A Welcome Surprise

Sharonville couple enjoys the process as their new master bath unfolds

Despite the fact that Sheila Kuhn really wanted a contemporary home, she and her husband John purchased their traditional two-story because they loved the neighborhood, its proximity to their workplaces and the layout of the interior. The couple was inspired by the challenge of transforming this home’s traditional interior to reflect the clean lines and modern style they preferred. They decided to begin redefining the style of the home by converting their master bathroom into a contemporary retreat.

Can’t you just see it now?

While Sheila was confident that she knew what she liked, she needed someone to help bring her vision to fruition. The couple enlisted the help of designer, Gwen Fowler, of Bath Inspirations. Fowler appreciated that the master bathroom needed to accommodate John and Sheila’s combined tastes, so she began by having each of them describe their favorite places and environments, and where they felt most relaxed. For Sheila, the ocean was most relaxing, but for John a trip to the mountains would provide the best kick-back-and-relax spa environment. Other criteria for the finished space included a two-person shower, vessel sinks and a soaking tub. Fowler’s approach to designing the bathroom then, was to fuse together the two natural environments using a mix of materials that bespoke a contemporary, earthy, seaside retreat. Fowler also considered the couple’s bedroom furniture with its rich wood tones and simple lines.


Rather than hiding the Kuhns’ beautiful new spa-inspired bath behind the door leading into it, Fowler designed the wall with a sliding barn door style entry. She describes the door with its frosted glass panels as “playing on your sense of discovery while drawing you into the passageway that leads to a relaxing retreat hidden behind.” The Kuhns had never considered the possibility of incorporating the bedroom into the new design for the bath, so Fowler’s sliding door concept was a welcomed surprise. The wood tone and finish of the door and horizontal beam above it, as well as the custom cabinetry in the bathroom, mimic the Kuhns’ bedroom furniture. Custom oak hardwood flooring installed in a herringbone design also begins in the bedroom and continues into the bathroom around the double-sided vanities. Clear glass vessel sinks give an impression of fluidity sitting atop a foundation of bold, black soapstone countertops. By utilizing a back-to-back orientation for the “his and her” vanities, Fowler gave John and Sheila each their own individual space for getting ready each day.

Practical + pretty = perfect

Directly behind the vanities is one of two floor-to-ceiling “towers” featured in the bathroom. The towers are important to the design both functionally and aesthetically. Functionally one of the towers provides storage space for towels and creates a sense of privacy for the stainless steel Japanese soaking tub, while the other tower is the actual shower wall that houses the shower system. Besides their practical applications, the towers bring a sense of simple seaside opulence. Each tower is finished with small opalescent tiles and a custom paint finish on Venetian plaster inside the niches matches the tiles.

The Japanese soaking tub is perfectly positioned to benefit from the scene-setting ambience of the custom fabricated Shoji screens on the two surrounding windows. “Any other type of window treatment or covering would have disrupted the simplicity we had established,” says Fowler. The Shoji screens were consistent with the design and allowed a soothing, natural soft light to imbue the space. Electric lighting is provided by the beautifully sculpted pendant lights which, along with the towers, happen to be Sheila’s favorite elements of the bathroom. For John, the two-person curbless shower simply cannot be beat with its multi-shower tile heads and heated floor.

Looking back…

Now that the Kuhns’ master bath is complete, is there any sage advice from the designer? “Good execution of the design is always important, but particularly so in a contemporary project where lines are simple and mistakes are easy to see, so work with a contractor who can provide excellent finish work,” says Fowler.

Sheila also has some positive words of wisdom for anyone embarking on big home improvement projects. First, find someone who can articulate your vision. You may know what you like, but you need a professional with whom you can relate to bring it to light. Second, she says, “The process should be fun, not intimidating, so don’t be afraid to speak up and let your preferences and tastes be heard.” And finally, once you have the right team to work with, relax and enjoy the experience of watching your project become reality. As a result, Sheila says, “It was like Christmas every time they arrived to install new things in our bathroom!”


Project designer: Gwen Fowler; Contractor: Bath Inspirations, LLC; Cabinetry: Designed by Gwen Fowler, constructed by Chiaramonte Custom Furniture; Flooring: Custom oak hardwood; Tile: Lastricato Surbo by Ragno on shower walls; United States Ceramic Tile from The Roca Tile Group on shower and tub area floor; Oceanside Glass tile on towers; Tub: Stainless steel Japanese bath by Diamond Spas; Countertops: Soapstone; Sinks and faucets: Aquabrass; Shower system: Hansgrohe Axor, and Kohler; Lighting: Hubbardton Forge; Window treatments: Custom fabricated Shoji screens; Accessories: Cindy Johnston

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