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

From ugly to ahh...on a budget.

| September/October 2009

  • 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.
  • A glass shower wall opens up the cramped bathroom and brings in more light.
  • Leni Pinyan repurposed an antique hutch to serve as a vanity, lending character to her tiny bathroom.
    Photo By Douglas Merriam
  • Leni Pinyan and Duane Monczewski relax at home with their dogs.
    Photo By Douglas Merriam
  • A glass shower wall opens up the cramped bathroom and brings in more light.
    Photo By Douglas Merriam
  • Leni Pinyan made this toiletries holder using and off-the-shelf shadow box and flea market chain.
    Photo By Douglas Merriam
  • A glass shower wall opens up the cramped bathroom and brings in more light.
    Photo By Douglas Merriam

Leni Pinyan and Duane Monczewski almost didn’t buy their Santa Fe, New Mexico, house in 1995 because of the outdated, unappealing bathrooms and kitchen.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.

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