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Many of us have the same boring bathroom problem: white walls, white tile, white tub. Normally, to enliven a space, I'll paint the walls a color. But in my master bathroom, where the shower and sink area are made of white Corian, color would have been tricky. Instead, I used tile to bring in texture and warmth and also to create a visual transition between the dark stone floor and the Corian elements. A few other small but big-impact adjustments, including adding an under-sink shelf for storage and mirrors for light, make the space more practical and personal.
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Walking into the Waterworks showroom, I had a vision of "big and graphic." But I realized quickly that in the long run I wouldn't be happy with lots of pattern. My tile had to be calming and unimposing but artful -- the "bathroom as spa" idea. Waterworks tile expert Kristen Vander Hulst helped me select Tatami, a beautiful mosaic made of four types of polished and honed marble strips. I chose neutral colors -- it's available in various colorways -- to keep the room's palette unified. Tatami is refreshingly imperfect, but not overwrought, and I love that it's so, pardon the pun, tactile.
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The mosaic installation, a complex eight-day affair, was done by Yorke Construction. First each section, left, which comes covered in plastic film, is labeled to ensure proper execution of the pattern.
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Next, sections are spread with adhesive, center, and mounted.
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Mind the Gaps
On the wall, grout is troweled over the tile to fill in all gaps, above. Tatami mosaic tile, in stone group 1, 2, 3, 4, $191 per square foot, waterworks.com
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Apart from a pair of recessed medicine cabinets flanking the sink, Kevin's master bathroom had no built-in storage. So he had his contractor make a shelf out of water-resistant medium-density fiberboard, which was finished with a glossy catalyzed lacquer. Kevin loves the openness of the shelf. "I have no problem seeing useful items," he says. "Even jars of cotton balls can be beautiful. My everyday essentials are stacked on a silver tray -- anything looks better on a tray." There's even room for a small stereo. The made-to-order mirror behind the shelf was fitted with holes for plumbing. Although mirror is inexpensive, costs rise with the number of cuts and the type of edging.
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Mirror is "absolutely essential inside a medicine cabinet," Kevin says. "It reflects light, adds glamour, and makes it easier to find things." A professional measured his cabinets and cut a mirror to fit; caulk keeps the pieces firmly in place. Depending on the thickness of the mirror, it may be necessary to trim the shelves once the mirror is installed. Keep in mind that shelves made of tempered glass cannot be cut down and may need to be replaced to accommodate a mirror.
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For a streamlined look, Kevin replaced the towel bars in his master bathroom with discreet hooks. Made in Denmark, they have rubber grips and are "perfectly designed," he says. Vipp hook, $125 for 2, vipp.com
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Less Is More
In the guest bath, Kevin removed the medicine cabinet. "It wasn't necessary, and it looked like a barnacle on the wall," he says. In its place, a floor-to-ceiling mirror makes the small space feel more expansive. "Just that one change made the whole room come together," he says.
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Tile: A Primer
Mosaic, penny round, textured, smooth -- tile offerings can seem infinite. Here, the basics on glass, ceramic, and stone, as well as the pros and cons of using each in a bathroom.
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Glass tile is available in everything from translucent penny rounds to opaque bricks. Pros: It's strong and luminous. Cons: It can show debris on its back surface, "like a great diamond in an inferior setting," Kevin says. So proper installation is critical. Also, some glass tile can be too fragile for floors.
1. Stilato Mosaic, in Mezzanine Mink, $26 per square foot; and 2. Glass Mosaic, in M. Butterfly, $25.50 per square foot, artistictile.com.
3. Roku, in Agave, from $25 per square foot, walkerzanger.com.
4. Promenade, in Lava with Etch finish; and 5. with Glossy finish, from $50 per square foot, annsacks.com.
6. Round Jeweled Opal, $17 per square foot, by Jeffrey Court, homedepot.com.
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More durable than glass, clay tile is produced in many sizes, colors, and thicknesses. Porcelain tiles are fired at a higher temperature than standard ceramic, making them even more durable. Pros: Glazed clay is nonporous, so it inhibits bacteria absorption. It's easy to clean and suitable for wall and some floor applications. Cons: It can be cold to the touch.
1. Soho Retro Hex, in Black, from $15 per square foot, walkerzanger.com.
2. Linios, in Bianco, $6.60 per square foot, completetile.com.
3. Impressions, in Tobacco, from $26 per square foot, by Laura Kirar, annsacks.com.
4. Encore Ceramic, in Truffle with Crackle finish, $38.24 per square foot, artistictile.com.
5. Semi-Gloss, in Almond, 63 cents each, by Dal-Tile, homedepot.com.
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Marble, travertine, granite, limestone, and slate all come in an array of finishes and formats, from slabs to mosaics. Pros: Luxurious and almost indestructible, stone ages beautifully if well maintained, and it's suitable for both walls and floors. Cons: Stone is reactive. It requires regular cleaning and periodic resealing. It can also be cold to the touch.
1. Bellarita, in Beige/Cream/Brown, from $35.89 per square foot, annsacks.com.
2. Rart, in Marfil Brown, $9 per square foot, by U.S. Ceramics, homedepot.com.
3. Tatami, in Bone, from $20 per square foot, walkerzanger.com.
4. Midnight Glacier, $22 per square foot, completetile.com.
5. Zebrano, $13 per square foot, artistictile.com.
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Mirror's ability to amplify light in a small space makes it "one of the most powerful and affordable tools in decorating," Kevin says. And the options go way beyond clear. Your glass store should be able to supply any of these alternatives.
1. Antiqued: Coatings are applied to simulate the look of a mirror that's become tarnished over time with streaks, spatters, and fogging. Commercially produced versions come in set sizes, and the distressing is uniform. A wide range of effects, including mercury antiqued and silvered, can be done by hand.
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2. Smoked: To achieve the soft, moody look of smoked mirror, the finisher applies silver by hand, depositing it unevenly on the glass, giving the surface an aged effect.
3. Tinted: Usually pricier than clear, colored mirror comes in several hues. "Be courageous, and have fun," Kevin says. "If you like green, or have tile with some green in it, go for green mirror."
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