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Technology Elevates Master Bath

Designer creates a space where many functions are either fully automated or easily controlled with the touch of a button, all while keeping the room soothing and inspiring.

authors Kim Berndtson | May 1, 2020

Shari Mullen’s clients are well aware of the role technology can play in a home since they built a very successful business – Big Ass Fans, which they have since sold – around the evolution of a technologically advanced fan that could simply and poetically solve problems. So, when it came time to renovate their own master bathroom, which was part of a larger whole-house update, there was no question that technology would play a significant role.

To facilitate shaving in the shower, Mullen included a steam-free mirror integrated into the shower tile, along with a recessed storage niche below.
Photos: Brian Wilson Images

“In the master bath, technology helps elevate the whole space into an experience that allows our clients to decompress after a long day, with all of the functions either fully automated, or easily controlled with the touch of a button,” says the owner and design principal at Pillar 3 Design Group, in Lexington, KY, who worked in collaboration with builder Kirby Geiger.

For example, Mullen included Haiku LED lighting and Panasonic Whisper Green fans, all of which are sensor controlled. And the shower is teeming with amenities…everything from steam to aromatherapy and chromatherapy to lighting and music from the MrSteam iDream system, all of which are easily controlled via a touchscreen inside the shower.

The shower also illustrates the firm’s philosophy that form may follow function, but it is no less important.

“The space had better perform, but as a designer, my higher purpose is to make a place for my clients that is poetic and beautiful, and that will soothe and inspire them every time they walk into it,” she says. “We had a lot of functional requests for this shower, and we managed to fulfill every one of them in a really elegant way.

“For instance, our clients can sit and relax in their steam shower, or they can soothe sore muscles with body sprays strategically placed to their personal measurements, or they can enjoy water flowing from the rain showerhead,” she continues. “He can even shave in front of a steam-free mirror integrated into the shower tile, then store his shaving implements in his own personal niche just below the mirror.”

One of Mullen’s favorite features is the bench that runs the length of the room alongside the tub. While the bulk of it is wood, as it extends into the shower it transitions to a solid surface composite.

Designed for relaxation

Mullen also gave extra attention to the bathing area, which features an oval freestanding Matte White MTI Cascara soaking tub.

“Sculptural soaking tubs are still very hot,” she says. “If we have the space, like we did here, they are perfect for relaxing…and visually, they function as a piece of art.”

Mullen accented the tub with a floor-mounted Matte Black Jason Wu Brizo tub filler and custom bench, crafted locally by BC Woodworking.

“One of my favorite features is the bench that runs the length of the room alongside the tub,” she says, adding that relying on the expertise of craftsmen at the woodshop ensures that elements such as wood perform well in humid places like bathrooms. “Its top sits at the same elevation as the tub and hugs its curve to create a seamless sculptural plane.”

The seating surface is comprised of a variety of materials, including rift-cut oak in a warm, opaque gray stain.

“We kept the color palette soothing and simple, using primarily whites and grays with pops of color,” she indicates. “Texture and contrast with matte and shiny finishes add interest.”

While the bulk of the bench is wood, as it extends into the shower it transitions to a solid surface composite – first as a black accent, then white – fabricated by Kentucky Solid Surface.

The toilet room box features walls and a sliding door made of laminated sheets of glass that allow for a Satin White finish on both sides.

“It appears to penetrate the shower glass before becoming the shower bench where our clients can sit and enjoy all of the features in their amazing custom shower,” she says.

The designer also included a recessed niche that runs the length of the tub and is set within a field of three-dimensional Atlas Concorde Vibrant Pleats Wave tile that also clads the shower walls. Functionally it serves as a place to set necessities or décor items while aesthetically it adds interest. Accented with Oceanside Glasstile’s Tessara Moonstone 1″ mosaic, it matches the niches in the shower as well as the ‘rug’ beneath the tub, which is juxtaposed against the neutral, large-format Crossville floor tile, all set by tilesetter Shane Aldrich.

“We utilized many great products in this bathroom,” she says. “Most were high end and many were custom, but we also used more economical products when they worked with the design aesthetic. One of the splurges was this mosaic tile.”

His and her features

Mullen also repeated the mosaic tile on the vanity wall, where its soothing blue hue ties in with the Kohler undermount Whist sinks and Vetrazzo Palladian Gray recycled glass (fabricated by Counter Culture) that tops the Satin White Robern Cartesian wall-hung vanities. An open shelf beneath matches the bench behind the tub.

“The vanities are modular with aluminum frames, which is more European in construction and very different from wood cabinets,” she says. “Since they don’t come in custom sizes, we had to design the walls in the vanity alcove to ensure a perfect fit. We also added a nightlight feature that gives them an extremely cool glow, as well as provides a functional soft light for nighttime visits.”

On each end of the alcove, Mullen included his and her multi-shelf niches that provide easy access to frequently used items such as towels. ‘Her’ side also includes a recessed tall Robern medicine cabinet.

“It’s fully decked out and holds everything from makeup to hair styling implements,” says the designer. “It also includes a full-length mirror on the inside of the door as well as a pull-out magnifying makeup mirror.”

Reconfiguring the bath’s entry gave Mullen the ability to include custom closets located conveniently across from the toilet room. The designer also included multi-shelf niches at each end of the vanity alcove to provide easy access to frequently used items. ‘Her’ side also includes a recessed tall Robern medicine cabinet.

Special amenities

Another special element within the space is the toilet room box. Crafted in collaboration with local glazier HEK Glass, it includes a TOTO Neorest toilet.

“We persuaded the glazier to laminate sheets of glass together into layers that would allow us to have a Satin White finish on both sides of the walls,” she explains. “We also fabricated a super cool sliding door out of the same glass.”

Reconfiguring the bath’s entry gave Mullen the ability to also include custom closets, also built by BC Woodworking, which are located conveniently across from the toilet room. The rift cut oak cabinetry features satin glass doors. LED lights come on automatically when the door is opened to illuminate the custom shelving that provides plenty of space for towels and other bathroom necessities. 

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