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Designing for cozy comfort: Tale of a master bathroom transformation

Who ever dreamed a bathroom could be so cozy? Designer Samantha Gale Thomas did!


I am a child of the Berkshires and mountain living, and I often ache to recreate that comfortable warmth that defines home. For me, it’s a perfect balance of smells, textures, patterns, and elements from past and present that stand together to create a sense of nostalgia that speaks to you. My clients’ wishes are no different — they want their homes to reflect them. I take this responsibility seriously and try to achieve it with tailored choices of custom furniture, upholstery, and room design.

My last project was to transform a lifeless master bathroom that lacked identity and character. My busy clients wanted a sanctuary that reflected their warm personalities. My mission was clear, to create a true Master Bath full of warmth, color and that something special I strive to give to all my clients.

I begin with choosing color and pattern. This is my favorite part of any design job and the heart of the entire project. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my initial instinct of what a room wants to wear. This voice is the driving force behind all my designs. The concept behind the master bathroom transformation was to capture vintage rustic charm with pops of color and varying textures that would be pleasing to the eye as well as provide a truly unique appeal. I knew I wanted to use wood, classic tile choices and distressed flooring.

Currently my team is small. My husband is the carpenter, tiler and muscle while I am the designer, creator and project manager. I often like to keep my team small if I can help it so I may control the process and pace of my projects.

The bathroom was large and awkward, with pale yellow walls, single sinks, off-white dated floor tile and a plethora of brass fixtures throughout. It was a utilitarian space where you get in and get out with limited storage and functionality. A large underutilized tub was anchored in the corner and lacked lighting. Across from the oversized tub was a gigantic double shower guarded by a heavy thick wide glass shower door. Beige tiling throughout dominated the enclosed shower making it feel claustrophobic despite the size.

Part of the old bathroom with shower on the left. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs
The old shower stall in the original bathroom. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs
The old tub that got removed in the new design. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs
The old toilet, between the sinks and the shower. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs

Lastly, the bathroom also lacked a place to sit. The bones of the space were great with room to spare but it was not a place to relax and reflect. The clients found themselves lost in the original builder-grade fixtures and furnishings, which hid the room’s potential.

Initially, we cleared and gutted the entire bathroom and wrapped the room (even the water closet) in 12” boards of weathered oak to create texture and warmth in the room. Wood is a staple material to instantly soften a room. This is especially true for bathrooms that contain cold, hard surfaces such as tile.

The new bathroom takes shape. Wood planks on the walls, staggered subway tiles on the walls, hexagonal tile floors, a place to sit and a place for storage. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs

We replaced the dated off-white floor tile with large hexagon slate tile with distressed edging to provide more depth and excitement to the flooring. Above the weathered 4ft feature walls, I decided to use an exaggerated 6×12”white subway tile with charcoal grout for contrast and that vintage 1930’s quality. Next, we used rope along the edging, where the feature wall met the tile, to give texture and unique rustic charm.

I chose a simple double walnut vanity with a grey-veined quartz counter top, two large vintage-inspired white metal medicine cabinets and brushed nickel hardware. The clients now had above and below storage, not to mention miles of counterspace. Quickly the tired yellow and brass bathroom was fading away and being replaced by a rustic vintage-infused escape.

The newly tiled shower with a new, extended glass door. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs

We retiled the huge master shower in the large white subway tile, added a classic small hexagon marble floor tile and put new brushed-nickel fixtures throughout. Mixing different sizes and shapes as well as material in stone gives depth and is pleasing to the eye.

The new toilet stall, lighter and brighter, with rope trim between the wooden planks and the subway tiles. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs

We reduced the size of the heavy glass shower door and extended the frame in glass for a light and more spacious feel. We removed the tub completely and replaced it with a 1920’s mahogany vanity that I refinished in distressed indigo. I added a custom, upholstered Victorian sitting chair in royal buffalo check and burlap in an antique white distressed chalk paint finish to complete the set. I often do a dance of rustic and refined when upholstering and refinishing vintage pieces of furniture. The finishing touches on the bathroom consisted of a reclaimed glass cabinet for linens, a hand-painted window frame with a mermaid 1920’s decal, and a large handmade, framed vanity mirror constructed of 200-year-old salvaged farmhouse boards.

A panoramic view of the new bathroom. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs

A custom sliding barn door replaced the traditional six-panel main bathroom door for that rural charm. Lighting was the jewel of the room — a rope and iron chandelier and linen and iron shade sconces for soft symmetry around the vanity mirror. Dimmable lights everywhere are essential to control atmosphere. A bold, brightly patterned Roman shade was added to the single window to tie in the cheerful colors of the Master Bedroom we renovated. The result: a fun, gorgeous, uniquely beautiful Master Bath that is now a place to stay and unwind.

A close-up of the new window, and the beautiful view. Photo: Samantha Gale Designs

The clients now have a completely different energy flowing through the Master Bath. It became a classic, beautiful, fun space in which to begin and end their day. The Master Bath now sets the tone for the rest of the Master Bedroom transformation.   Inspired by the Master Bath’s rustic charm and vintage appeal, we began the Master Bedroom transformation, which would include custom beams, an interior gas fireplace and a custom reading nook. But that is a story for another article…

Editor’s Note: SamanthaGaleDesigns is located at 322 Main Street, Great Barrington, Mass. 413-645-3177.


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