An Architect Drafts a Travel-inspired Bath

As a frequent business traveler, architect Brian Kaplan had stayed in his fair share of hotels around the world. So when it came time to redo the only bathroom in his family’s 1940s-era co-op apartment, he drew inspiration from the luxurious spaces he had recently visited. As a professional, Brian hand-selected every material and each fixture. The result is a vibrant marriage of vintage charm and modern luxury—a true respite within their Brooklyn home.

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Guest post by Clinton Hill homeowner Brian Kaplan

In 2009, we embarked on a six-month-long gut renovation. It included demolishing multiple walls to open the kitchen to the living room, removing rough stucco ceilings and refinishing them and installing new wood flooring throughout. The project occurred before we had our son, although Erin was pregnant for part of the time, which was a motivating factor to get it done! We then took a long hiatus, but knew we’d be back at it someday. There are always more projects. 

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Six years later, we turned to the next big project: refinishing the only bathroom in the apartment. It was in part prompted by necessity: a leak from an upstairs bathroom ruined our ceiling. And although we had done a large part of the work in our 2009 renovation ourselves, different circumstances this time led us to choose Sweeten to help us get it done. We knew that the project couldn’t be a weekend project, and most of the work—tiling, plumbing, etc—in a bathroom is highly specialized. Our Sweeten contractor was able to assist us in making sure we ordered all the correct things, and coordinated with and supervised the subcontractors.

The fixtures and finishes were typical of ‘80s renovations—functional but tired. A couple of plumbing issues initiated the beginning of the renovation project. We knew we wanted something different from the common renovations in our building. I had spent a lot of time recently traveling for work so hotel bathrooms were the inspiration—however humble our own footprint: the clawfoot tub in the Hotel Condesa DF, the basin sink in the Park Hyatt Dubai, the plumbing fixtures in the Four Seasons in Guangzhou, and the light fixtures in the Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como.

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The finishes are fairly simple but employed thoroughly—by selecting a clawfoot tub, the floor and wall tile automatically continue through the space a built-in tub would occupy, enriching the surfaces. We also continued the simple subway tile to the ceiling on all four walls to further enhance its impact. The toilet has a slender and tapered base, and the antique basin table is on legs highlighting the indigo glow of the glazed hex floor tile. The custom-fabricated medicine cabinet allows for display and easy access. We were able to partially recess the cabinet, which is made of red balau wood.

Wall-mounted plumbing fixtures were unusual for our co-op, so it was a bit of a gamble to choose these types of fixtures. We didn’t know what the infrastructure behind the wall would look like. It turned out that the risers needed to be replaced, so we were able to customize our rough-ins.  The coordination with the clawfoot tub was another challenge. We found the basin table online and delivered it home from Hudson, NY, ourselves after a weekend camping and picked up the several-hundred-pound clawfoot tub at the UPS depot under the Kosciuszko Bridge in Brooklyn! A last-second request from our five-year-old son encouraged us to include a hand shower and transfer from the hydrostatic valve (and no, he didn’t actually use that term!). He hated how water got into his eyes with a regular shower, so he asked for his own hand sprayer. And finally, the finishing touch was the bathtub caddy, which reflected the intent of this project to be a retreat from the trials of daily life.

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Working with our co-op was a challenge where access to the plumbing chase and replacement of the aging riser was concerned, but our Sweeten contractor was very professional and managed the process as well as possible. We had difficulties working with our first contractor, and Sweeten saved this project by acting swiftly to help us hire a new contractor who understood the desperate situation we were in—with our only bathroom out of service for weeks already at that point. Our contractor worked with a plumber hired by our co-op, supervised the work, and mapped out where everything should be installed. We credit Sweeten and and our Sweeten contractor for saving our sanity and completing our project as we’d envisioned it. Thank you!

Brian and Erin, your bathroom renovation was a packed journey, and we thank you for sharing your inspiration with us.

BATH RESOURCES: Cobalt Blue ¾” Hexagon Mosaic floor tile: BelTile. Reclaimed Clawfoot tub: Almasfarmhouse on Etsy. KCV-122 Basin sink: Kraus. Antique Basin Stand vanity: Colonia Antiques in Hudson, NY. Shower and sink fixtures: Purist Series from Kohler. White subway wall tile: Classic Tile NY. Alinea linear incandescent light fixture: Aamsco. Gold bell overhead light fixture: CB2. Recycled Teak medicine cabinet: Nightwood . Oil Rubbed Bronze Round Knob Emtek hardware: Build.com. Garden Buzz shower curtain: Anthropologie. Toilet paper holder/towel Rings: Ferm Living. Dots towel hooks: CB2. Handmade walnut bathtub caddy: Worth Street Woodshop on Etsy.

  • mslewis

    That’s a stunning bathroom. Good job.