Our Top Five Master Bathroom Remodel Ideas + Hairdryer Drawer

Here's a closer look at our bathroom with a few ideas that called out to be highlighted, apart from our general master bathroom overview

1. Hairdryer drawer with the outlet in the wall, NOT the drawer.


Like many people, I jumped at the photo on Pinterest of a drawer with an outlet inside the drawer for a top secret hidden hairdryer compartment. My builder and electrician were much less enthusiastic, both saying nope, no way, not gonna happen. They had good reason to object: the drawer outlets fail overtime. My electrician explained wires need to run from the drawer outlet to the wall, and that overtime, the connection weakens. Both the builder and electrician had done them for clients in the past, and they have both needed repair. We discussed a bunch of options, but the fail-safe way was to make a pull out under the sink to hold the hairdryer plugged into an outlet in the wall, under the sink. 

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The outlet isn't easily visible, but I can get to if needed, and there isn't an issue of wear on the wiring. Not to mention, the pull out drawers are awesome under the sink. We debated number and height, and I opted for two. The top drawer for the hairdryer has a center cut out to accommodate the sink plumbing. The hairdryer is always easy to grab. I'm really happy with the outcome. 

2. Build a shower niche and corner shelf. The niche is fabulous because it keeps all of our products, okay 80% are my products, out of plain sight. The niche is 22.5 tall, making two shelves 11.25 inches each. Our builder questioned the need for such a big niche, but I have a lot of stuff. Thankfully, the tile guy rolled with it. The corner shelf is to rest my foot while shaving my legs. I honestly had to mention this, calling it the "leg shaving ledge" to about a million guys. Slightly awkward. The corner shelf is 18 inches above the shower floor. 


Both the niche shelves and the corner shelf are made with remnants of the marble we used on our counter. The top of the step getting into the shower (not pictured), the ledge at the top of the pony wall, and a second bathroom countertop (see the general bathroom post for picture) were from the same slab. I love how it ties everything together. For the record, I was told by our builder that no one uses marble for the top of the step and that I should use tile, but the tile guy agreed with me, and used the marble. I am so happy with it. 

See? I needed a large niche.

3. Get a medicine cabinet with outlets inside. I cannot say enough about this. I hate having toothbrushes on the counter and this solves that. Our kids are jealous and I can't say I blame them. 


4. Heat the floor. We hemmed and hawed over radiant heat for the bathroom, then reluctantly went for it. I am so happy we did. It can be easily heat the entire master bedroom suite, although I adjusted it to make sure only the flooring was warm to my feet. It is the best feeling, and I kind of miss it as the weather is heating up and I lowered the floor temperature again. It's all programmable to peak and reduce at the exact times you want it to. 

5. Go with a Toto toilet, but don't worry about sanagloss. We replaced all of our toilets with Totos (Eco soirée in the master, and Ultramaxs in the other bathrooms) and I think they are great, but we paid more for ones with sanagloss, which is designed to help keep the bowl clean. It was not worth the upgrade. Honestly, our old toilets needed less scrubbing.

Remodel: Master Bathroom Revealed

We didn't have a master bathroom, which means the before pictures aren't of of a bathroom, but of our old kitchen, where our new bathroom was built. What was a small, cramped kitchen is a large, lovely bathroom. In the photo below, the door has been filled into a wall, and the left side of the photo is where our shower is now, and the right side is where our vanity is housed. The door that became a wall? It's where the toilet sits. 



The main wall of our kitchen is now the side wall in the bathroom. The bay window is now a smaller window, the tub sits on the left of this photo, where our range used to be.





Our medicine cabinet hasn't been organized, but make note of the mid-lower thick shelf. It has outlets, allowing us to keep our toothbrushes and Kevin's shaver plugged in, but off the vanity counter.


A vertical line of subway tile framing the ends of the shower, an idea I had to fight for. 


Shower niche for shampoo, with a little corner lift for leg shaving.



I love the little niche behind the door and the counter for lovely glass canisters. One holds bath bombs and another holds bubble bars. Having a bathtub (that doesn't scare me) has made me go bath crazy. 


I love this tub. It's huge and cozy.


And I love the bath fixture, especially because the middle control looks like it's smiling.


The hexagon tile floor is period, keeping with the overall house design, and it's heated, which is so absolutely worth the cost. 


I love our bathroom. I love it not only because it is attached to our bedroom, my first private bath in my entire life, but because I aimed for a relaxed, spa-like bathroom, and that is how it feels. 

The architech had drawn more walls – the shower pony wall was supposed to be full length, but with a small window, I wanted to make sure light would spread throughout the room. The pony wall, however, was to be between the toilet and the vanity, but that seemed to make little sense. It would take up space and provide no benefit. The full shower wall was turned into a pony wall with glass on top, and the proposed pony wall was scrapped. There was a wall at the doorway too, to allow the tub to be built in, but I didn't want a built in tub, and again, the wall would take space, cut off light and openness, and provide nothing but extra privacy for the tub. The same tub privacy is gained by closing the door, which is what I do.

Master bathroom source list:

Vanity – custom built

Vanity faucet – Rohl, Viaggio from the Country Bath Collection

Vanity knobs and pulls – clear glass, Restoration Hardware

Vanity lights – Chatham triple sconce, Restoration Hardware

Towel holders and toilet paper holder – Chatham series, Restoration Hardware

Medicine cabinet – Robern

Vanity mirror – Sussex pivot mirror, Pottery Barn

Glass canisters – Pottery Barn

Bath bombs and bubble bars – Lush

Bathtub – Zuma freestanding oval tub

Bathtub faucet – Rohl, Country Bath set

Tile – while Manhattan subway tile from Tileshop

floor – hexagon carrara marble tile from Stone Center Online

Window shutter – San Francisco Shutter Company

Wall paint – Benjamin Moore Quiet Moments

Trim color – Benjamin Moore White Dove

Remodeling vs. Moving: Why We Stayed to Reinvent Our House


The quick answer was that remodeling was a better option than moving, but the whole story is a little more complicated.

