Tall House: Choosing a Bathroom Style

Here’s something design-y to distract us from the news. One of the projects I’ve been tackling during our self-quarantine is designing the bathrooms for the St. Martin House. If you saw the original home tour on Instagram, you may remember there are are four floors, but only one bathroom.

It’s a traditional French bathroom, where the toilet is in its own little closet, and the neighboring room has a bathtub, sink, and bidet (pictured above). It’s on the second floor. During the renovation, we are planning to add more bathrooms.

The plan? On the ground floor, where we’ll have the kitchen, dining room, living room, and laundry room, we are adding a half bathroom (toilet and sink) off of the laundry. This will be the most challenging because there’s no easy way to get the sewer pipe where we need it.

On the second floor, which will have the family room, a small studio, and the owner’s suite, we’re adding a sink to the small toilet room, which will create a half-bathroom. And we’re turning the room that has the bathtub, sink, and bidet into a full bathroom for the owner’s suite. We’ll close up the current door, and open up a new door to the owner’s bedroom. The new owner’s bathroom will have a freestanding bathtub under the window, a sink, a toilet, and a shower. This is probably the easiest of the bathroom changes plumbing-wise, because most of the pipes are already where they should be.

On the third floor, where we’ll have three bedrooms, we are adding a full bathroom for the kids — bathtub under the window, shower, double-sink, and toilet. This bathroom will be directly above the second floor bathroom which will make plumbing it a bit easier.

In the attic, which will have another bedroom, a storage room, and some open space (that may become an office? we’re not sure yet), we are adding a freestanding bathtub to the bedroom, and we’re adding a very small bathroom, with a shower, sink and toilet. In an effort to preserve as much of the open space as possible, we can’t put the attic bathroom directly above the other bathrooms, so the attic will require some plumbing-problem-solving.

Additionally, every pipe in the house is being replaced. The new water pipes are copper and will be exposed and mounted directly to the walls. The new sewer pipes are not pretty — big grey PVC — and though they won’t be hidden in the walls, we will likely box them in with some carpentry.

The first step in all this bathroom-design was deciding floor plans, so that the plumber knows where to lay the pipes. We figured out bathroom floor plans for the first 3 floors quite easily, but the attic has been a challenge. The attic has a different layout than the other floors, and the steeply sloping roofline is tricky, but I think we’ve finally got it solved. (Hooray!)

The second step, which is happening right now, is figuring out what kind of look and feel we want — so that we can start picking out fixtures and tile and faucets. This is fun, but also a mental challenge, mostly because I like a lot of different styles.

With multiple bathrooms, in theory we could try several different styles, but it’s like my body has a physical rejection to that whole idea. I don’t think I can do it. My instincts are to decide on one style, and then implement that same style throughout all the bathrooms — almost like a hotel. No doubt part of this instinct is just my own mental health preservation. I want to mitigate decision fatigue where I can.

But because of this instinct, I’m trying to be really careful about choosing an overall style for the bathrooms. I’ve narrowed it to three different directions:

One direction I call Fancy European. Imagine lots of framed art on the walls — line drawings or botanical prints, a big fancy gilded mirror, a bold, classic tile pattern on the floor, and maybe an antique armoire or cabinet. I feel like this style could make sense for the St. Martin house. My concern? Is it more clutter-y than I can handle? Would all those details make it hard to clean? Here are examples:

Another direction I call Loose French Industrial. Picture elements like plaster or cement surfaces, exposed pipes, black metalwork details, faded pinks or greens, and an industrial-wall-mount basin/sink. I’ve been especially drawn to this style for about 12 years now, and think it could look great in this house. My concern? I don’t want to cross the line into trendy territory. If I’ve liked this for a dozen years, will I like it for a dozen more? Examples:

A third direction I call Simple, Modern, Hotel-Inspired. Think lots of white and light grey, clean and somewhat spare, simple tile or marble, and a glass-panel shower. I love this style and went this way for the bathroom remodel we did in the Treehouse. I know I like it. I know it feels clean and easy. My concern? It doesn’t feel right to me for the St. Martin house. There are versions of it that lean more traditional (like the top left example below), but in general I think it may be too modern for what we want in this house. Examples:

What about you? What are your thoughts? Do you have a particular bathroom style you favor that’s different than the ones I listed? What do you call it? Right now, I’m leaning toward the Loose French Industrial. Do you have a strong opinion one way or another?

