Mediterranean Bath

How a tiny bathroom was transformed into spa-like retreat.

Written by Judy Leibner
Photos by Daniel Dutka

Wayne and Michelle Dewhurst could visualize the possibilities even before they decided to purchase their 60-year-old brick home in southwest London, Ontario. Once they moved in however, they knew they would have to make significant changes to their tiny bathroom.

Undertaking a major project wasn’t a problem for Wayne, a carpenter who specializes in renovations through his company, Divine Construction. The bathroom’s main fault centred on its size: only large enough to accommodate a basin, toilet and tub.

“It was just very small,” Wayne says. “For a main bathroom, it was quite tiny.”

The couple realized they could solve their problem by eliminating an adjoining office. The additional space would result in a bathroom 12 feet long by six feet wide – plenty of space to give Michelle the spa-like retreat she desired.

The Dewhursts perused books at a home improvement store for ideas and found a bathroom with a tub framed by an arch. They liked the bathroom’s European appeal and decided to frame their tub and shower with an arch as well.

“We went with that arch theme and tried to carry it through the house,” Michelle says. “It just evolved from there with what we could make work in the space.”

Wayne and Michelle began their renovation by removing a wall with a doorway. It had separated the front entry from a narrow passage that led to the bathroom and a bedroom at each end. They replaced the doorway with a long curving arch, centring the bathroom door in the middle.

Wayne started the demolition work by ripping out the floors and walls in the bathroom and office. With the two rooms now one, he framed and insulated the walls, and applied moisture-resistant drywall.

The couple replaced the plumbing and wiring, then installed the raised soaker tub and shower. Although other contractors encouraged Wayne to use a pre-formed basin for the shower floor, he opted for the Schluter shower system, which allowed him to tile the floor.

Once he framed the shower, he installed a patented polyethylene waterproofing membrane on top of a 11⁄2-inch mortar base, sloped toward the centre of the shower. A large round drain carries away any water that may seep under the tile. “It hasn’t leaked,” Wayne says of the shower.

The couple then covered the walls with half-inch cement board and a Schluter waterproofing membrane. Their last step entailed tiling the bathroom floor with 18-inch porcelain tiles and then tiling the walls, shower and tub surround. The six-week renovation was completed at a cost of $8,000.

Although Wayne and Michelle had previous experience in renovating, they had never taken on such an intensive project. “We got two weeks into it and I didn’t say it out loud to Wayne, but I was thinking, ‘Why did we ever do this?’ Now, we would do it again,” Michelle says.

The Dewhursts’ bathroom is a study in symmetry, with the shower and tub positioned at opposite ends. That sense of proportion is enhanced by a monochromatic colour scheme that relies on the pairing of soft cream walls with taupe porcelain tiles.

Subtle details, such as a variation in the size of tiles, add visual interest without detracting from the bathroom’s feeling of serenity. Smaller tiles, laid on the diagonal and topped with porcelain dentil-style moulding, create a striking border along one wall.

Smaller tiles also draw attention to the arches above the shower and tub. Wayne repeated the arch motif in a recessed soap and shampoo holder in the shower. The arched top, which adds a European flavour, transforms an essentially utilitarian element into a spa feature.

Glass block windows in the shower and tub areas transmit plenty of light while ensuring the couple’s privacy. A pot light in the shower adds further illumination; a fan exhausts excess moisture.

Wayne and Michelle chose faucets and hardware with a black wrought-iron finish as a contrast to the cream and taupe colour scheme. It complements their vanity, an antique Chinese end table that features decorative metal hardware and curving lines.

“It’s the central focus when you walk in because it’s wood and everything else is tile,” Wayne says.

A flat, wrought-iron candleholder with a fleur de lis motif hangs on the wall above the tub, reinforcing the bathroom’s Mediterranean ambiance. Two heavy bronzed sconces are positioned on each side of a horizontal mirror above the vanity.

Michelle advises other homeowners who are renovating a bathroom to find one element, such as a vanity, that will unify other pieces. “It’s a lot of space planning, too,” she notes.

Michelle says she’s delighted that the new bathroom is just what she and Wayne envisioned – it’s relaxing without being overly modern. “All of our friends refer to it as the ‘castle’ with the tile that we chose and the arch tiles – everyone loves it. I think now that we’ve lived with it for a year, we just treat it as our bathroom. But people are still amazed by it and they love it.”