These three Arkansas bathrooms prove that gorgeous materials and insightful design can go a long way
SOPHISTICATED & SUBDUED
Maybe you’ve looked up at downtown high-rises, wondering what the top-floor penthouses might be like—the million-dollar views, the high-end everything, the elegant trappings of an urban retreat far above the street-level hustle and bustle.
Suffice to say, pretty well everything you’ve imagined is probably true of this Little Rock penthouse. Owned by an “urban, hip and glam” young family, the cavernous condo—which was a completely blank slate—was designed by Tobi Fairley with those attributes in mind. “I almost always get a vision of what a space can be as soon as I walk into it,” she says.
Though the vision for the rest of the house was bold and edgy, hued in jewel tones—sapphires, emeralds, golds—and adorned with luxe finishes such as smoked mirrors, white leather and gilt everything, the bathroom is understated, with a tone-on-tone neutral palette. It’s more soothing than surprising, which was precisely the point: Tobi’s clients wanted the bathroom to seem like a high-end spa, but still needed it to function for everyday life. With that in mind, Tobi created a long vanity, flush with storage, but factored in spalike luxuries such as a steam shower and a sculptural, freestanding tub.
“It’s a little nostalgic, like the claw-footed tubs from the past,” says Tobi. “But at the same time, it’s more modern, with a sleek look, and deeper, so you just sink into all that warm water and bubbles. It appeals from both a design viewpoint and a need for relaxation.”
In keeping with that theme of relaxation, Tobi shied away from the daring colors she used elsewhere in the condo and stuck to creams and grays—a palette soft as candlelight. To punch up the visual interest, she used different textures throughout the space—carrara marble, brass, reflective surfaces—and a chevron-patterned floor tile. Taken together, the finishes appear plush and opulent while still feeling restful and rejuvenating.
“It was really about giving them that serene and soothing spa experience in their own home,” says Tobi. “This is the kind of space that you want to just disappear into. I could stay in that bathtub all day!”
SIMPLE & SERENE
Kevin Walsh has a question: Why do we feel the need to put so many doors in our bathrooms? A door here to hide the commode, a door there to close off the shower, a door over there … you get the idea.
“I’m not sure why so many people do that!” Kevin says. “Leaving it all open helps the space feel larger, airier.”
This is certainly the case in this open-concept guest bathroom the Bear-Hill Interiors designer completed in a client’s Little Rock pool house. It’s a small space, made larger by way of an open layout, a glass-enclosed shower and a limited palette. Kevin turned to the pool itself for inspiration, drawing color and texture cues from the green-blues and reflective surface of the water. With that in mind, he installed a shimmering mosaic of pearlescent tile that draws the eye from floor to ceiling, accentuating the room’s architectural features: a soaring vaulted ceiling and a charming window. To let those features stand out as the focal point, the rest of the space stayed neutral, clad in creams and grays.
In bathrooms, Kevin says, it’s best to avoid trends and stick to the tried-and-true classics, because of the expense incurred when you discover you’ve changed your mind. Instead, keep it simple, and make sure it works—in terms of both form and function.
MODERN & MINIMAL
When you’re working with a small urban footprint, there’s no room for wasted space and no room for error. Avoiding such pitfalls starts with thoughtful design, a restrained finishing palette and attention to detail, says architect Lisa Skiles, who designed this forward-thinking space in Fayetteville.
“This bath illustrates that simple design details can make a big impact toward a modern sensibility,” Lisa says. “Every element is considered when you work in a small space like this one.”
And perhaps the most important element in such a space is natural light. But how do you usher light into a room without sacrificing privacy? The answer, Lisa says, is a horizontal upper window placed high on the wall to achieve maximum daylight while still keeping the space private. Another trick Lisa employs is using a minimal palette to help a space feel larger than it actually is. Here, the finishes are limited to white and medium-hued wood, with well-considered design details to keep things interesting. For instance, the subway tile has a matte finish and is installed in a stack-bond pattern with gray grout for a modern take on a traditional material. (Running the tile all the way to the ceiling was a splurge, she says, but makes a big impact.) The riff-cut white oak cabinets have an 8-inch toe-kick base, which emphasizes the horizontal line of the window and makes the cabinets visually float in the space.
It’s details like these, Lisa says, that are easy to overlook but integral to the overall effect: “We question everything in the design process. Every inch matters.”