Before and After: This Bathroom’s the Same Size, But Feels Twice as Big

published Oct 13, 2020
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Before: bathroom with dated tan floors and giant built-in tub
Credit: Mandy Cheng

It’s easy to make a bathroom feel spacious when you can knock down a few walls and make its footprint bigger. But making a bathroom feel airy when you can’t change the size of the space at all is a whole other challenge.

That was the puzzle interior designer Mandy Cheng had to solve in remodeling the dated master bathroom in a Los Angeles home. “This bathroom was definitely dark and heavy with a built-in tub,” says Cheng, who is based in Los Angeles. Even though the bath measured 12 feet by 14 feet , which isn’t small, the choices like the dark colors and built-in tub made it feel smaller. 

But the Mediterranean style bath originally created in the 1980s had some good features, like the arched shower entry and casement windows. Cheng kept those good points, and played them up on them to make the space feel lighter and ultimately bigger.

The rest of the home was done in dark colors with a dark stain on the wood floors, and the bathroom was no exception. It featured a heavy tan tub built into the corner, brown tile covering the walk-in shower and dim lighting. Cheng changed the space profoundly just by lightening up the coloring—and of course, ditching the old wall-sized mirror.

Cheng used white on the walls (Benjamin Moore’s Simply White), Vadara Serena Bianco Quartz counters, white shower tile, and white window shades to contrast with the dark window casing. For the floor, Cheng reached for cement tiles in a bold pattern.

The original bathtub was one of those clunky angled tubs built into the corner, with a large surround. Besides the physical space it occupied, the brown wood framing took up visual space. Replacing it with a sleek white egg tub made the room feel more airy. Plus, it had practical benefits: “By pulling out that tub it allowed them to have a much wider vanity,” says Cheng.  “The vanity now extends to the edge of the windows.” To compensate for the lost deck space on the bath, Cheng added floating shelves.

One of the most attractive features of the original bath was the arch over the shower. But the shower doors were straight across the top, which gave them a short and squat feeling. Cheng got on scaffolding and traced the arch so she could have doors made with the same curve—a unique and stunning detail. “Making the shower glass door echo the shape of the arch made that shower feel so much bigger,” says Cheng.

The bathroom already had a rain shower, so Cheng decided to keep it, and added a wall-mount shower and a handheld sprayer. “There’s always one person who likes a rain head shower, and one who hates it,” says Cheng. Handheld showers make cleaning the shower a breeze, so Cheng says they’re good for resale value. While three shower heads won’t make your bath feel bigger, it certainly makes getting clean feel grand. “It gives it a luxe hotel vibe,” Cheng says—turning this practical space into a true treat.

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