Right Place, Right Time

Cape Cod Home  /  Winter 2018 / ,

Writer: Elizabeth Hilfrank / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

Seaside Design bathroom

A serendipitous find leads to a new and improved bathroom, and one happy homeowner

It is often said that items are designed with a certain person or place in mind, and for designer and Seaside Design Studio and Shop owner Bridget Cahill, this could not be more true. Cahill bought a mahogany dresser with an attached mirror, originally built in 1910, at an estate sale in Brewster and redesigned it for her shop with a certain customer in mind. When the customer saw the renovated vanity, the reimagining of the dresser turned into the redesign of an entire bathroom.

Ever since the homeowner moved from California permanently to Cape Cod three years ago, she has loved everything about her house, except for her bathroom. “The bathroom was an embarrassment to me,” she says. “It was tiny with walls that looked like they had apricot frosting on them and an oversized dark wood vanity. It was a disaster. The vanity at least had to be done.”

The homeowner quickly became a regular at Cahill’s Dennis store through pure love of her products, so Cahill came to understand the homeowner’s needs and style. Given that the home was already filled with furniture from Seaside Design Studio and Shop, it only made sense that the bathroom would follow suit.

Seaside Design bathroom

The homeowner first saw the dresser, in its original state, last summer in Cahill’s storage space and didn’t think much of it. As Cahill refurbished the dresser, she found the perfect green/gray quartzite for the new vanity’s countertop. She noticed a dash of yellow in the stone and immediately thought of the homeowner, whose living room features yellow couches. When the homeowner attended an early opening of the shop this spring, she spotted the piece sitting in a corner. “My whole body started to smile,” she says. “I told Bridget, ‘I see a streak of yellow in it,’ and Bridget said she knew I would notice.”

From there, the three-year-long wait for a bathroom redesign came to an end—but the task to build an entire bathroom around a vanity was not simple. “The size of the vanity would not have worked in the homeowner’s bathroom unless she added square footage to the space, but I had a sense that, together, we would make that happen,” Cahill recalls. The homeowner was willing to sacrifice a 3-foot bump out into her garage to allow the 5-foot-by-8-foot bathroom to be transformed into an 8-foot-by-8-foot accommodation. The expansion allowed all of the homeowner’s wishes to be granted. It is now home to a 4-foot-by-4-foot walk-in shower, the 50-inch vanity, and a stacked washer and dryer.

The trick, says Cahill, is “In smaller bathrooms, a cohesive quality can help to create a feeling of more space.” Knowing that the vanity was the most important bathroom feature, “it was important that everything surrounding the vanity play off of the color and style of it,” Cahill says. “I selected neutral colored floor and shower wall tiles that wouldn’t distract from the character of the vanity, and added a decorative glass tile (in the shower) that consisted of the same colors as the countertop, highlighting the complementary relationship of the two materials. This balance of neutrality (the gray/white palette) and drama (the White Macaubus quartzite countertop/glass accent tiles) created the cohesive quality I was aiming for.”

Seaside Design bathroom

At first the homeowner was wary of keeping the mahogany mirror attached to the vanity, but Cahill insisted. “Using the mirror was integral to maintaining the inherent charm of the dresser as it was transformed into a vanity that would fit within current trends,” she explains. The end result was a very happy homeowner whose desires for a peaceful, tranquil bathroom came true. She calls it her “grown-up room. It’s so sophisticated… like a lady who put her jewels on.” The retired accessories buyer for retail stores admits that her house is not the standard Cape Cod style, due to its lack of a blue color palette and modernity. But Cahill was never concerned about the more contemporary nature of the bathroom.

“While the bathroom could be considered contemporary, the vintage character and charm of the vanity softens that value,” Cahill explains. “While the style of the house is not contemporary, the furnishings and general manner of her home are clean, bright and uncluttered. This common thread allows for the bathroom to work within the house.”

What started as only a vanity and a mirror quickly turned into the fulfillment of a longtime wish for the homeowner. Cahill listened to the needs of her client and was able to achieve her own goals as well. “My primary goal with any design is to provide the customer with a finished space they could not get without my help,” she explains. “Knowing that the homeowner did not want to invest in a project that wouldn’t result in all three improvements (a larger vanity, larger shower and washer/dryer), I set out to create a layout that would achieve that and give her the lightest, brightest, cleanest space possible. She entrusted me to do that for her, and I’m happy she did.”

Elizabeth Hilfrank

Elizabeth Hilfrank is a freelance writer who lives in Mashpee. A Cape Cod washashore, Elizabeth writes most frequently for Cape Cod Life Publications in Cape Cod HOME. When she's not writing, she works as a video marketer for a tech start up in Boston.