As with most good designers, Jessica Geller and Virginia Toledo of Toledo Geller begin every project by getting to know their clients as best they can. When they were hired to design a bathroom for a retired couple in New Jersey, Geller recalls, one of the things she asked was “Where are you dying to travel next?” The answer—Morocco—would prove to be the underlying thread for the entire renovation, which consisted of turning a small bathroom and drab spare room into a Moroccan oasis right in their home—with plenty of functional details hidden under the breathtaking design.
The bathroom’s most noticeable element is likely the dramatic arches, which were born of a practical layout concern: “Knowing that she really wanted that bathtub to be the focal point, we thought, ‘okay, well let’s really make it a focal point,” Geller tells House Beautiful. “We couldn’t have it in front of the windows, so we turned it, and we wanted to frame it out.” That led to the graceful arch, which the duo echoed in the shower doorway.
By framing out the bath and shower with arches, Toledo and Geller were able to create designated zones for different needs, making the room hyper-functional. One particularly specific area? A built-in vanity (making use of one of the room’s few windows) for the couple’s daughter, who runs a makeup tutorial channel on YouTube.
Of course, Moroccan architecture often features dazzling displays of mosaic tile, so what better reference than a mix of tiles in the bathroom? Geller and Toledo married zellige, marble, and patterned tiles to add visual interest to the room without going overboard with colors. This mix also has a practical purpose: “We were really careful to choose the patterned tile in moderation where we could get the most bang for our buck,” says Toledo. Using the patterned tiles as borders and statements, they filled in with less expensive, plain tiles.
Another subtle yet textural element is the room’s ceiling, covered in a Moroccan plaster finish known as “tadelakt,” which the homeowner—an avid woodworker and DIYer—actually painted himself. “We looked over a few color samples with him, selected the tone, and then he got a kit and watched a YouTube tutorial,” says Geller. Talk about a high-end DIY!
Another important element for the couple—which is also becoming an increasingly prevalent client concern presented to designers—was the ability to age in place. While this concept may seem far down the road, when investing in spaces you’ll want to live in longterm, it’s important to consider. Here Toledo and Geller were able to accommodate that without making any big concessions. Says Geller, “we put a grab bar in the shower—a nice looking one!—and we left a lot of free, open space in there, which is helpful” for any possible mobility limitations down the road. Because after all, with a bathroom this chic, who would ever want to move out?
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