemporary placement of a fireplace is in an atrium that's part of a total environment for bathing, dressing and relaxation. The treatment and location of such a fireplace could be readily adapted to a multifunctional bedroom.
In one such design by Barbara Schlattman, a Houston-based designer, the fireplace opening was high enough so it could be seen from all corners of the space. Instead of the traditional fireplace screen, tempered glass and doors with brass fittings were used to shield the opening. This contemporary treatment, which went well with the room's overall design, also ensured greater heat retention while preventing sparks from escaping into the room.
Ms. Schlattman says she applied marbled tiles, brass and mirrored glass to the face of the fireplace wall in order to create a room filled with "shimmering, cool reflections." As is often the case with contemporary design, the success of this composition results from the proper placement and balance of materials, colors and finishes. With a style like this, it's the total look that matters most. In traditional settings, on the other hand, ornamentation is often the decisive factor.
+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate