The challenge: Homeowners Kent and Susan Swanson built their three-story walkout in Orono in the 1970s, “and we’ve been remodeling ever since,” said Kent. The most recent project, by Nesset Architecture, was to improve the original cramped and outdated master bathroom. The Swansons also were concerned about mobility issues today and in the future. The existing shower and tub combination was difficult to navigate. “It was hard to get out of the tub even with grab bars,” said Susan. The couple wanted to update surfaces and finishes, infuse spalike qualities — and install an accessible tub and shower.


The designer: Architect Mark Nesset of Nesset Architecture,, 952-474-1008. The contractor was Mike Otto of Fair & Square Remodeling, St. Louis Park.

The solution: Nesset removed a hallway linen closet to gain about 25 square feet, and reconfigured the bathroom to house a new separate curbless shower and vertical tub. “Features for aging in place were a big factor in the design,” said Nesset.


High-tech tub: The Swansons splurged on the Rising Wall Bath by Kohler. “You sit down, swing in your legs, pull up the wall, and push a button,” said Susan. “The water flows in like a waterfall at your feet.” To fit the tub into an alcove, Nesset removed an existing tall window and replaced it with two windows positioned higher up and overlooking a Lake Minnetonka bay. The new windows have Venetian blinds between the panes of glass for privacy. The earth-tone-hued pebble floor in front of the tub matches the floor inside the shower.


Smart shower: The glass-enclosed shower is curbless and includes a big heated bench. Five different body sprays range from a handheld fixture to rain shower head. The floor is flat pebble stones that resemble river rock. “It’s a nice nonskid surface,” said Kent.


Toilet does it all: The Toto Washlet seat is heated at “comfort height” and has washing sprays and a dryer.


Double-duty bars: Brushed nickel towel bars, a toilet paper holder and a shampoo shelf inside the shower are designed to also function as grab bars. “They are curved and beautiful,” said Susan. “You can’t tell they’re grab bars.”


Multifunctional vanity: The midcentury-modern-styled vanity is outfitted with double sinks and matches the tall built-in maple cabinets on the opposite wall. Three mirrored medicine cabinets, heated to prevent fogging, stretch the length of the long vanity and offer plenty of storage space. “Now we have towel storage at the bottom of the vanity,” said Susan.


Spalike warmth: Nesset added hickory wood accents to the vaulted ceilings above the shower and tub, as well as in the heated bathroom floor to flow with the wood in the adjacent master bedroom. The stained birch trim around the bathroom perimeter echoes the clean-lined Scandinavian architectural details in the rest of the house.


The result: The 21st-century master bathroom melds accessible design elements with warm wood and stone. “It’s not really that big, but has that spa feeling,” said Susan. And its functionality for the future is a big plus. “The new tub and shower are so easy to use,” said Kent, “and attractive at the same time.”





Everyday Solutions features projects by AIA Minnesota member architects that solve a homeowner’s everyday design challenge. To submit a project for consideration, please send uncompressed JPEG images of the element or space, before and after photos and a brief description of the story behind the project to Angie McKinley: mckinley@aia-mn-org