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The Perfect Tub/Shower Alcove, or, How to Get Your Daughter to Want to Take a Bath

Creating the perfect tub/shower alcove can be more complicated than it looks!

I discovered this when designing an alcove for my nine year old daughter Gracie’s bathroom. Here are some of the challenges I encountered along the way–and how I resolved them.

1. First and foremost: out of the hundreds and hundreds of stone and glass mosaic patterns to which I have access at New Ravenna, which pattern should I choose that will age gracefully along with my daughter?

Above you can see I chose a design called “Flight” which incorporates random swallow-like water-jet bird silhouettes into a polished 1.5 cm. thassos mosaic background. The sinuous texture of the background suggests wind currents. This design is a bit whimsical but not cutesy, and will still feel good when she’s 17, or even 40. New Ravenna (www.newravenna.com) also makes a similar pattern called “flutter” which features butterflies in any color you’d like.

2. Under-mount, over-mount or tub with integrated deck and front?

I took the easy way out and used a tub by a Canadian company called “Wetstyle” ( www.wetstyle.ca). They have fantastic, simple tubs that are well-insulated and don’t feel too hard or cold. Because the design does not require a deck slab or tub-face tiles, I avoided the complexity that designing those elements entails.

3. A glass enclosure or curtain?

I chose a curtain because I thought all the hard surfaces needed some relief. I embedded a hospital curtain track in the ceiling which works quite well, and attached an extra long linen curtain and liner (by Waterworks–www.waterworks.com) to the gliders that fit in the track.

4. How do I integrate the interior tile with the exterior walls–in other words, how does one handle the outside corner detail?

I opted for a 1.5 cm gridded thassos field tile on the outside walls with 3″ x 6″ bull-nosed tiles banding the alcove edge. My tiles went to the floor but you could also use a base at the bottom if you like. I used 3″ x 6″ thassos tiles on the ceiling.

5. How do I compensate for walls that are not plumb or straight (no matter how wonderful my contractor is)?

Mosaics are WONDERFUL partly because they are so forgiving of substrate imperfections and can be adjusted by a clever installer to mask walls that aren’t plumb! New Ravenna mosaics are tape-faced, which means you can slit the tape and move rows of tiles out or in slightly (before the thin-set dries) to compensate for imperfections.

6. What size and shape tub?

First of all, consider how much patience you have when waiting for your tub to fill before you choose the enormous version. Secondly, get in the tub before you buy it! Some tubs, even though they are gorgeous, are not comfortable. Personally, I avoid oval tubs because I feel like my shoulders get squished. Finally, make sure you plan enough space behind the non-drain end so that if you sink down into the tub, your head is resting at a relaxed angle. Hotel bathtubs always seem to be lacking this extra space and I can’t count h
ow many times I’ve missed it.

7. Hand shower or no?

Absolutely–cleaning is so much easier!

8. Just how far inside the alcove does one set the tub?

I recessed the tub about four inches. It gives Grace a little more space inside the tub when showering because the curtain hangs more towards the outside edge of the tub.

9. How do I integrate the alcove wall tile with the fabulous slabs that are also in the room, since i do not have a slab as a tub deck or face?

I coordinated the color of the bird silhouettes with the slabs that are on an adjoining wall, so the pattern relates to the color pallet in the rest of the room. All New Ravenna mosaics are all made-to-order, so your birds and background can be any color we offer. The flooring is also from New Ravenna in Blue Lightening and Thassos and the stripes reference yacht decking.

10. What about a shower niche?

I always outline mine in bull-nosed stone tile, and then add the mosaic wall tile for the back of the niche. I make the floor of the niche a little deeper than the sides and make sure it’s finished with rounded corners. Don’t forget to slope the bottom so the water drains out!

11. Lighting?

Let there be light! I like light in a shower.

12. Plumbing?

Man, do I love a good thermo-valve. Always having the temperature the way you like it, without having to adjust, is one of life’s simple pleasures. I chose the Waterworks .25 collection because of its beautiful, simple, sleek look–and because the cross handles look like “x’s” on the wall.

Gracie loves her tub and shower. Dave and I got to use it for several months while our master shower was being finished (yes, the master bath was the LAST room to be finished in our new house), so we enjoyed it as well!

2 Responses to “The Perfect Tub/Shower Alcove, or, How to Get Your Daughter to Want to Take a Bath”

  1. vivian cox says:

    just browsing bathrooms on houzz and wa-la my dream bath does exist.it’s so beautiful.what would it cost to do this in a bath same size?

  2. Elaine Bove says:

    Thank you for your details on this gorgeous bath. I am interested in the slabs that you have flagged as available. Please email me if this is still available. Thank you. If this is the daughters, I would love to see the master bath! Also, good points to consider on the tub!!

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About Me

Sara BaldwinSara Baldwin

Exmore, Virginia, United States

New Ravenna Mosaics founder and Creative Director, Owner, Sara Baldwin Design, Bass guitar player, Envisioner, Appreciator of the Sublime and Ridiculous.


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