Breakneck bathroom
Remodel emphasizes function



Greg Burke has a critical eye for design. He had a distinctive vision of what he wanted.  He wanted the bathroom to resemble a Roman bath with European flair.  It was to be highly personalized and individualized to suit his taste.

As an everyday space, the ideal bathroom is all about personal choice. That is why homeowners always have made great strides in improving the function and form of where they spend a good portion of their private time.

The modern look and feel of the setting is as diverse as the dozens of models presented at home shows and manufacturer showrooms. It is possible to achieve practically everything from a moody cocoon to light, bright and white.

Form and functionality was on the mind of Greg Ross when he decided to make a major upgrade to one of his bathrooms in his 1912 Georgian Colonial located on the East Side of Milwaukee. For Ross, who has remodeled much of his almost 3,000-square-foot home over the past ten years, the latest project was about fulfilling an immediate need as well as looking to future value.

His goal was to carve out an enlarged dressing area and bathroom with a walk-in shower with built-in seat and large whirlpool from a space that contained a standard five-foot by eight-foot
bathroom, an apparent former nursery and some closet space. The result is a comfortable blend of slate, ceramic, glass and painted woodwork that suggests an open, yet intimate, modern environment set in a space approximately 13 feet by 14 feet. Copper and sage hues dominate the room, emphasized by the tub decking, tinted glass partition between shower and bath, harlequin-style wallpaper and the painted crown molding. The earth tones are complemented by creamy white fixtures, including two neo-classic designed pedestal sinks and commode. Faucets and other hardware are finished in brushed nickel.

Ross was able to achieve this in about two months by knowing what he wanted and working with a contractor he knew from a more modest
bathroom update done six years ago.

Blau Bath & Kitchen worked with a stringent timeline and a knowledgeable client. Ross, manager of Boston Store’s Furniture Gallery, said he told BB&K that the job needed to be done in the spring or he wasn’t going
to do it.

“I’ve been through remodeling before and I knew that once I made the decision, the project needed to be done as soon as possible,” Ross said. “That was really important to me.”

With that in mind, BB&K was willing to work at relative breakneck speed. Heather Scott, BB&K’s registered interior designer, said the company
condensed the usual timeframe because the plan did not require cabinetry and because of its previous relationship with the customer.

“We did this in record time because we didn’t have to wait for the
products to be delivered,” Scott said. “Also, we knew Greg wanted to be very involved with the project and that he is very knowledgeable because of his profession. He has been through this type of remodeling before.”

Ross and Scott emphasized that the relationship between contractor and customer is important when undertaking any remodeling project, especially one that includes carving out a space for a new purpose and discovering
possible obstacles along the way.

This space was completely gutted out and, in these older homes, you never know what you are going to find,” Ross said, noting that a
medicine cabinet originally planned for a recessed installation needed to be hung on the wall instead. “You have to be flexible and trust the people who are working on the project.”

Scott added that even the plan went smoothly. “We presented three floor plans and Greg selected one immediately,” she said. “It’s not unusual for a client to spend a lot of time deciding and that can extend a project.”

Once the plan was selected, Ross and Scott worked closely to shape the bathroom’s personality. Two early decisions involved the area’s source for heat and exhaust. A non-intrusive exhaust fan was installed in the ceiling above the tub and, instead of taking out an old radiator in need of resurfacing in favor of baseboard heat, BB&K sandblasted it and dipped it in copper paint to help accent the surroundings. Lighting was achieved with recessed fixtures and sconces to complement natural light from two windows.

“Greg wanted to give an open feeling to the room and that’s why we installed a glass partition between the shower and tub,” Scott said. For the wall surrounding the entryway closet, we did not build to the ceiling. The foot or so of space enhances natural light and promotes an open feeling.”

To link the bathroom with an adjoining bedroom, carpeting was extended through the closet area. The carpeting gives way to textured cream ceramic tile and slate used creatively throughout the shower, tub deck and floors.

Great care was taken to get just the right slate, according to Ross and Scott, who added that, after searching all over, they found it at a source they said was a secret except that it is surprisingly close to home.

The room was finished off with special touches, including frosted glass shelves in the shower designed to hide water stains, illuminated glass shelves near the commode and accessories such as soap dishes and a variety of glass art objects.

Well after completion, Ross said he is happy with the outcome. In the decade that he has owned the home, Ross has a lot of projects from which to compare his latest venture. They include adding granite countertops in the kitchen, restoring the sunroom floor, painting virtually every room on the first and second floors, adding a deck with a spiral staircase leading to a backyard garden and extensive landscaping. The house has a third floor that has been largely untouched.

“When I moved here ten years ago, all my friends said I was crazy because it needed too much work,” Ross said. “But I like the neighborhood and I’ve always enjoyed projects like these.

“I think,” he added with a smile, “that I’m done for a while.”