before and after

before & after: luxe spa bathroom makeover

by Kate Pruitt

This bathroom renovation from interior designer Lori Pepe-Lunché is the most dramatic transformation to come our way in a long time. The dark, heavy, cavelike “before” is my idea of a bathroom nightmare. Even if this room were spic n’ span, it would feel unpleasant. Now that doesn’t mean a bathroom needs to be white and light to be appealing, but there’s just no denying that this is a vast improvement.

I love the open layout and the exposed, seamless shower design; not only does it make the room feel spacious and airy, but it also prevents any chance for clutter (which is my biggest obstacle in the bathroom). Make no mistake: a large renovation with marble tile is an investment. But results like these seem well worth it. Amazing work, Lori! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

More images and basic steps after the jump . . .

Time: The renovation took about five weeks from start to finish. I had all of my materials (tile, plumbing fixtures, vanity, mirror) already purchased and ready to go. The only item that required an additional wait of about one week was the special-order window.

Basic Steps: To achieve the clean, calm, spa-like look, I kept the amount of materials used to a minimum: Carrara marble (tile and vanity), clear glass (as the shower partition), and white porcelain (for the toilet and sink). I purposely did not use any bull nose or trim on the tile edges; the tiles are 12″ x 12″, which actually give a smaller room the illusion of being larger. The only place I used 1″ x 1″ Carrara tiles is on the floor area of the shower to prevent it from being slippery. With two built-in cabinets (which are really disguised niches) behind the mirror and over the toilet, I was able to avoid bulky storage as well as avoid using a sink cabinet. This also keeps the lines clean, the floor completely open (even under the sink) and everything can get wet (even though it really does not)!

My advice for keeping costs down and keeping things simple is to try and use the current plumbing placement (as I did). It can be an extra $2,000 to move a waste pipe if you change the toilet placement, less for sink and shower fixtures. However, just changing plumbing placement can also add up to a week in labor. I would also suggest having all of your materials ready to go when construction starts. This eliminates any waiting period, and your project is completed much faster. Niches are a great source of newfound space. They eliminate the need for sometimes-unnecessary cabinetry and take advantage of lots of space that you might have in the walls in between the studs. Do as much as you can yourself (like creative cabinet doors). You can even do the demolition (as I did) yourself if you can devote a couple of nights and a weekend to it. It will certainly save some money. Lastly, choose your materials wisely.

There are many grades of Carrara marble tile and even porcelain tile. Make sure the tile you choose is strong, doesn’t chip at the drop of a hat, and is the color you are looking for. I would go see samples of the batch yourself to make sure it is exactly what you are looking for. The tile contractor you use is of equal importance, especially if you are planning to do a “wet room.” This requires an extensive knowledge of waterproofing, the materials that are specifically for your type of tile, and waterproofing techniques. Some tilers are well versed in the art of tiling and laying out the design, but are not so knowledgeable about the different reactions the waterproofing materials have with regular tile glues and mastic. This could ruin your whole project. — Lori


  • 12″ x 12″ honed Carrara Marble tiles are from Import Tile in Berkeley
  • 1″ x 1″ honed Carrara Marble tiles just in the direct shower area are from Import Tile in Berkeley
  • Vanity Sink is from Signature Hardware (very high-quality vanities at one-third the price of any others)
  • Manzanita Bronze Sconces are my own design
  • Toilet is Toto
  • Plumbing fixtures are all Grohe from e-faucets.com (great pricing and customer service)
  • Window is by Bonelli
  • Mirror above sink is used and my own DIY finish
  • Door above toilet for hidden cabinet is painted plywood with mounted driftwood DIY
  • Paint color is Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa Waterborne Interior Paint #2137-70

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  • I’m going to reiterate that I would want a bathtub, but beyond that, your new bathroom looks great! It felt like a dark dungeon before. I bet your were a little embarrassed about it before. Congrats on this new, lovely space!

  • Planing on a similar renovation, removing the tub. Concerned about the weight of all the marble as mine is above the family room. Any issues with this? Maybe reinfircing the floor might be a good idea?

  • Hi Pat, My bath is also on the second floor above my kitchen. The weight was not a problem for my floor, it was actually equivalent to the weight of the tub and the previous tile. As long as your floor joists are up to code, there is no rot or water damage, and everything is in good condition, you should not have a problem. You definitely need to have your contractor and if he/she is not qualified, have an engineer take a look at it first though.

    • Hi Lori, this is karen Jensen. I couldn’t find you email address to let you know I an in Italy staring at the Carrara marble quory. I have such great memories of our 1995 trip. Gary and I were in CinqueTerre today walking. Send me your email if you get this. Karen630j@yahoo.

      Love, Karen

  • The before pic looks like “Elle Decor”? Is this real life?

    Lori, it’s interesting to learn the fate of the wood tub and paneling. A home sauna sounds dreamy.

