They say that kitchen and bathroom renovations offer the best return on investment when it comes to resale, and designer Leslie Biggley has really put that to the test in her two most recent projects—a pair of Pinterest-worthy bathrooms. Read on for Leslie’s tips for designing two distinct bathrooms, plus her suggestions for where to save and where to splurge in your own renovation.
What were your goals and inspirations when designing your two new bathrooms?
When I designed the en suite, I knew that I wanted the soaker tub to be the focal point of the space across the back of the bathroom with an amazing light fixture over the top because I love that look! I also wanted to conceal the toilet in its own space. I had seen them enclosed before and thought it was a great feature to be able to have someone using the washroom while others were using the vanity, tub or shower. We have two daughters, so I think it adds a lot of functionality to the space.
When I designed the main bathroom, it had a tub/shower enclosure. I think it’s essential to have a bathtub in a home for relaxation as well as resale, but you don’t need more than one (and we have the tub in our en suite). Showering inside of a tub enclosure is brutal because you have either a shower current sticking to you, or glass doors that kind of cram you into a tight space, so it was essential to ditch the enclosure for a tiled shower. I know about the annoyingness of the enclosures because this was our first tiled shower. We’ve had it all, from the 1930s to the ’70s, and experienced every shower curtain and glass door contraption out there in our other homes. Ultimately, my fantasies were all true—glass walls are amazing!
How did you go about each of the two design plans? What different challenges did each room pose?
The main bath had linen closets just outside of the bathroom, so the first big obstacle or opportunity was to make the bathroom bigger by absorbing the linen closets. One of my favorite details about the new space are the tall cabinets that flank both sides of the vanity. These hold the same amount of storage as a linen closet but are such a bold and striking detail in the room, whereas a linen closet would be “plain Jane.” We also added a window to the space where there was none before. Honestly, my best advice is to always have a large window if possible in a bathroom. The natural light bouncing off the tile really creates the sparkle and clean feeling that’s beautiful in a bathroom.
Where did you save in these bathroom renovations?
A huge savings was on the Kohler cast iron soaker tub, which I found on Craigslist. A contractor was renovating a condo that had a basically new bathroom and sold the tub for next to nothing. It’s such a luxury that I could never have afforded! The tub is in perfect condition and so dreamy! I’ve seen the exact tub called Kohler “vintage” in Caitlin Wilson’s latest home and so many other designer renovations.
The Delta faucets were also an affordable detail and an area where we saved, but you would never know it because the look of the fixtures is so high-end. Delta was the only affordable company that combined form and function with details like the Champagne bronze finish and the cross handles that look so polished.
Where did you splurge?
We splurged on both bathrooms by using real marble tile. We have mosaics on the floors, 12-by-24 tile in the showers and a marble subway tile on the vanity wall in the main bath. It’s a splurge, not only because the tile itself costs more than other materials. but there is also a bigger cost for installation, which most people don’t realize. The tile setter has to use a wet saw to cut marble, which they would keep outside and have to travel to it for every cut, so the installation takes a lot longer in a lot of cases. I got it in my head that I really wanted real marble baths and that it was worth the splurge and I don’t regret it at all!
Why boho and modern? What is it about these two individual styles that speaks to you?
I love to combine design styles because I don’t want any space to be conventional. I feel like if you use one style, those conventions/trends can become recognizable and overdone quickly. By mixing styles, you can create your own eclectic look. I love the colors, textiles, patterns and relaxed look of boho design, but a truly bohemian space would be a stretch for my personal style. Also, I’m not a fan of the super clean lines and minimalism associated with a purely modern look. However, when you pair the two together, you get this perfect blend of a paired-down, clean-lined bohemian look. It feels really modern and feminine at the same time, which is how I define my style: airy, modern and feminine. I also love how combining the two styles together creates a curated space that is both masculine and feminine at the same time.
How did you go about scheduling and coordinating the pair of renovations? How long did they take?
We renovated the home for 13 months. We had a general contractor, plumber, tile setter, electrician, drywallers, countertop people, etc. The bathrooms were one of the last areas to come together. With this home, we took it down to the studs, so it’s hard to isolate each bathroom, but they take so much longer than you would think. A safe number when renovating a bathroom would be a month, minimum.
