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Natural Home & Garden Bathroom of the Year 2009: My Own Private Grotto

From ugly to ahh...on a budget.
By Robyn Griggs Lawrence
September/October 2009
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The tiny, cramped bathroom in Leni Pinyan and Duane Monczewski's Santa Fe, New Mexico, home hadn't been updated since the 1970s. The cabinets were deteriorating and the tiles were just ugly.
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Leni Pinyan and Duane Monczewski almost didn’t buy their Santa Fe, New Mexico, house in 1995 because of the outdated, unappealing bathrooms and kitchen. Today, they’re glad they did. The house is paid off, and Leni has the bathroom she’s wanted for years—a grottolike space inspired by Zion National Park’s Weeping Wall.

Nearly 30 years after it was built, the 1979 home’s bathrooms and kitchen still had all their original materials. “Not only were the cabinets and other furnishings dated, but they had deteriorated,” Leni says. “I had painted, adjusted drawers and done everything I could do to prolong their lives until we paid off the house and had the budget to remodel.”

The bathroom was cramped and dark, with a tiny, inefficient hexagonal window over the bathtub. “I could see daylight through the window’s wooden trim while I was taking a shower,” Leni says. “The way the old tub and sink and toilet were configured was awkward, but it was so tight that we couldn’t move any of it. I had to live with the space and figure out how to make it feel bigger.”

Leni started the remodel on her own, adding a skylight to bring in more sunshine, then hired Honey Do Home Repair of Santa Fe to help with the rest of the changes. They started by replacing the tiny, ugly window with an efficient, vinyl-clad casement. “It now has a beautiful view of the juniper trees outside the bathroom while still allowing privacy,” Leni says. “The window also opens, which allows a cross breeze through the house and keeps it cooler in summer.”

Leni’s clever use of flea market materials gives her bathroom character. She stores toiletries in an old tin wall cabinet and her electric toothbrush in a shadowbox, behind silver chain links. She made a vent cover out of tin and turned an old cabinet into her vanity.

Her biggest-ticket item? A glass-walled stone shower to replace the dated bathtub. “My builder told me to go for the glass wall to bring in more light and airiness—and she was right,” Leni says.

Inside the glass wall, Leni’s rainwater showerhead completes her vision. “When I get home and leave work behind, I can shut down and have my own little world,” she says. “It really is like being back at Zion National Park!”

The good stuff 

■ VANITY: Repurposed antique hutch with customized drawer to accommodate plumbing
■ WALL CABINET: 1940s kitchen cabinet (flea market find)
■ FLOORING: Gunmetal calibrated quartzite tile
■ STONE BACKSPLASH AND SHOWER: Sumatra black standing pebble and Sumatra black interlocking pebble
■ TRIM TILE: Slate tiles from Habitat for Humanity ReStore
■ SHOWERHEAD: Danze Fairmont 4-inch showerhead with separate handle for temperature and on/off controls
■ FAUCET: Danze Fairmont wall-mount single handle
■ TOILET: Toto Aquia dual flush
■ SKYLIGHT: Santa Fe Custom Skylights
■ LIGHTING: Minka Lavery Dakota in French cream glass with antique nickel finish, CFL-compatible
■ WALL HEATER: Soleus Micathermic Flat Panel 80 percent convection and 20 percent reflective heater with adjustable thermostat and energy-saving function

Contractor:
Honey Do Home Repair, (505) 992-8382

ROBYN GRIGGS LAWRENCE, Natural Home editor-in-chief, has a tiny bathroom like Leni’s. 

Hide ugly stuff! 

Leni Pinyan made a toiletries holder using an off-the-shelf shadow box and flea market chain. She hung it over an outlet so she can charge her toothbrush while keeping it out of sight. She made the exhaust fan cover from tin. Both projects cost her nearly nothing. Learn how Leni made these.


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