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Brownstone renovation results in refined bedroom aesthetic and reinvented master bathroom

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A rebuilt bedroom featuring hand-made wallpaper is teamed with a new master bathroom in this brownstone renovation by Matthew Baird Architects and interior designer Jennifer Morris

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Classic, character-rich brownstones present enviable places to live, but as with most home styles of earlier time periods, the attention paid to bathrooms was pretty secondary. So when it came time to renovate this traditional New York home, the master bathroom was high on the list of priorities of things to transform completely.

Matthew Baird Architects (MBA) with Bradley Kaye as project architect took on this whole house makeover with interior designer Jennifer Morris involved in the choice of finishes and features.

The brownstone had good bones and many intact details, including the stair from the first floor to third, fireplaces, mouldings, stained glass windows and lay lights, says Kaye.

"The owners had lived with the small, dated existing bathroom for years. So one goal for the renovation was to have an amazing bathroom."

To achieve this, MBA turned an existing study into the new master bath and connected it to the master bedroom via a walk-in closet.


The bedroom was gutted and modernised with sound-insulated walls and new lighting and finishes. The room already had beautiful stained glass windows and a fireplace before the makeover and the interior designer worked with the owners to pick the furnishings and wallpaper.

Several refined touches give the reworked bedroom its charm, says Morris.

"Maya Romanof's hand painted Weathered Walls wallpaper reflects depth and artisanal craft and sets the scene. I selected Hermes fabrics for cushions to dress up a much-loved chair and we made lush velvet pillows for the bed."

The owners requirements for the bathroom were simply that it be spacious and beautiful.

"In other areas of the house there was more push and pull in regards to aesthetics – but not in the master bath," says Kaye. "This space was the result of a fun collaboration with our client.

"We thought it was important that the view down the hall to the fireplace be preserved, so placing the bath in the centre of the room on that axis was the logical choice. This left a third of the room for the vanity area and a third for the shower zone, with its two shower fixtures."

The large mirror above the vanity makes the room feel bigger – helpful since the brownstone is only 4.8m wide. The mirror consists of three parts. The centre panel is fixed to the wall, while the panels to either side front medicine cabinets and are visually separated from the central panel by broad LED strip lights.

Barber-Wilsons fixtures were chosen for their classic lines, which tied the modern space with the home's existing period detailing.

Morris says she was brought in midway through to work on the soft items but ended up providing another layer of decor – adding many elements, such as art, lighting, plants, paint colour and finishes, and vanity accessories.

"Finishing the bathroom with restraint was important. Since there was so much existing detail, the goal was to let what was already there shine. However, key elements were added.

"The glass mosaic tiles around the fire are one of my favourite additions. These complement the shower partition and the windows. Meanwhile, the shape and colour of the mosaic tiles give the fire great dimension and depth.

"The bathtub is another eye-catching feature – a little like an oasis amidst all the strong, clean architectural lines – and I felt that the modern chandelier perfectly mirrored its softness."

The reworked master suite achieves a tricky balancing act between celebrating the rich architectural history of the brownstone and creating elegant, comfortable user-friendly spaces.

First published date: 30 August 2017

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Credit List

Architect Matthew Baird FAIA, Matthew Baird Architects
Interior designer Jennifer Morris NCIDQ, JMorris Design
Builder Downtown Renovations Corp
Cabinet maker McKeever Woodworks
Tub Odette by Barclay Products
Floor-mount tub filler Barber Wilson
Vanity Custom, walnut veneer
Vanity benchtop Pietra Cardosa stone
Basin Custom stone sink fabricated by Mondial Tiles
Taps Barber Wilson in polished chrome
Shower fittings Drain, ProLine by QuickDrain USA; shower, Barber Wilson
Shower floor Pietra Cardosa slabs from Stone Source
Flooring Existing, restored – salvaged heart pine to match existing floors where patching was required
Wallcovering Pietra Cardosa from Stone Source; existing brick
Fire surround tile Agate Collection Martini-pisa silk finish from Artistic Tile
Toilet Happy D by Duravit
Lighting Sconce, flush with mirror, from Backlight SLR; recessed lighting, Lightolier; feature pendant, Ochre; art light, Modulightor
Accessories Floating shower shelves by Boffi; towel ring by Kohler
Windows Marvin Windows