Renovating a 1990's era bathroom

We recently renovated a master bathroom that was built in the mid-1990s. The client's objectives were to modernize the space, improve functionality and create a bigger, more luxurious shower. As with most projects certain items had to remain, and in this case, it was the “bisque” colored, jetted, soaking tub (due to the replacement cost).

New Frameless Shower Enclosure

The top priority was to enlarge and modernize the shower creating a wow factor for the room.  The existing shower was too narrow, the glass was permanently fogged, the shower head was too low, there was no storage place for shampoo or soap, no place to rest a leg for shaving and the bisque tiles were very dated.

Existing shower

Existing shower

New frameless glass shower enclosure



Shower Design

We used tape to map out the area for the shower trying to optimize the size while keeping in mind the width and clearance for the door and the building code for proximity to the toilet. 

The homeowners wanted a slightly thicker 1/2” clear tempered glass rather than the typical 3/8” thickness for a more dramatic frameless shower effect.  The trade-off was cost and needing to install a header to support the thicker, heavier glass and the 31” door width.  An 80” shower height was selected to make the nickel header less noticeable.  The design included a 5” overhang on the tub platform to allow someone to comfortably rest a leg for shaving or washing.  Wall studs were added at each end of the shower in order to secure the heavy glass panels.


Tile Selection

For the shower walls and around the tub deck we chose 4" x 12" subway tile installed horizontally and in a stacked pattern rather than staggered in order to create cleaner lines.  The shower walls were tiled all the way up to the ceiling and around the protruding corner to give the appearance of a concrete wall.  The tile color was chosen to blend with the bisque tub and we used a brushed nickel accent piece to provide a focal point and to complement the fixtures and glass enclosure header.  A pebbled shower pan floor gave us the look we wanted.  We mapped out an area for a 14” x 22” niche to store shampoo, soap and other shower essentials.  The niche shelving consisted of the same marble used for the shower curb sill and door saddle.


Shower Fixture

For delivering the complete shower experience we selected a very functional and well-reviewed Hansgrohe Croma showerpipe fixture with a rain shower and a massage head.


The existing lighting, which consisted of an overhead vanity fixture and a recessed ceiling light which was near, but not quite over, the shower area, was awkward and inadequate for the space.   We designed a very functional recessed LED lighting layout with three zones as follows:

  1. One light directly over the shower area
  2. Two lights over the jetted soaking tub
  3. Three lights in the main area for general lighting

All recessed lights have dimmer settings to create the perfect ambiance. 

For the vanity area we selected three George Kovacs LED wall sconces placed on each side of the rectangular mirrors to ensure that we had evenly distributed lighting to avoid shadows.

George Kovacs LED wall sconce

George Kovacs LED wall sconce

Vanity Area

The existing horizontal mirror was hung low on the wall in order to provide clearance for the vanity lighting installed above it; one of the homeowners had to constantly bend down to comb his hair. There was an old-fashioned medicine cabinet which protruded into the vanity area and offered little in the way of useful storage space.  The vanity itself was dated and the storage space underneath was inefficient.  We selected two simple, yet very functional, 36” x 24” rectangular mirrors and we removed the medicine cabinet.  We replaced the vanity with a modern 72” double vanity that offered more functional storage options.  The granite counter top was selected to blend with the wall and floor tiles and the bisque tub.   New brushed nickel fixtures were added to complete the new look.

Existing Vanity

Existing Vanity

New vanity

Built-in Shelving

The back corner of the tub deck near the vanity was wasted space and cried out for something interesting.  To remedy this we built a wall separating the vanity area from the tub deck and installed wood shelving upon which we could add carefully selected accent pieces.  The new wall also allowed us to relocate an electrical outlet which left more room for the mirrors in the vanity area and created a symmetrical look with the outlet on the opposite wall.  The shelves consisted of 2” x 10” pressure treated wood carefully selected for an abundance of wood grain.  We used a Kreg jig kit to secure the shelves and Minwax classic gray stain to give the shelves a weathered look.  Crown molding and base molding completed the built-in look we wanted.

Tub deck in progress

Tub deck in progress

Tub deck with new built in shelving

Tub deck with new built in shelving



For the flooring we selected 6” x 24” tiles to complement the wall tiles.  We arranged the tiles in a staggered pattern running diagonally across the room to draw your focus toward the stunning, new frameless shower.  Next we added a few coats of paint and some base molding and this 1990's bathroom was ready for prime time!

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