The challenge: Update and expand a narrow master bathroom while keeping it in character with the 1930s Federal-style manor home.

The designer: Charlie Simmons, Charlie & Co. Design, Minneapolis, 612-333-2246,


Refresher course: Charlie Simmons’ brother Chris Simmons, and his wife, Jane, fell in love with the red brick home in St. Paul because it had plenty of room for their growing family. But from the start, they planned to renovate the outdated kitchen and all the bathrooms.

The impractical master bathroom had a cast-iron pedestal sink and only two feet of counter space. “It was fairly primitive and had no room for towels and hair dryers,” said Jane. Charlie’s description was “small, unusable and ugly.”

Goodbye, closet: Charlie knocked down the wall of an adjacent walk-in closet to gain more square footage for the cramped bathroom. “When dealing with a narrow width, don’t be afraid to consolidate spaces,” he advised.

Multi-functional vanity: Charlie took cues from antique Federal-style furniture to design an 11-foot-long vanity. He included his-and-her double sinks, towel shelves, lots of drawers and a makeup station. Vintage-style medicine cabinets with mirrors are carved into the wall above the sinks. “The space is so narrow that I had to have all the storage built-in,” he said.

Spa retreat: The new oversized tiled shower is outfitted with a bench and rain shower head.

Mixed metals: Charlie chose two different finishes: satin chrome in faucets and light fixtures and oil-rubbed bronze in cabinet knobs and hinges. “The bronze provides a contrast between dark and light,” he said. “It allows you to add a rug, bench and other darker elements.”

Clean Carrera: White and gray Carrera marble on the countertops and in mosaic floor tile brightens up the once dark and dingy bathroom. “Carrera marble fits with the style of the house,” said Jane. “Some of the bathrooms had Carrera marble in the window sills.”

Soft light: For the ceiling light, Charlie chose a metal framed drum with a linen shade. “With so many hard surfaces — tile on the floor and walls and the millwork — the fabric in the light softens it,” he said.

Radiator decor: He sandblasted layers of paint off the radiator under the window and painted it white to match the millwork.

Vintage modern: “Jane and Chris wanted to retain some of the home’s historical flair,” said Charlie. “But they didn’t want an Art Deco bathroom. We brought in a blend of now and then.”

Best part: “The bathroom is really functional,” said Jane. “And it’s also a quiet place before the kids get up in the morning.”




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