Mother Earth Living

Natural Home Bath of the Year 2008: Stress-Free Zone

This spa-like bathroom pampers its owners—and the planet.
By Carol Venolia
September/October 2008
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Previously, the bathroom had no tub. Now the Zenlike bath space is surrounded by natural light and recycled-content tile.
Photo By Michael Shopenn
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Open to an adjoining bedroom and closet and with no door for privacy, Christy Clark and Cliff Shaw’s Boulder, Colorado, bathroom needed help. “There was no door to the bathroom, no privacy and no tub,” Christy says. “And the space was very small.” With help from architect Andy Johnson and Clay Dusel of Dusel Custom Builders, Christy and Cliff gutted and reworked the space to create a restorative, earth-friendly bathroom.

The team began with broad strokes, enlarging the bathroom to include a soaking tub, a steam shower and a sauna, and delineating it clearly from the master bedroom with a wall and double doors. “When you enter through the double doors, the first thing you see is a wall of stacked white river rock, which is the back wall of the steam shower,” Johnson says. Located in the middle of the room, the steam shower can be entered from either side.

Sunlight floods the bathroom through windows and skylights. The lighting, compact fluorescent or dimmable, creates a peaceful mood. “It has a very Zen feeling,” Johnson says.

Christy and Cliff support the serenity with a few house rules. “Every morning when I wake up and get in the shower, I feel like I’m going to a spa,” Christy says. “We even have a rule that when we’re in there, we don’t talk about anything stressful or work-related! The space is free of those topics, so we can really relax. It’s a haven.” 

The Challenge : Although the bathroom was gutted and completely reshaped, Johnson saved money by reusing all the existing plumbing locations, which created some design constraints. Cliff says the biggest challenge was trying to fit a lot in a small space without making it feel crowded.

The Joy : Johnson and the homeowners found the remodeling process joyful. “It was a very integrated design process,” Johnson says. “Clay was on board from the get-go, and we worked really well as a team. We had a load of fun.”

The Compromise : “I don’t really feel that we compromised anything,” Christy says. “I think people have the impression that green is more expensive. What we found is that, with the exception of a couple of products—paints and primers tend to run a bit higher—the cost was not much more to do it green. It’s a good message for people to know that building green isn’t cost-prohibitive.”

Our Favorite Feature : The steam shower is the star. “It’s a real exercise in textures,” Johnson says, “and they’re exquisite. The heated floor has a smooth, pebbly texture like an acupressure massage. The limestone benches have a nice, leathery-feeling surface. The stacked stone wall is extraordinary, and we buried the glass channel so it looks like the glass is being held by the stone.” Johnson sloped the steam shower’s ceiling toward the rock wall so that when steam condenses on the ceiling, water flows toward the wall and trickles down the rock like a waterfall.

The good stuff

Architect: Andy Johnson, DAJ Design, (303) 527-1100

Builder: Clay Dusel, Dusel Custom Builders, (303) 523-6631

Cabinets: Custom-built by Dusel using locally available, ash-veneered, formaldehyde-free PureBond medium-density fiberboard core

Countertops: Greenguard-certified CaesarStone

Tub Deck and Flooring: Forest Stewardship Council-certified Ipe wood, with low-impact OSMO Polyx-Oil finish

Bathroom Doors: Formaldehyde-free wheatcore

Stacked Stone Wall: Island Stone Stacked Pebble made from natural stone

Shower Pan: Island Stone Perfect Pebble made from natural stone

Tankless Water Heater:  Takagi

Bathroom Floors, Shower Walls and Tub Surround: High recycled-content tile from Royal Mosa’s Romain Terra Collection

Windows: High-performance, low-E Jeld-Wen aluminum-clad wood windows

Paints and Finishes: Low- or zero-VOC AFM Safecoat

Water-Efficient Showerheads: Kohler and Hansgrohe

Framing Lumber: FSC-certified

Dual-Flush Toilet: Beryl Ceramics

Efficient Fixtures: Hansgrohe

Insulation: Icynene

Benches: Jura Beige limestone

In-Floor Heat: NuHeat (Energy Star)

Skylights: Velux (mechanically operable)

Lighting: ET2, Capri, Quorum, Forecast (Energy Star)


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