The artful bathroom

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Imagine a tiny powder room filled with more than a half dozen works of art and you’ll begin to understand why the décor, designed by Julie Hage, really makes a splash.

The room off Hage’s family room is small, just 1.8 metres by 1.5 metres, but if you stand in the centre, close the door and turn in a circle, you’re surrounded by sculpture, framed art, carved woodwork, funky taps, and of course, best of all, a hand-made ceramic sink.

Hage hasn’t shied away from the use of colour. The amber-coloured walls look as if they were painted with honey. There’s an orange and red poster on one wall and blue and red highlights add shadows and interest in the textured wood. The room is dark and windowless, but strategically placed lights provide glowing warmth.

“It used to be just a blue and yellow bathroom with a 35-year-old sink,” said Hage, and “an ugly pendant-style light on a chain.”

The half bathroom doesn’t need strong lighting because no one uses the space for shaving or putting on make-up, but Hage still felt the room needed more light than her new wall sconces provided.

“It was too dark with just the wall lights so I put a little light under the cabinet,” she said.

Vessel sink

The inspiration for the bathroom renovation has been simmering in Hage’s brain for at least five years and goes back to an evening out at a swank Edmonton restaurant.

“I saw a glass sink in a restaurant restroom and I thought, I can do that, but in clay,” explained Hage.

At about the same time, Hage, who is a member of the St. Albert Potters’ Guild, began experimenting with making larger ceramic works of art. She made the sink and the wooden vanity that’s now in her bathroom as part of a show for Profiles Art Gallery.

“It started as a lump of clay on my wheel. The difference between throwing (the sink) and throwing larger bowls is the thickness of the clay. A bowl is thin, but the sink is inch thick,” she said, adding that the process of making a sink takes about six weeks.

“First you make it, then you fire it and then you glaze and fire it again,” she said.

The golden-brown sink that she made is dubbed a vessel sink, and the styling is all the rage in bathroom design. Most, like the one Hage saw in the downtown restroom, are glass and they sit on top of a counter like an old-fashioned china washbasin.

The difference is that unlike washbasins, sinks are plumbed in. Hage considered the extra height of the bowl on top of the counter when she made the accompanying vanity. In addition, the tap, which is shaped somewhat like a pump, had to be tall enough to reach over the lip of the sink.

“The sink sits on a vanity, so the vanity must have a hole cut into it for the drain. You can keep the old cupboard. You just need a new counter top and a new drain,” she said.

Vessel sinks are different from conventional ceramic sinks because there is no overflow hole.

“You could be in trouble if you put the plug in and let it fill without watching it, but this is in the powder room, and most people don’t put the plug in anyway,” she said, adding that she cleans it just as she would clean any other ceramic sink.

“I just use window cleaner and a plastic scrubbie.”

The vanity is a simple box-like structure made from particleboard, but Hage covered the counter with a shiny ceramic-like substance. The door-handles were made from clay. She also made the tiled backsplash that holds the circular mirror.

The round shapes and lines in the ceramic sink are repeated over and over throughout the room. The same design was carved into the door handles, the tiles and vanity top. And when she repainted and resurfaced the old mahogany bathroom door, Hage carved the same lines and circles into it as she repainted it.

Rustic cool

This little bathroom is rugged and rustic-looking because of the predominance of brown, the square shape of the vanity and the bamboo matting on the floor. The room is also ultra-modern because it has so much personality.

Hanging over the toilet is a modern-art piece that is pottery, sculpture and painting all rolled into one. It features three different lengths of pipe-shaped structures against a textured background. Something about it echoes the linear-circular pattern found in the ceramic sink.

“I was thinking of driftwood when I made it,” said Hage, as she described some of the process she used to create the piece.

“Before I fired it, I spilled sand on it as well as cinnamon and paprika and pepper. The spices provide different textures and colour,” she said.

Beside the sink there is a small box-shaped clay towel hanger and the wastebasket is a vase-shaped structure, which twists in on itself like a lily. Hage jokingly admitted the wastebasket covers up a previous laundry chute that she no longer uses.

Hage admits the bathroom’s redesign took her longer than many renovation projects, and she blames the need to stamp it with her own art, as the reason.

“The sink and cabinet were in the basement for five years. I had to live with it and think about it. Thank goodness my husband is so patient,” she said.

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About Author

Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.