It started in the middle of the night a few years ago, as I stepped on a small toy on my walk in the dark to the bathroom in the back of the house. Our room wasn't a traditional master bedroom with an attached bath, in fact, it was once a one car garage. There was a bathroom closer, right next to the kids' rooms, but I didn't want to risk waking them up. This wasn't how I imagined life nearly at age 40. 

Our house started as part of a neighborhood of cozy weekend bungalows for San Francisco families. It was two bedrooms, one bath, a small living room, kitchen, and a tiny one car garage. By the late 1970s, the neighborhood had transitioned into full time residences, and most of the bungalows were adjusted to reflect year round living. The previous owners of our house – remarkably a family with four children – added space, turning the garage into a bedroom, bumping out to turn a side patio into the kitchen, making the old kitchen a dining room, then adding a large family room, a fourth bedroom, and another bathroom. The house was a modest four bedrooms/two bathrooms, but when we bought it, we came from a tiny, 830 sq foot, two bedroom/one bathroom house that made this home look huge. 

The house was great, but it didn't feel like ours. We were one mention in the long history that belonged to the house. The giant rock fireplace, cheap wood paneling, and rod iron scones had the signature of the hunter two owners prior to us. The massive gold and crystal chandelier and thriving jade plant were put in by the Chinese national who sold us the house. The house belonged to its past.

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When we moved in, now nearly nine years ago, we quickly said goodbye to the sconces, chandelier, and wood paneling. This has always been a good house, and we tried to give it the love it needed, but there came a point when too many improvements were tied to other improvements. We couldn't take out the fireplace without rebuilding the wall and changing the flooring. We couldn't expand the kitchen without strengthening the structure, and unfortunately, we couldn't add a bathroom to our room without major construction. We live on a hill with a view, and while we could have possibly added a bathroom to the front of our room, it would have cut off our view, and it would have required the garage downhill, to which our room now slightly overlaps, to be rebuilt for structural support. It made no sense, which meant for the second time in our house's history, the kitchen needed to move, and again, to an exterior patio. 


We did consider moving and we looked around at our options. We found plenty of homes in our range (what we paid for our home + the amount we expected to spend on the remodel), but none were right. Either the location was good, but the house was dated and needed improvements or the house was updated to someone else's tastes, but the location was awful. None had a view or large property like our house does now, which we found is nearly impossible to give up. 

We like our location, we love our view and the peacefulness of our laid back, slightly rural-in-a-suburban-way neighborhood, and we weren't ready to go. We weren't ready to remodel, either, but it was my in-laws who suggested it as a solution, back when we thought it was going to be a simple, straightforward process of relocating the kitchen and building a bathroom. That was back before we know about the brutality of the county permitting and design approval process, which ended up changing everything. But that is for another post. 

This house is now ours. No longer are we a mere mention in the long history of this house. We put our stamp on it in a significant way. This house flows the way we want it to, and is designed with our needs and tastes in mind. We own this house. 


Remodel: Ready to Recap From Start to Finish

I'm finally ready to talk about the remodel. People ask me questions frequently and want to talk about it, but I don't. Part is been-there, done-that, part is that is the wound is still a teensy bit open. We love the house, it's incredible, and it will work well for our family, but there is the part where I still remember the downsides of construction. Every day was a confrontation, from tiny things to huge, potential deal breakers, and it wasn't fun. Not to mention, we lived here among the dust heaps, construction tools and debris with little escape. 

I could not have done this remodel 10 years ago. I don't think at age 30 – ahem – I could have stood so strong for so long. A friend told me last year that her mother always says, "If you don't open your mouth, you open your wallet." I said that to myself many times during the remodel, that if I didn't speak up, I'd end up paying for something I didn't want, didn't work, or was flat out wrong. Here is a simple fact of construction, and really life: you are your own advocate. No one was going to speak up for us. Many times I'd point something out to our builder, only to have the response be, "yeah, I noticed that, too." What I wanted to scream each time was, "THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT?" 

See, the wound hasn't healed. 

Then there are the moments, when I am sitting at the kitchen island on the family room side, working at my laptop, while dinner cooks a few feet in front of me, the kids are just behind me watching a baseball game, and golden light comes through the slats of of the kitchen shutters and I can see the pink roses outside in the sunlight. 


Or there is the morning, when I reach my office early, it's peaceful, and look out at Rocket coloring at the art table, awash in soft light. 

Those moments are perfect and it was all worth it to take our okay house and make it something that will work for us long term through the many stages of our family, with young kids, to teens, to someday an empty nest. 

This week I'll put a Band-Aid over the wound and begin to talk about what went well, what we'd do differently, and of course, show pictures, beginning with our master bathroom, simply because it is the cleanest room in the house. 

Getting Obsessive Over Coffee Tables

I have spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking about coffee tables. It's pathetic, really. But let's discuss it, anyway. It's a smallish spot boxed in by an ottoman and a wall on either side.

There is this, but it's pine and I know those corners will end up in my shins. Once again, it's pine. 


Or this, which is a pain-free circle, but it is espresso, when the rest of the room is mahogany. First world problem. The plight of an espresso coffee table in a mahogany world. 


This is the one I love, not only because of the name, but because it matches our side table. Alas, it's too big for the spot. 


Yes, I have looked at other places, if you mean Crate & Barrel, because I like to limit myself to places where I have rewards. 

Unrelated, I bought 36 red Gatorades today. No one at Target batted an eye. It seems like something that should require an ID or Homeland Security questioning.