All-time favorite detail about each new room: go!
I love the artwork, rug and pink-and-blue striped Turkish towels in the main bath. The art is by one of my favorite artists, Maren Devine. I have her pieces everywhere and they add so much beauty to the space. The runner is a super affordable find from Rugs USA. I actually just ordered the largest size for my current Family Room One Room Challenge because I love it so much.
In the en suite, my favorite detail is the beveled subway tile on the walls. It’s so crisp, clean and timeless and the bevel provides so much sparkle. We ran it four feet high and it’s the perfect height. I love how the pivot mirrors overlap the tile on the bottom half—it looks so layered.
What are your top three tips for successfully blending two different design styles in a single room?
- Lights and hardware are what your eye travel to first, so if those are modern, then try traditional cabinetry to balance everything out.
- Save the really on-trend details for small items, like rugs and décor pieces, so you can be bold and daring without any fear of things going out of style too soon.
- Have the style you’re most comfortable with make up the timeless pieces, like your vanity and tub and tile work. For example, the marble tile that I chose is timeless, and the wood vanities are unexpected but not trendy.
How did you manage to make each of the two bathrooms feel unique, yet blend in with your whole house design scheme?
I think the most obvious differences between the spaces are the different metals used in each space (Champagne bronze versus polished nickel) that make them unique, but the key to blending with my overall style is to always juxtapose two different styles together. In the en suite, I have really, modern light fixtures but super classic cross handles on the faucets and all fixtures. In the main bath, I switched things by having modern faucets and traditional lights and cabinetry, but that contrast between modern and traditional is always present in every space in my home.
How did you manage to maximize space and add functionality to your new bathrooms?
One of the best ways we maximized space was by having inset medicine cabinets in the main bath. The cabinets are completely flush with the wall, but provide a ton of storage. They are an element that I will always try to have in a bathroom in the future when designing. The medicine cabinets also add some vintage charm, and look gorgeous layered over subway tile.
Another super awesome thing we did was add robe hooks to all the bathrooms at the same time we renovated. It sounds like a no-brainer, but we’ve never had robe hooks (which we use to hang wet towels). Instead, we would hang our towels over doors or the shower and it’s amazing to have the added real estate that these little hooks provide. Plus, they match the faucets, which is gorgeous. I also love how we have towel rings for hand towels. It’s these little details that keep the bathrooms organized and liveable. The towel bars are for decorative towels (I’m a nerd), so you need functional hooks for towels you actually use!
Got any tips for those of us considering a gut renovation?
If possible, I would renovate one space at a time. People might tell you that it’s cheaper to do more spaces at once, but, honestly, it takes so much attention to detail that you might sacrifice vision. Also, there were a million reasons that had trades coming back to the house, so the argument that “You’ll get all the electrical or plumbing out of the way at once” never worked out in our case.
I also think you learn so much from each bathroom you do or renovation in general that it’s awesome to take that knowledge with you to the next space. In our case, there were three bathrooms that we did simultaneously and I had crazy decision fatigue. Right now, I’m designing the family room renovation for the One Room Challenge and I have so much energy for it and so many ideas and I know it’s because I’m not trying to think about too many spaces at once—dedicating your focus can be pretty amazing. That being said, we’re totally taking on renovating a house from 1886 with three bathrooms this summer again—so much for advice!
Another piece of advice would be to have large windows in the bathroom at all costs, and add them if you don’t have them. We’ll be adding a huge dormer to our summer project for that specific reason. Windows are so important—beautiful projects really fall short without gorgeous natural light streaming in, and like I said before, the light gives your tile the sparkle and clean, fresh feeling that is a must in a bathroom!
Is there anything you would have done differently in the renos now that they’re done?
Yes! I wanted to wallpaper the top half of the en suite (the bottom half is subway tile) in a Cole & Son flamingo wallpaper, but the lights, towel bars and mirrors were installed before I was able to. It’s on my wish list. On our next project, I’m going to order the paper in advance and make sure it goes up at the right time. It’s one of my favorite papers of all time!