Project Spotlight: Floor Show

This master bathroom remodel morphed into a second-floor renovation that better fits the clients' lifestyle

December 15, 2014

Around the middle of September 2012, Tenhulzen Residential of Bellevue, Wash., received a call from former clients about updating their master bathroom. “’We hate it—we’ve always hated it,” the couple told Mike Tenhulzen. The empty nesters wanted to remake the space in a way that would be appropriate for their current lifestyle as well as whatever the future may hold.
 
The two-story home in Bellevue had been built in the 1970s. Tenhulzen remodeled the kitchen in the early 1990s. “The house is fairly unique in that it was built using an Asian technique,” he says. “It’s a timberframe, octagonal structure supported between floors by beams that are at 30-degree angles to each other and zigzag across the ceiling. On top of the beams is car decking for the floor above. It’s not standard construction — there’s no diaphragm between ceiling, drywall, and floor.”
 
The master suite is on the second floor. Prior to the remodel, there was a hall bath adjacent to the master bath, and two additional bedrooms at the opposite end of the house. Because of the home’s octagonal shape, the clients had two options: leave the rooms in their existing locations, or expand the master bath on a platform so the plumbing fixtures could be relocated. They chose the second option. 
 
Since their adult children come home to visit regularly, the clients decided to make the two secondary bedrooms more guest-friendly. They repositioned the hall bath between bedrooms 1 and 2 in a Jack-and-Jill arrangement with two doors. In addition, they chose to enlarge and remodel the master closet. Tenhulzen designer Stephanie Lofquist worked with the couple to achieve their goals and ultimately exceed their expectations.
 
 
Stepping it Up
The existing master bath had fluorescent lighting over the vanity capping a three-quarter-height wall that doubled as a headboard for the master bedroom. The primary goals for the remodel were to improve lighting and storage while including a Japanese soaking tub as well as an oversized shower, double vanity, and water closet. The existing wall above the back wall of the shower was left intact and under-framed by an offset lower wall that provides strategically placed soffit lighting.
 
Existing shower and wall-hung toilet drains were concealed in a soffit below the 2-by-6 car decking floor that doubles as the kitchen ceiling, and the new shower and toilet drains were run through the same chase. A utility closet that is accessible only from outside the building enables technicians to service the wall-hung toilet and dedicated water heater for the soaking tub.
 
“Structurally, there were some questions about how the floor would be able to support the new tub,” Tenhulzen says. “We ended up going in underneath and [reinforcing] it with new beams that span from the centerline of the house to the outer walls.” 
 
The floor of the new master bath was raised one step to support the weight of a filled tub and allow it to drain. Above the car decking floor, tripled and quadrupled 2-by-6 joists span from the outer wall to an interior exposed beam in the kitchen below. This transfers the new load to a notched beam connection that required an upgrade to bronze-plated hardware. The new tub drain was routed around the near end of the quadrupled joists to connect with the new shower drain and wall-hung toilet in the existing soffit below.
 
“During the design process, we jokingly asked the clients if they would like a single vanity sink in place of the existing one,” says Tenhulzen. “To their delight, we were able to install his and hers faucets in a rectangular single basin that aligns perfectly with the vertically operated, mirrored medicine cabinet, which slides open into the trellis gap above.”
 
The vanity height was determined by the 36-inch tub deck and antique stool that slides underneath the sink. Opposite the vanity, over-depth cabinets with full-extension drawers nestle neatly into an empty space. The trellis and clear-fir cabinets, doors, and millwork were prefinished off site after having been dry-fit and disassembled. General lighting is provided by a dimmable monorail fixture hung off the centerline beam and powered through the structural column centered on the mirror.
 
Tenhulzen replaced the old shower with a soaking tub and shower configuration on the outer wall, using a limited glass enclosure only to prevent shower splash. The overhead trellis conceals dimmable down lighting and visually defines the space below the vaulted ceiling. 
 
The approved design borrowed space from a guest bedroom to create a guest suite. The new Jack-and-Jill bath is accessible from each bedroom by pocket doors with privacy locks. The existing window was retained for natural light, but the opening was reduced in height to accommodate countertop height. Dual floating mirrors are divided by three wall-mounted monorail pendant fixtures and attached to the ceiling and countertop by a cable system. Behind a hinged privacy door is a coordinating shower and wall-hung toilet. 
 
Since the existing heating ducts run up the exterior walls, electrically heated floors were installed in both bathrooms. Drains for the hall bath’s shower, toilet, and lavatory had to be run through a raised floor to an exterior wall. Cast-iron drains were used because they transmit less noise to the downstairs rooms. 
 
As part of the design program, a sewing room that formerly occupied part of the master closet was moved to the spare bedroom, more than doubling the size of the closet. Exposed conduit track lighting in this closet was replaced with color-corrected fixtures centered on concealed molding that is spaced on the beam layout over a custom cherry closet system.
 
Clean lines and timeless colors are at the core of the ergonomic design. Like the kitchen, the master bath features vertical-grain fir in the millwork, cabinetry, and trellis. “Then we brought other colors and textures in to go with that motif,” Tenhulzen says. “For example, the flooring is a bamboo-style tile, and the granite countertops have a chisel edge. Those are the primary elements; the rest of the tile and lighting and fixtures fill in around them.”
 
 
Construction Entrance
Tenhulzen Residential has an unconventional process for ensuring good client relations. A storyboarded design process is developed into a script for each project (Michael Tenhulzen’s title is Director; his wife, Traci Tenhulzen, is Executive Producer). 
 
“By scripting the project, we’re able to perform it without any unplanned edits. Regular meetings through various acts and scenes during production let the clients know what’s coming up next, what challenges we’re facing, and making sure they feel comfortable throughout the process,” he says.
 
The scope of this remodel required tearing the entire second floor down to the studs. Since the kitchen is just below the master bath, preventing dust from drifting down through the car decking was “a bit of a challenge,” Tenhulzen says. Dust control, safety, and security build the trust with their clients that ensures a lasting relationship and a solid referral source.
 
To ensure the clients’ comfort during production, Tenhulzen built a ramp up to the scaffolding and created a “construction entrance” in the exterior wall to access the upstairs without traversing the home’s formal entry and other first-floor living areas. Demolition debris was carried out through this entrance; mechanical and electrical components and drywall were brought in the same way. Access through the front door was limited to the final two weeks of the project, which greatly reduced potential damage to the furniture-quality entry porch and narrow, twisting stairwell. PR

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