This piece originally appeared in:

Qualified Remodeler, December 2013

Asian-inspired detailing transforms powder bathroom into a grand-looking space.

Anyone who lives in any one place for any length of time knows that a home is never truly “finished.” Refreshes and remodels are needed to keep looks current and improve the functionality of the space. Bathrooms are a popular target of updates and remodels, simply because they represent a true meeting of form and function. Sometimes these projects might mean just a fresh coat of paint or new fixtures, but in the case of a home in Del Cerro, Calif., this meant a stunning transformation from bland to grand.

The owners of the home frequently entertain guests and had a vision for a powder room that would turn heads. To realize this vision, they turned to the team at Jackson Design and Remodeling in San Diego. “The owners have lived in the home for about 20 years,” recalls Jim Groen, senior architect with the firm. Groen worked with senior interior designer Sol Quintana Wagoner and assistant designer Vanessa Tejara on the project. “It’s a basic track house and our task was to take a very mundane, uneventful powder bathroom with a toilet and a sink and make it something.”

Part of a larger remodeling project that also included a guest bathroom, the powder room update would have to fall in line with other work the couple had done with their home in the past. “They had remodeled the kitchen and master bathroom about 6 years ago and there was an Asian theme to that design, so they wanted to keep with that,” Groen says. “We followed suit in the overall aesthetic with an abstraction of the Asian theme.”

What was once a basic and uninspired space now has a distinct sense of drama and life. A number of things needed to be done to make that happen. For starters, the design team had to deal with an unsightly and potentially troublesome ventilation issue. “There was some mechanical ventilation from the lower level laundry room that would have been buried in the base of the cabinet, but instead we furred out the wall to conceal the ventilation and alleviate the reality of that mechanical,” Quintana Wagoner explains.

As a result, a freestanding vanity could become a centerpiece of the room. Lighted, recessed niches in the concealing wall also add extra impact, additional illumination and facilitate the display of decorative artwork.

Access to the room also had been somewhat awkward in the past, having been constrained by a swing door that took up more than its share of space in an area without much to spare. Today, the remodeled powder room now is entered easily through an elegant black pocket door with Shoji-style panels.

Lighting was another piece of the puzzle. The original room was dimly lit and what exterior light it did receive came through an unattractive operable window dressed with a clunky set of blinds. “We found that the clients didn’t use or need the ventilation in the space, so we replaced the old window with a fixed, obscured window that looks more artistic and helps with the composition of the wall behind the toilet and vanity wall,” Groen says. This change serves the dual purpose of providing more natural light to the room and also reducing visual clutter.

Perhaps the most important parts of the equation in this powder room transformation were the colors and materials employed. The original room was standard in this regard, but the remodel comes to life with warm colors and glittering metallic finishes. An ebony, gold and dark brown tile wall illuminated by gold leaf lighting is a showstopper while still managing to communicate a real sense of comfort and warmth.

Quintana Wagoner selected an onyx sink with gold features and a unique, wood-framed, curved mirror both enhance and stretch the boundaries of the vibrant Asian-inspired design. For the team at Jackson Design and Remodeling, success truly is in the details.

“We designed an abstract woodwork framing with stained cherry around the perimeter of the ceiling playing off again on that Asian aesthetic,” Quintana Wagoner says. “Everything in our work is very intentional. The details and relationships between one material and another aren’t random. The way the pendant lights are hung is deliberate. The electrician didn’t mess it up or place things haphazardly, it was part of the composition.”

To achieve this level of detail requires a lot of up front planning, as well as tight coordination between all the disciplines on the project team. “There are an extensive amount of detail drawings,” Tejera explains. “Each wall has its own elevation with precise locations of where the plumbing fixtures need to be and where electrical outlets need to be. The electrician may not understand the big picture, but we tell him exactly where we want things to go.”

The team of interior designers, architects and construction professionals meet for weekly production meetings to review progress reports and communicate any issues. The owners are also directly involved in the process and approve every piece that goes in.

“The owners didn’t need to run the project, but all of our decisions were reviewed and approved. We have a process where we go through checks and balances, whether it’s the grout color, the tile layout or the light locations,” Quintana Wagoner says. “I think that’s inherent in the type of clients that are attracted to working with us. Their homes are very important to them and they want to be involved in the decisions, but they don’t want to have to deal with managing the project.”

The homeowners’ faith in the design process paid off, and they are thrilled with the end result. “They love it. It was exactly what they were looking for, and I think the thing they like most is the attention to detail,” Groen says.