“A creative child inspired this primary bath,” says Jordan Cashman, co-owner of Sage, an interior design studio and shop in downtown Newburyport. Indeed. The owners of this 1990s developer-built home in Newburyport pointed to artwork their son created as an example of colors they love. “There were two watercolor paintings with all these sea glass tones that they framed and hung in their bathroom,” Cashman says of the ocean-inspired scenes.
The couple, young professionals with two little boys, a dog, and jam-packed schedules, hired Cashman to transform the dated black-and-white bath into an airy, sanctuary-style retreat. “They wanted modern and calm with tiny moments of color,” Cashman says.
The designer started by creating a clean, light shell. “As soon as we replaced the harsh black floor tile with pale gray porcelain tile, the space felt bigger,” she says. She hit all the walls, previously painted a baby-blue color better suited to a nursery, with Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace, a pure, classic white. “They were initially a bit nervous about how white the room looked, but once we added the backsplash and accessories, they loved it,” Cashman says.
Filling the room with light was a priority. “Two columns were preventing light from penetrating the space,” Cashman says, referring to tiled posts that defined the outer edge of the five-sided shower. Luckily, the posts weren’t structural. The team easily demolished them when they gutted the space. As for the layout, Cashman retained it, saving the family the headache (and cost) of major construction.
The large shower is now graced with a panoramic, three-panel, frameless glass enclosure that lets in sunlight. Three-by-12-inch ceramic subway tiles with subtle movement that evokes ocean waves line the shower walls. Cashman built on that theme, using hex mosaic tiles in sea-glass shades in the shower niche and honed Carrara marble fish-scale mosaic tile on the floor.
Like the original setup, there’s a bench—this one is crisp white quartz—along with two shower heads and a handheld sprayer. Rather than brass, the clients opted for a low-key champagne bronze finish for all the plumbing fixtures. The effect is pretty without calling too much attention to itself. “We wanted to keep the space feeling Zen,” Cashman says.
A dreamy, freestanding oval tub replaced the whirlpool tub with polished black stone deck and paneled trim that dominated the corner under the windows. “The husband is a runner who loves to tub,” the designer says. The nearly six-foot-long solid surface showpiece allows him to stretch his legs, which was a must-have feature.
While Cashman experimented with turning the tub to sit parallel with a wall, she ultimately stuck with the prior cattycorner positioning. “Turning the tub would have interfered with the door of the linen closet and left a too-wide gap next to the shower,” she explains. “Now the two sets of windows frame it, and you get different outdoor views depending upon at which end you sit.”
The natural custom oak vanity—anchored on one end with a floor-to-ceiling linen cabinet—warms the space without feeling heavy, and the white sueded-quartz countertop bends 90 degrees to create an apron effect along its front. “Drawers right under a sink are always false to hide the pipes, and they’re the first thing to warp,” Cashman says. The four-drawer stack between the his-and-hers sinks are fully functioning, however.
The seafoam polished glass tile backsplash ties to the shower niche tile and mimics the ocean hues of the inspirational watercolor paintings. The stacked configuration recalls the coastal horizon line where the water meets the sky. “Taking the tile to the ceiling would have looked too crowded, so we installed it to the top of the gooseneck faucet,” the designer says.
Cashman kept decoration to a minimum on the wall, letting the simple strip of color provide quiet impact. Ravenhill Studio sconces with bent oak armatures and smooth conical shades seem to float atop frameless circular mirrors that counter the room’s abundant straight lines.
“This primary bath is just the peaceful, inviting space this busy couple hoped for,” Cashman says. “Sunlight pours in, and you have a front-row seat to their beautiful, tree-filled backyard no matter where you are in the space.”