Homepolish designer Alice Cheng tells us how she renovated three geometric, minimal, ultra-modern baths in Los Angeles’ Mt. Washington oasis of a neighborhood.
Photos by Chad Mellon.
Los Angeles based-couple Kelly and Ilane had been living in their dream house for years, but their bathrooms were far less than dreamy. With bathrooms that were sun-soaked, but in need of a bit of a pick-me-up, the two reached out to Homepolish designer Alice Cheng. Alice transformed their three bathrooms—two full and one powder room—into soothing, bright, spa-like spaces with clean lines and modern patterns that fall in line with the rest of the home’s design. We’ll let Alice walk you through the renovation process (which, oh yes, was truncated because of a baby on the way).
With this project, my inspiration was to showcase the best parts of the existing architecture and reshape each space to improve function and flow—and to reflect the personality and tastes of the young couple.
Kelly and Ilane are a young duo with great attitudes, a lot of patience, and great senses of humor. They were really wonderful to work with. They were so easy going and trusting throughout the entire process. Even after they became pregnant a couple of months into the project (giving us a rather non-negotiable finish date), they handled the stress of renovation like pros.
The house was newly-built, just a few years old, and with clean-lined architecture and high ceilings, in addition to lots of skylights and large-picture windows overlooking the dense greenery of the Mt. Washington hills.
The interior details of the bathrooms, however, needed some retooling and TLC. There were curious spatial decisions that left Kelly and Ilane with a less-than-ideal layout for the square footage. For example, the guest bath was huge, but underutilized, while the master bath was quite small (fit for just one person). Oh, and the flooring was literally one large sheet of turquoise green vinyl—there was no tile or waterproofing that we could see. The wall tile was turquoise as well!
To start, we tore apart the master and guest bathrooms all but completely. The goal was to make the spaces more functional. Due to some spatial and budget limitations we kept plumbing roughly in its original place, but adjusted walls, new custom cabinetry, and other custom pieces to make the overall area feel more purposeful.
To do this, we made some practical changes. For the guest bath closet that housed the washer and dryer we raised the ceiling and added a roof of sorts, converting it into a covered laundry room with a barn door. A stackable washer/dryer give you space to walk into the room (and hide things in!).
To make a larger shower, we removed an awkward partial wall. Custom cabinetry was added to create more storage that felt integrated into the space. Electrical was updated so we could add pendant lights (instead of the previous track lighting and one small sconce), accentuating the high ceilings and giving them some control over the room’s brightness throughout the day.
For spaces like bathrooms and kitchens, I look at overall space and function first, and see how I can give the client more function, while being code-complaint, within the client’s budget. That sounds like a boring place to start, but especially for problem areas that need some massaging, those limitations can really affect what can be done with color, textures and forms (all the snazzy stuff that people like to see).
After that, I try to create a balance of cool and warm tones and materials. I love the natural colors of metal, wood, and stone—they have a very authentic feel that adds a bit of warmth and character.
The carrara marble and white walls in the guest bath were lovely, but the pitched ceiling was so tall that I wanted something to ground the space and draw your eye down. I love the Zenith tile by Cle Tile. It’s often used in a random pattern, which can look great. But by repeating a series of various orientations of the tile, you get some really neat and unexpected combinations.
While the guest bath was unusually large, the master bath was unusually long and narrow (like a galley kitchen) and only had a single sink and faucet. By custom-designing a new vanity, sink, and mirror with ledge, we were able to fit a sink for two in the same space—and give them more counter and storage space. Details like these will also help up the home’s resale value.
The bleached oak vanity keep the color light and cool, but the visible variations in the grain keep the room from feeling sterile.
In the master, the patterns you see were are really thanks to the mosaic tile we used from Ann Sacks. It’s a mix of three or four different marbles and each is beautiful close-up. We knew we needed a mosaic for our particular shower floor installation and I sought out ones with a bit of contrast to ground the floor of these super tall ceilinged rooms, like I did in the guest bath.
I think rooms in a house should always relate to one another and to the house as a whole.
In our case, I wanted to make sure that the bathrooms in the same house look related, but not like we just bought the same tile and put it everywhere.
The powder room is where we got to do something a bit different. I love powder rooms because they’re both small and highly visible—places that almost all visitors will get to see. It can very much be a showcase room, where the smaller square footage and footprint allows you to play with higher end finishes and touches without breaking the bank.
Kelly and Ilane’s powder room was set down a few stairs from the main floor and could have easily been forgotten, but everyone uses it. I wanted to create a bit more visual impact; I thought it would be fun for visitors navigating through this white, bright house to get a peek into this different space. We decided on a dark inky room with Zak + Fox wallpaper and accents of brass that would pop against the dark walls. Pictures don’t even do it justice—trust me!
Everyone should expect the unexpected during a renovation and the clients did just that with the best attitudes ever, even with a baby on the way! They became pregnant during the project, and it quickly turned into a dash to the finish line. Ilane was actually texting with me about the project when she had to rush to the hospital!
“When we bought the house, we liked everything about it…except one thing. The guest bathroom looked like it was designed for the Miami Vice era, rather than for a modern house built in 2012. It was blue. Blue floors, blue tiles. with a cheap, checkerboard design. We swore that the bathrooms had to be redesigned as a way to make the house ours. Now that the bathrooms are complete, the house feels consistently modern and the bathrooms are now our favorite rooms in the house.”
–Kelly and Ilane