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This house whisperer dresses up a bathroom for the gilded age.
There’s an edge of girlishness to designer Kerri Watson’s master bath: a curvy mirror, soft lighting and even a matte gold chandelier. Yet the design has its masculine side, too. “Different shades of white and cream are layered to create a subtle backdrop that shows off sexy black doors, like a tuxedo,” says Watson. “Polished chrome doorknobs are like silver Tiffany cufflinks.” There’s just something about dressing up.Watson’s appreciation for traditional and layered design came from a stint in Atlanta, Georgia, where antiques are front and centre and “there’s no such thing as too much.” Think decorating doyenne and Southern-belle-at-heart Bunny Williams, whom Watson happily met while there. “I think I must have lived in the South in a past life!” she laughs.Watson came back to Vancouver inspired to reinstate golden-age glory in her own Vancouver home. She became the house whisperer, she says, listening to the strong underlying architecture of the 1912 Tudor-style home. “Everything that I added had to support the existing architecture,” she explains, “and not try to compete with it.” She started with the shimmer of mother-of-pearl shell tile for a feature wall and a Venetian-style mirror that referenced the home’s past. From there, she continued reimagining and reconfiguring, bit by bit, the grandeur of the home—and bathroom.Original solid-wood doors were stripped, repaired and lacquered in black satin; hardware was removed, repaired and chrome plated. Meticulous underpinnings were crafted: crown mouldings, door and window frames and baseboards were custom milled to match existing ones. And for a little industrial heft: Watson uncovered the adjacent chimney shaft. “The brick is the rough contrast that grounds the space and keeps it from looking too feminine,” she says.Thoroughly revamped, this bathroom is now dressed up to fit the bones of the turn-of-the-century house—with a modern sensibility. Traditional features are the rather dapper suit for a fresh, contemporary vibe. It’s much like the Philippe Starck Ghost chair that Watson has set here: a reinterpretation of a classic. She describes the reincarnation of this bathroom as sophisticated, timeless, graceful and tranquil. And Bunny Williams would be proud.The Pro KnowsDesigner Kerri Watson’s top 5 tips for taking a bathroom from ow to wow.1. “Plan, plan, plan,” says Watson. Bathrooms may be small but with so many components and surfaces, they demand big attention per square foot. The more you plan up front, the easier it will be. 2. Think proportion and scale. “If you get these two right,” says Watson, “the room practically decorates itself.” 3. Show off. If your budget is tight, make the most of one show-stopping piece and put it at eye level, like Watson’s Venetian-style mirror. 4. Layer lighting. “It’s essential in a bathroom to have good lighting,” says Watson. In her bathroom, she layers multiple light sources: pots, sconces, a chandelier and even a small table lamp. 5. Soften it. “Dimmer switches aren’t just for dining rooms!” Think softness for middle-of-the-night bathroom visits or a relaxing bath.
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