And how is your brain handling this kind of post right now? Does it seem frivolous and maddening? Or do you feel like it’s a good distraction?

Lastly, if you want to follow along, I’ve got a demolition highlight on my Instagram stories you can check out. It features several very satisfying time-lapse videos of peeling wallpaper.

P.S. — All of these images can be found on my bathroom Pinterest board. Speaking of which, I don’t think it’s right for this house, but I sure am drawn to these bathrooms with saturated yellows, greens, blues, and all-over patterns. So I wanted to share them.

110 thoughts on “Tall House: Choosing a Bathroom Style”

  1. Kate the Great

    I also like Loose French Industrial.

    For your first style, the first words you used were “lots of art on the walls”. From my days of absorbing Apartment Therapy, I remember that art in the bathroom can be damaged and warped because of all the moisture that naturally happens in a water closet. You probably don’t want to be constantly replacing the art in your bathroom because it is water damaged. If that were me, it’d be a constant source of heartache and re-design. And when you’ve got FOUR bathrooms…

    The last style? You’ve already done it. This is a new country, a new home, a new design.

  2. My advice (I wish someone had given my hubby and me) is don’t do white tile on the bathroom floor! We have more brunettes at our house than you do, but we never thought of how challenging it would be to keep the white tile clean! Good luck!

  3. I’m definitely a fan of posts such as these at a time like this Gabby. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing your thoughts on the pandemic too. But this is a nice distraction (and such a wonderful house). The view of the church is spectacular.

  4. I know it might be “out of style” or “off trend” or what have you, but I just have to say I actually like your current bathroom – in style or not, it’s attractive.

    About the other options, sometimes the same name covers a multitude of possibilities: e.g., your top right picture under “loose French industrial” looks way more pleasing and traditional (and hence more suited to your house) than the others under that description. I think the reason is that it looks like something somebody designed to fit – practically – into the needs of a real space, under real-life conditions. Some of the others under that title – especially the floating black tub with the Ikea lamp beside it – look super fake and impractical.

    In short, if you do something that was truly designed to accommodate the space available and your needs, I don’t think you can go so very wrong.

    1. Well the bathroom as pictured at the top is long gone. : ) You can get an idea of the current state of that bathroom in the demolition highlight on Instagram.

  5. Frances Eleanor

    I like the style of the loose industrial. It has good form and function and since the house has so much architectural detail , form and function is what will fit in there.

  6. I think all three of these styles is pretty timeless in their owns ways, but I love the more industrial, less fussy look, with maybe hints of that classic style.

    By the way, THANK YOU for this post… it doesn’t seem frivolous at all! We need to talk about something that is NOT this pandemic. This was the rest from that that my fragile psyche needed today.

  7. I love the industrial best for your house! It combines an older feel with more modern elements and the fact you’ve liked this style for over a decade tells me it has staying power. Also in bathrooms there’s a reason the traditional is not often done! The only thing worse than dusting a million things is dusting a million damp things:/ haha
    Your house reno posts are some of my favorites, keep them coming:)

  8. I LOVE the first one. My friend just bought a flat in London with a lovely claw foot tub and gorgeous art hung on the walls and it feels extremely luxurious.

    Also, and this could be too private, but would you ever consider sharing approx costs of buying the house and then the reno? We’d love to buy a country house in France at some point, and are so curious was kind of costs it would be!

  9. I’m Team Loose French Industrial. I agree with the Fancy European seeming cluttered and slightly harder to keep tidy. But I also love the All Over Pattern elements you mentioned at the end. I was in Geneva in September and I actually took several photos of my hotel bathroom for my future, hypothetical bathroom remodel because I LOVED their all over tile pattern. It was a bright navy and cream with starbursts, right between floral and geometric, floor to ceiling.
    And this post isn’t maddeningly frivolous; it would only be so if you didn’t acknowledge the potential for it to be that.

  10. Love these kind of posts right now, great distraction. I think loose French Industrial is right for the house, especially since you will have copper pipes exposed so you are already half way there! I love the fancy European style but it does seem fussy and high maintenance.

  11. I like the industrial, because if you get a bit over it you can jazz it up towards the more french traditional easily. I would steer away from all matt black fixtures as that is such a huge trend in bathrooms kitchens in Australia (I assume elsewhere at the moment) that is already kind of tired.

  12. I love loose French industrial. If you’ve loved it for 12 years you will continue to love it. And I’m loving this post right now for the break thinking about house design provides.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top