Airy and Earthy: A drab bathroom gets a thoughtful makeover

MICA ROYAL Award: Residential Bath

Ellicott City homeowner Sarah Bates compares her old bathroom to the kind you might find in a college dorm.


"It was unoriginal, completely plain and had no character," she says.

Moreover, a gigantic tub took up much of the space and wasn't useful to her or her 6-foot-8-inch husband, Peter, both of whom prefer to take showers.


"The tub was so big that if you take a bath you'd use up all the hot water," Bates says.

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The couple hired Ardo Contracting Inc. of Columbia to design and build a deep walk-in shower and a larger vanity with custom cabinets for more storage. The stone wall on the shower, tiles and granite used in the bathroom match the color palette of the hardscape and patio in the backyard, which the bathroom overlooks. Ardo also gutted a closet to make room for the new features.

The two-and-a-half-month project cost $44,000 and was completed in the spring of 2014.

"The end result is a really airy, earthy space," Bates says.

With a vaulted ceiling that extends above the shower wall and a walk-around entrance, the shower lets in plenty of light, which keeps it from feeling closed off from the rest of the bathroom.

"We didn't want the walk-in shower to feel claustrophobic or dark," says Ardo architect Jim Molinelli.

Other features include side-wall controls (so the user can adjust the temperature without getting wet) and a "curbless" shower entry with a linear drain. Molinelli explains that most shower floors slope toward a circular drain and are separated from the bathroom by a "curb" one must step over. The Bateses' shower, instead, uses "a totally flat transition from the bathroom floor into the shower, and can use the same floor tile in the shower as the bathroom," he says.

"At least once a week, my husband and I say, 'I really love our bathroom,' " Bates says.