Skip to main content

Stacey Brandford/Stacey Brandford Photography

What defines a "cottage" bath? When I was a kid summering at my grandparents' cottages, it was a room I spent very little time in (the seventies were the "good ole days" when bathing in the lake was not only acceptable but encouraged). Though I rarely, if ever, used it, I recall the tub/shower in one cottage had a wacky pale-yellow vinyl shower curtain with a fish motif and some sort of embossed texture. While there are many nostalgic and sentimental elements from my grandparents' cottages that I've tried to incorporate in my own cottage, I can assure you that the leaping fish curtain was not one of them!

You may be inclined to dismiss my bathroom as patently "not cottagey." But there's a reason for all my decisions, and I hope that when you read the article, you'll be convinced my approach makes sense.

Water + water = water

Story continues below advertisement

It's not rocket science, but when designing a room whose purpose derives from water in a location on the water, I naturally took my colour inspiration from, you guessed it - water! In its original incarnation, the bathroom was a whole lotta knotty pine, but not very designer "me." I considered many different colours and palettes, but to be honest I couldn't get away from wanting the space to feel light, airy, summery and watery. By default that drove me straight to soft blues and greens and came to life through a combination of Ming green, moonstone and Calacutta marble.

Take off the shine

You may think that marble anything in the country is far too city-inspired to seem appropriate, but I find natural materials to be the most fitting. When marble is polished, it seems dressy and formal, not to mention slippery when toddlers with wet toes come tearing through. Fortunately, it's very easy and inexpensive to take the shine off almost any natural stone (my supplier sends it out to be honed inexpensively by applying a solution of muriatic acid). Without changing the character of the stone, this simple honing process makes a stone floor practical for cottage life.

Tactile textures

A rustic approach can be interpreted in many ways. Some like a rough-hewn log look, but I opted to introduce a more rugged appearance through textured stone. Split-face mosaic on the wall behind the tub serves both a practical and decorative purpose while pebble mosaic on the shower floor provides a slip-proof surface (as well as a bonus foot massage thanks to the smooth, uneven texture of the river rocks it's made from). Accent bands of tumbled moonstone set in an otherwise simple shower stall punctuate the walls with yet another nod to the natural.

Take another look

Reimagining uses for vintage treasures is really a lot of fun! Instead of setting out in search of a specific item that conforms to a preconceived notion, I tend to keep a list of allowances and measures with me so I can be inspired by what I find in my travels. In the basement of one of my favourite architectural salvage shops, I discovered two old cabinets made from antique shutters. It was so dark I could barely see them, but I was won over by their shabby charm and determined to give them the Cinderella treatment. One was given an extreme makeover, which reduced the depth by half (an easy fix if you have a carpenter with a steady hand and a circular saw on the job). Meanwhile, my vanity was a serendipitous find masquerading as an outdoor garden table, and the handy little table beside my bathtub was a plant stand. With a bit of paint, these downtrodden treasures bring the country look to life at a fraction of the price it would cost to buy new ($250 each for the cabinets, $150 for the vanity, $25 for the table).

Story continues below advertisement


Not just a game for the toddler in your life, it's an important consideration for cottage design if you have a window in your bathroom. When living on an island, it's imperative to consider not only the views out but also the views in. If you are surrounded by water, it means that boats can (and will) approach from all directions (often without notice). To guarantee our bath retained some privacy while still letting in natural light, we came up with the solution of a transom window. It spans the width of the room, allows you to see the sky and let the breeze in, but is just high enough that it prevents peeping.

Tub time

My husband joked (with some accuracy) that our extensive renovation was fuelled by my desire for a bathtub and a bigger kitchen. Achieving these two key items on our wish list entailed bumping out an exterior wall, but there was no other way to make it happen, and every project needs a jumping-off point. Since we run a solar-powered pump and try to generate as little water waste as possible, I selected a bathtub that looks luxurious but is actually compact in size and water consumption (the tapered bottom and narrow width means not a drop of water is wasted).

What's your lucky number?

I love having a house full of guests and want to pamper them by providing all the comforts of home. I don't want to ask guests to bring their own sheets and towels, but I do want to make sure that we aren't wasting towels (or worse ... sharing them!). When designing a guest cottage for a client years ago, I came up with the idea of numbered towels and have loved it ever since. By embroidering all my towels with simple yet playful-looking numbers, it makes knowing which towel is yours as easy as remembering your lucky number.

Story continues below advertisement

Sarah Richardson is host and co-producer of Design Inc. on HGTV and principal of Sarah Richardson Design ( Sarah's Cottage can be seen on HGTV Tuesdays at 9 p.m.


Where to buy it

Bathtub - Passion Tub by Caml Tomlin, or 416-785-0224

Caesarstone countertop and shower jambs - Elite Stone, or 905-670-9800

Door hardware - Summerhill Decorative Hardware, 416-785-1225

Faucets and shower system - Rubinet, or 416-785-0224

Glass shower enclosure - Adanac Glass, or 416-785-6309

Marble and tile - Saltillo Imports Inc., or 416-441-2224

Mirror - Universal Lamp, or 416-787-8900

Pendant light - Absolutely, 416-324-8351

Shutter cabinets - Legacy Vintage Building Materials & Antiques, or 905-373-0796

Skylight - Velux, or 905-829-0280

Stain - ICI Dulux, NBC White, 30GY 76/017,

Towel embroidery - Dominion Regalia, or 416-752-9987

Vanity, accent table - Cynthia Crawford Antiques, 705-732-8249

Windows - Ross Windows & Doors, or 705-746-2495

Window installation - Fieldstone Windows, or 1-866-202-0286

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