In just 56 square feet, a designer creates a relaxing bathing space with the amenities of a high-end resort
Growing up in New York, Imani Grant loved using the sauna at her gym. So after buying an Atlanta townhouse, she knew exactly what she wanted to add to a guest bathroom.
Grant did her research and came up an initial sketch of a layout, then hired bathroom designer Michelle Lauren to help remodel the space. Lauren expanded the bathroom on two sides, adding 16 square feet to the footprint and freeing up room for a glass-enclosed space that contains a cedar-walled area with a sauna heater. A shower panel system with eight jet sprays, along with a rain shower head and a handheld sprayer, can get the space close to a steam shower at less cost than a true steam system. Various tile designs, a black walnut live-edge countertop and a glossy deep blue wall paint create an eclectic look that’s fitting for an at-home spa day.
Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: Imani Grant and her friend Dianetra Jackson
Size: 56 square feet (5.2 square meters)
Designer: Michelle Lauren of Change Your Bathroom
Before: The former basic bathroom occupied 40 square feet and contained a simple vanity on one side, a shower-tub combo on the other and a toilet between them (see floor plans in the last image below). “The space wasn’t that functional,” Grant says. “When you opened the door, it essentially opened to the toilet.”
After: Lauren demolished the former bathroom, expanded the walls to add 16 square feet and relocated the entrance to the former vanity wall. “It was important to move the entrance for the layout of the new sauna,” the designer says. “We had to rearrange everything to fit into the space.”
In what was once the shower-tub area, Lauren created a glass-enclosed shower-and-sauna room. An angled cedar-lined wall defines the sauna area. (The sauna controls are visible on the dark blue pony wall outside the shower on the left.) “My guidance to [Lauren] was the biggest size we could get while meeting code,” Grant says.
A cedar-lined ceiling and marble-look porcelain flooring connect the sauna to the shower area on the right, which is defined by wavy 3D ceramic stone-look tiles on one wall section and blue porcelain tiles on the right-side wall.
“Essentially, since we’re creating a wet room, we wanted to use a wood material that wouldn’t shrink, warp or swell,” Lauren says of the cedar. “It has heat resistance and humidity resistance. It’s really the ideal wood for wet applications.”
Outside the wet room, an elongated comfort-height one-piece toilet sits on the left; it’s black and in a modern style. On the right is a 30-inch single-sink vanity with a black walnut live-edge countertop. “I love live-edge wood and wanted an element of that there,” Grant says.
The vanity is gray and features a sliding barn-style cabinet door with a frosted glass panel. Inside are shelves that store bathroom supplies and a foot bath. Two rattan baskets on the right hold hand towels and cleaning supplies for the sauna.
The vessel sink has a rectangular shape and is made of tempered gray onyx glass. “I saw the sink a couple years back, loved it and bought it,” Grant says. “I already had that sink in my house.” The faucet has a mix of brushed-brass and matte black finishes that complement the finishes of the sconces above.
The mirror is round and features a wavy hand-textured band of gold running across it. “I liked the texture,” Grant says. “I knew I wanted something that was a showstopper. I wanted a bold mirror.”
The 12-by-24-inch blue porcelain wall tiles extend into the shower area. “I just felt like the fewer transition areas, the bigger the space would look,” Grant says. “With the clear shower wall, I thought it was best not to change the tiles too much.”
The main bathroom flooring is gray porcelain tile.
A custom curved cedar bench inside the sauna offers a spot for relaxing and enjoying the heat. A long inoperable window sits above it. “We wanted to let in some natural light, so we added that fixed transom window,” Lauren says.
Grant says she’s careful not to get hair products on the cedar walls. “We also use the sauna with a robe or towel on,” Grant says. She purchased some paraffin oil to keep the wood fresh-looking as well, along with a special sauna cleaner.
An eight-jet multifunction shower panel system with an adjustable rainfall shower head and a handheld shower head offers a flexible shower experience. It’s made of black painted stainless steel. “I wanted something as close to a steam shower as I could get without spending the money for a steam shower,” Grant says.
Two niches flank the shower panel and are backed with blue-gray metallic glass mosaic tiles. “I wanted something bright there and dynamic,” Grant says. “I knew the niches were small, so I wanted something that would bring them to life a bit. I couldn’t do the whole wall that darker color.”
This view also shows the prominent waves in the shower wall tile, which Lauren likes for their texture.
This look from inside the wet room shows the sauna system near the bench and highlights a view of a wall-mounted TV outside the shower.
Also outside the shower, above the toilet, stands a glossy dark blue-painted wall with open shelves that store towels and faux succulents. Lauren built out that wall to give it twice the depth it had previously.
The relocated entrance is between the TV and vanity; it features a barn door of dark gray painted wood and glass.
These floor plans show the original bathroom layout (top right of top plan) and the new layout (top right of bottom plan) in the corner of the guest bedroom.
In the original layout, the bathroom entrance is on the left, putting the toilet directly in view. The toilet sat between the vanity and shower-tub combo.
In the new layout, Lauren relocated the entrance to the bottom wall and expanded the footprint into the bedroom, creating an angled design that features the cedar sauna bench. The new space is “a great place to relax,” Grant says. “It’s like a getaway inside my home.”