Cover Story: Modern Art
Writen by Vicky Sanderson
Photography by Valerie Wilcox
A spa-like, contemporary ensuite design balances cool, clean lines with organic elements
From the first time designer Natalie Venalainen met with clients about expanding the third floor of their home to include a master bedroom and ensuite bath, it was clear they knew what they wanted—a clean-lined, light-filled, modern space.
“They are both artistic—he’s a writer and she’s in film. They knew very decisively that they wanted a contemporary look,” says Venalainen, an in-house designer with Toronto-based design-build firm Men at Work.
A STRIKING BALANCE
The challenge, she explains, was to combine the industrial- inspired surfaces and soothing neutral tones that define modernism, without making the space too antiseptic or dull. That’s achieved, she adds, by layering interesting finishes, restrained graphic elements and sleek but highly functional materials—and then tempering it all with warm woods and burnished metals.
“Incorporating wood can be key,” says Venalainen. “If everything is done in a flat matte finish, it can be cold. Wood softens a space—not just because it’s a natural material, but because the hues are warm.”
In this case, a floating vanity of flat-cut walnut in which double sinks are set anchors the room. The counter is Caesarstone’s Fresh Concrete quartz composite with a matte finish that perfectly mimics the real thing.
HIGH STYLE, HIGH FUNCTION FEATURES
Venalainen points out, however, that the manmade surface has important advantages in a bathroom. “It’s non-porous, so you don’t have to worry about the absorption and chipping issues you would have with concrete,” she explains.
The generously-sized horizontal, oblong mirror is flanked by sconces, whose curving lines echo the circular patterns of the floor tile, rounded vanity faucets, and an hour-glass stool placed beside the shower.
Above the mirror, a transom window takes advantage of natural light captured by a skylight in the adjoining hallway. An overhead fixture, and pot lights in the shower and the toilet provide more illumination.
A tall, vertical storage unit sits snug against the vanity, but leaves ample room for the door to swing. It does not interfere, notes Venalainen, with the placement of light switches, a pet peeve for the designer.
“People will often tuck a linen closet beside a door in a design and later realize they have eliminated the space needed for a switch.” As for switches located outside a room, Venalainen has just one word. “Bad!”
BLACK IS BACK
Venalainen approved of her clients’ desire for a graphic floor, knowing that it would provide subtle yet assertive visual interest. She did, however, steer them away from more highly-coloured options to a black-and-white tonal pattern.
“I think a monochromatic scheme is timeless and works really well in a modern setting,” she explains. “And I notice that while lots of clients right now might entertain the thought of more colour in the floor, in the end they shy away (from it). Most people feel more comfortable in their homes with a neutral colour scheme.”
FIXTURES & FINISHES
Black is repeated in flat-finish faucets, sconces, hardware and accessories, while small hits of on-trend brassy golds add a touch of sophisticated glamour. A mauve-tinted print above the door complements the natural orange hues of the walnut cabinetry.
Large-format black porcelain tiles, which make a dramatic statement in the shower enclosure, are as practical as they are pretty. “They don’t have to be sealed. And we used them with a linear drain, which means you can almost disguise the drain,” says Venalainen.
Two-by six-inch subway tiles were wrapped seamlessly across the wall beyond the shower stall. “It makes the space look bigger because there is no visual interruption,” explains Venalainen. They were laid in a horizontal grid pattern, which the designer thinks produces a more contemporary feel than a conventional brick configuration. Inside the shower, a niche offers space-saving perches for shampoo, soap and other accessories.
For her clients, the renovation process proved to be as uncomplicated as the finished design, says Venalainen. That, she insists, is one of the benefits of the design-build model, which sees a project though from start to finish.
“It’s a big advantage,” she says. “There are always things that come up during a reno. But I think in the design-build model, issues get identified faster. And there’s no finger pointing— all the focus is on problem-solving as part of a team.”
The crisp black of Delta’s Zura faucet is softened by its gentle curves.
Graphic designs, so popular in floor treatments, are also showing up in sinks. Here, Kohler’s finely detailed Caravan Persia pattern on its Conical Bell vessel bathroom sink.
|TONE AND TEXTURE
Stand-alone tubs act as architectural elements in larger, luxurious bathrooms. Here, DXV’s free-standing soaking tub and bridge, shown with the tub filler faucet from its Modulus collection, which launches this fall, is framed by a textured wall. Design by Michele Alfano.
Lava is a curvy geometric pattern from Walker Zanger’s Stardust collection, which pays homage to 1970s interior design and is made from glazed basalt, or lava stone, a core element of the earth.
|SOPHISTICATED WATER FEATURES
A flush-mounted pendant rain-can showerhead from Brizo’s Litze collection includes four shower arm lengths—measuring four-, six-, eight-, and 10- inches—that can be adjusted during installation.
Vicky Sanderson, our resident Better Living Expert, freelance columnist on all things home, is a self-professed opinionista with an impressive portfolio of publications from coast to coast. Follow her on Twitter: @ATHwithVicky Instagram: @athwithvicky. For more information aroundthehouse.ca.