Installation Case Study: Contemporizing a dated bathroom design
A retired Californian turned to a local designer to transform her old-fashioned bathroom into a modern comfort station
Seaside living is one of the most envied lifestyles. Living within walking distance of a beach has its benefits, especially in the summertime. And recent scientific research has even proven that spending time by the ocean is beneficial to your overall well being. Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state. What is not to love about that?
In Del Mar, CA, almost every part of the city is exposed to an ocean view. Translating to “by the sea” in Spanish, Del Mar is also the smallest city in San Diego County. To pay homage to the coastal city, a local homeowner looked to longtime interior designer and local, Michael Ranson of H O M E + atelier, to create an updated contemporary bathroom with beachy colors.
“The goal was to make the space feel larger and update the materials,” the San Diego-based designer explained. “A single-mirror medicine cabinet was replaced with the full-width vanity mirror. The shower enclosure footprint remained the same, but the walls were replaced with a glass surround. The flooring tile was kept the same on the bath floor and into the shower pan to expand the visual space. The linen cabinet next to the shower was painted the wall color to expand the space visually.”
Ranson and this particular client have worked together on previous projects, so it was a relatively easy process selecting the new tile materials and fixtures to adorn the 5 1/2- x 8-foot space. “The conch-shaped tile in ‘Coachella Blue’ was the first material selected,” said Ranson of the uniquely shaped tiles that dress the floor and shower pan, which were supplied by Arto Brick in Gardena, CA. “I was at the Arto showroom in Los Angeles sourcing for another client when I saw a concept board showing the tile and I knew it would be perfect for this client, if she decided at some point to redo the bathroom. I have worked with this client for many years and I honestly knew that she'd love it. The shape, pattern and color were perfect for the small bath in a home near the Pacific Ocean.”
Although there were other tile options considered, Ranson and his client ultimately selected the irregularly shaped Arto tiles because of “wow factor” they provided. “It seemed perfect when selected and even more so after looking at other options that just did not measure up,” said Ranson.
The baby blue tiles, which embrace the popular Carolina blue color, were utilized in a 4-inch format for the shower pan and a larger 8-inch format for the main flooring. They also incorporate a rustic-like wear on the edges in a copper-like color, providing a subtle, yet sophisticated design accent that looks like the tiles have already been in place for some time. “The tile’s edge was a favorite feature of my client,” said Ranson.
Around 45 square feet of the conch-shaped tile from Arto was utilized, with 36 square feet allotted for the main flooring and 9 square feet used for the shower pan. An additional 64 square feet of 6-inch, honed Calacatta Gold marble tile was used on shower walls, which was supplied by San Diego Marble & Tile, Encinitas, CA.
To complete the install, Ranson turned to a local professional who he has also worked with on a number of projects, Josh Fischer, president of San Diego Bath & Tile, Inc. in Encinitas, CA. “I knew that he would provide a quality installation for my client,” said Ranson. “We met to discuss the layout of the two [tile] sizes and he moved forward.”
Fischer had one installer onsite to help him complete the project, which took about two weeks. “We do things a little differently than most,” said Fischer, whose company specializes in shower construction and waterproofing. “While we certainly do our fair share of mud work, many times I elect for our hybrid version.”
This “hybrid version” Fischer utilizes combines both thinset and mud-set/thick-set methods to ensure a long-lasting tile installation. To begin, Fischer prepped the shower wall using Hydro-Blok’s wallboard, which is composed of a closed-cell XPS foam core and polymer-modified cement coating. The wallboard was then wet shimmed, screwed and sealed with Hydro-Blok’s joint sealant, and the 6-inch Calacatta Gold marble tiles were installed atop using Custom Building Products’ MegaLite.
“The shower tile was a very light marble, which many people warn against installing in showers,” said Fischer. “I don't like the idea of having cement mortar walls drawing in moisture through the marble. With this system, the substrate itself is waterproof, eliminating any moisture wicking into a mortar wall.”
For the shower pan, Fischer constructed the pre-slope with Rapid Set’s Mortar Mix, then used Laticrete’s Hydro Ban waterproofing membrane and Siena Tile & Stone Installation Products’ Deck Mud. “The shower pan tile was a glazed clay product, for which we still used Custom’s MegaLite,” said Fischer. “The tile was installed directly over the sloped mortar bed.”
For the bathroom floor, Fischer applied a self-leveling system to adhere to the existing wood substrate. “We primarily use fiberglass-reinforced self-leveling cement over wood subfloors,” he explained. “In this case, we used Uzin NC 150. The floor tile was installed using Laticrete’s 253 Gold thinset.”
To grout the shower and floor, Fischer utilized Custom Building Products’ Prism in the color “Bright White.” “Matching siliconized acrylic caulk was utilized for all changes in plane,” he added.
Altogether, the project took around three months to envision. “My client and her friends/family love it,” said Ranson. “The most interesting reaction is from trade vendors that initially only saw the individual finishes and materials and then saw the final product. The general reaction is somewhat of a, ‘wow that came together beautifully.’”
Del Mar, CA
Designer: H O M E + atelier, San Diego, CA