• July 22, 2014

Designer Cindy McClure and the secrets to a winning bathroom

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Posted: Saturday, April 26, 2014 4:30 am

Cindy McClure, with the Washington firm Grossmueller’s Design, is a featured designer in the 2014 D.C. Design House. She was the guest last week on Post staff writer Jura Koncius’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:

I’d like to remodel my very small master bathroom by removing the tub and replacing it with a walk-in shower. Will this affect selling potential down the road?

What I am finding is that more owners are looking for more luxurious showers rather than tubs in the master. In speaking with real estate agents that I know, so long as there is another bathroom with a tub, it doesn’t hurt resale and can even help to have a great shower.

We have a bathroom without a fan. It has a window, but we never open it (it’s in the shower — that is the last place I’d want to open a window). I always see framed artwork in bathrooms in shelter magazines. How practical is this in rooms with sinks, showers, etc.? And how do you protect the artwork from getting destroyed by the humidity in a bathroom?

It really depends on the type of art, how much steam you generate with your shower and how much air flow you have in the space. The spaces you see in magazines will have a fan in the bathroom and therefore eliminate the excess steam and moisture. Art in a bathroom is a really great way to bring in visual interest and set the tone for the space.

What changes can I do that would impact a small powder room? Would it be paint, fixtures, accessories, etc.? What’s a good neutral color?

All of those are great things. In Guest Bathroom No. 2 (in the design house), we used a really dark and vibrant purple on the walls, complementing the black tile. It made a great impact. Fixtures are a more costly change but can have big impact, and accessories are a great, inexpensive way to make a change.

My husband and I have only a small shower (no bath) in our master bathroom. Do you have any recommendations for storage in there? It’s tight as it is, but we need something for the shampoo, soap, etc.

Ginger (www.gingerco.com) makes a wonderful line of accessories, including corner baskets, hotel towel bars and other accessories that should help with storage in the shower.

While in Europe, I noticed the wall-mounted towel warmers, and I thought this idea was genius. I have no idea why these aren’t more popular in the United States. Where can I find I good one for my home? Can it be installed in very close proximity to a shower?

I agree, they should be more popular — I love being wrapped up in a warm towel! The challenge with them is that they range wildly in price. There are also two types. The one we used in the D.C. Design House is actually a hydronic one that is tied into the heating system. It works like a radiator and doubles as a towel warmer. There is no problem having this near a water source, as there is no electricity to it. The second is a heated towel bar, which offers the flexibility to warm a towel at any time of the year. Most of the better ones will require a dedicated circuit, and you will have to follow code about proximity to the water source.

Are there any suitable flooring materials other than ceramic for bathroom floors? We have no tub in the bathroom. Engineered wood, or cork? Carpet and linoleum are unthinkable.

It really depends on how you use the room. I understand that there isn’t a tub, but if there is a shower, there is the possibility of a lot of water. Tile is really the best. There are a lot of tiles that represent wood or cork, so you can create a much different feel. In a powder room we take a lot of liberties and use whatever we like.

Have you ever used Caesarstone for a shower floor (one piece for ease of cleaning)?

I believe that Caesarstone is a slab material. I don’t know that I would use it for a shower floor, as it needs to have drainage and slip resistance, which this type of installation would not offer.

Our main bathroom and powder room desperately need to be freshened up. But the past year was very difficult for us financially, so we have almost no money to do anything. I think that doing something to these rooms would help give us a fresh start. What’s the absolute minimum we could do? Remove the wallpaper borders and paint? Anything else?

You will be amazed at what a change those two small things will make! Not knowing exactly what is in your bathroom, I recommend changing vanity hardware or adding a luxurious shower curtain (if applicable) and a new light fixture. The devil is in the small details, and usually those are the little changes that make a big impact.

Our long and narrow master bathroom has a double vanity and a tub/shower combination. We are open to the idea of keeping both sinks and replacing the tub/shower with a luxurious shower. However, we could also replace one of the sinks with a small shower. What do you think is better: two sinks with a luxury shower or one sink with a separate tub and shower?

That is an easy one. Go with the bigger, more luxurious shower and two sinks.

Our first-floor powder room has the same flooring as the main living space. We want to change out the original 1978 vanity, which would then result in a need to replace the flooring, as the same exact fit would be unlikely and limit our choice of vanity to a box. Do we go with the box approach, keeping the flooring intact, or use a tile?

It sounds to me like you aren’t happy with the vanity approach, but I think you might be surprised by what you can find out there as a replacement. Another thing to think about is taking the doors off the old vanity (keeping it in place) and getting creative with a replacement. In the D.C. Design House master bathroom we wanted to hide the old radiator, so an inexpensive painted cover was constructed, but it was made interesting by installing burlap in the opening so that the heat could still warm the room. The same (or something more to your liking) can be done with new doors on a vanity cabinet. Without having to pay to replace the floor, you then have the freedom to do what you want with the vanity top, sink and faucet.

I love those bath floor tiles that are pebbles. Are they uncomfortable to walk on in bare feet?

They don’t have to be, but it is a matter of preference. I personally find that the pebbles that are cut and have flat tops or are smaller in size are easier on my feet than those that are rounder and larger. My best advice would be to get a sample or two before you buy a lot of them, and stand on them for a bit and see how they feel to you.

We need to replace the carpet in our basement walkout. Given that the walkout leads directly to the mulch-filled woody back yard, there is constant dirt. Dark dirt. The space makes for a nice family room, fireplace, full bath, playroom and guest suite. I love the feel of plush carpet, but it is just so very dirty. Engineered wood seems risky because of potential scratches from rocks and mulch. What are your thoughts on faux wood laminate vs. a dark carpet that would hide stains?

Have you considered some of the wood-grain porcelain tiles? They look terrific, are made in long strips like wood, clean up like a charm and are really durable.

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