My friend, Joseph Polar, is a serial re-modeler.  He and his partner John have a wonderful old house in upstate New York built in 1840 with an 1892 addition. Clearly its orientation is “country house” but the decoration has evolved into an updated, fresh, and casual style great for 21st century living.  He and John spent many weekends (or is it years?) turning an ugly duckling into an incredibly smart weekend retreat for themselves and their rescue dog, Theo.

I thought you would enjoy seeing the before and after renovation of the master bath.  It’s a nice size room (6’10” x 12″9″) with lots of practical and beautiful amenities created from the elimination of a back staircase and a small maid’s room.  Joseph says it was the typical “shoemaker’s kid” story because the bath was in a state of demolition for ages while he and John discussed and debated the “perfect” bath for the house.

“No tub,” said John.

“Only one sink,” said Joseph, who created a “grooming bar” station with a vintage chest and mirror instead of the second sink.

They laugh now, but when a chipmunk invaded the construction site mayhem erupted. Removing the creature was right out of an episode of “I Love Lucy”.

The space is entered from one end and you are immediately looking over the pedestal sink into the shower. The material choice for the shower was 1cm mosaic in Carrara (budget constraints dictated the amount of stone used).  The rationale was to use a small amount of wall texture as a compliment to the smooth glossy painted bead-board applied to all of the exterior walls.

Joseph is obsessed with niches (me too) as an organizing tool and storage component of design.  In this small bath, they also became “found” space.  I love the toilet paper stashed in a niche by the WC.  No debate here about whether the roll is over or under.  In the shower, a niche creates more than adequate storage for all the shower gels, shampoos and conditioners.

The vintage junk shop finds became the added dimension for the space.  The faux bamboo etagere was in dreadful condition but easily repaired with matte black paint for a total cost of $45.  The small country chest, equally in need of tender loving care, made over with a coat of paint and a few screws now serves as storage for towels and a grooming bar.  There are other found objects on shelves that add character and make the space so personal.

As a finished bath, it all seems so effortless and totally appropriate for the house.  The layering of materials, the personal objects, the practical considerations, and the restraint make this a “perfect” bath!

As a final note, Joseph is no stranger to the intricacies of bath design.  He is the former SVP Creative Director at Waterworks, thus the expertise.  He is now an independent interior designer and can be reached at or you can visit his web site here. (

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