  • When I saw the ‘before’ picture, I actually cried “oh no!” out loud at the thought of having all that beauty torn down! The before state was a bit manky but was also *gorgeous* underneath the grime and had a lot of potential with the fantastic tiles and the brass. It only needed a bit of clean-up, maybe something like a light paint instead of the wooden panes and a few more lamps. To me it didn’t seem ‘cave-like’ at all, but luxurious, but then again, I’m a person who prefers colors over “modern” and sterile white, and getting rid of those tiles and that tub just seems such a shame. Not that the ‘after’ isn’t beautiful as well, but still, this post just made me sad.

  • I’m surprised by all the before comments. Seems to be a backlash of modern, clean lines. The before, even with a good scrub, seems so oppressive, and a strange mishmash of design. I think the reno is gorgeous! My personal taste would have been tub/shower combo, but still, it’s so much more tranquil a space.

  • The split comments are so interesting! I hate the before and love the after! The before looks so dark and grimy, the after is clean, serene, and timeless. And how awesome is it that the owner repurposed that tub and all the wood? That tub is certainly unique, but it probably works much better, functionally and aesthetically, outdoors. Amazing transformation, I would love to have this bathroom in my home!

  • ooo what a lovely makeover! Adore the sink! and you can never go wrong with this classic style of Carrara marble, it’s so clean, refreshing yet elegant looking. Oh those Italians sure know what looks good : )

    • Love the bathroom! Would you also give me the details for the glass partition? Size. Type of glass. Chrome floor and wall clips. Cost. Purveyor. Thanks!

  • I think we have to keep in mind that this is another person’s house, and no matter what we think, or how much of a crime it may or may not have been to gut the “before”, it’s the homeowner who has to live with it every day. It should be exactly how they want it, and in this case I’m sure they’re ecstatic with the “after”.

    To be honest, this is the first “before” that caused me to actually grimace and recoil from my screen! If it were my bathroom I’d have installed a new bathtub in addition to the shower, but what a dream to own those gorgeous sconces. Maybe when I strike it rich!

  • Just out of curiosity – wouldn’t the 12″ x 12″ Carrara marble tiles be slippery in a bathroom? No doubt it’d feel very nice under our feet… I’m worried about falls!

  • The glass partition is tempered clear glass that is secured to the wall and floor with silicon and very minimal hardware. It extends out from the wall 45″ to prevent overspray or splash to the toilet area. There are shower door and glass companies that specialize in cutting and installing these partitions.

  • This is a amazing transformation. I appreciate all your suggestions about how to keep minimize cost. Did you special order glass? This is not typical shower door. Where did you purchase hinges?

    Thank You

  • The after is very beautiful but not something you’d actually use. It looked more like a display than an actual working bathroom. The before was lovely too and I could picture it new and clean. It looked warm and cozy to me. I really liked them both.

  • Lovely! And, speaking form experience, when you work around an element–or two–that you never liked, you end end up not loving the final renovation. So, putting in what you love is in itself a savings because you will live with what you love for a long time–longer than if you “worked around.” Great execution!

  • Thanks again for all of your comments! It is amazing to see the differences in what people are comfortable with. To answer the question about the shower glass and “hinges”: The shower glass is special tempered glass from a glass company that is used to installing these in bathrooms. It is actually just a partition to prevent splash onto the toilet area, not a door. The hardware is very minimal and is readily available from glass companies that do this type of installation (however they are just to hold the glass in place on the wall and floor) they are not hinges.

  • Don´t like the after at all. It is too bland and not functional- bathrooms need to be highly functional, this has no room for creams, lotions and potions!

  • As for cleaning the whole room in 5 minutes I don’t think so. IF you live in an area with hard water unless that shower glass is wiped down EVERY time it’s used you’ll spend more time and energy on just the shower than the whole room. I do love sconces.

  • Before was seriously depressing and dark and that tub, so dirty?! After is so calming and gorgeous. I cant quite work out the window situation in before, after window seems to let so much more light in. Feeling inspired to go and clean up my bathroom……

  • Not a fan of those original, dark tiles and colors. While I can imagine the tub looking great in a different context, I like the reno. Super cool that the tub and wood materials were reused in an outdoor sauna area!

  • It’s like you snuck into my brain and created my dream bathroom! I am about to start on my own bathroom overhaul and plan on doing the demolition myself, and have already purchased my carrara marble tiles. After seeing the cost of a console sink I am (reluctantly) going with a pedestal, but I am coveting your console. Great job, looks fantastic!

  • I am using this as inspiration for my circa 1978 bathroom reno. Have you had any issues with having no shower door?

  • Beautiful spa-like bath update!! :-) In the process of redoing a bathroom without shower doors. Do you have any issues with water under the glass or spraying out on to the floor?

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