Life With Boys

When designing a bathroom for growing boys, two things are key: functionality and durability. Here’s how one designer mom achieved both—and kept good style.

Trust is key in a designer-client relationship, and Dorye Brown had the instant confidence of her clients on this bathroom renovation—after all, she’s their mom. Brown’s vision for a stylish yet functional bath for her sons, ages 9 and 11, was a blend of contemporary and traditional decor that could grow with her boys. 

“I didn’t want to make it too babyish or too masculine,” she says, “just handsome.” She retained the footprint and location of the plumbing in this bathroom, situated in the family’s center-hall Colonial in Purchase, but gutted the space for a complete update.

Anchoring the new bathroom is a double vanity that Brown designed. It was built in alderwood by American-reproduction-furniture shop Mulligan’s (a Los Angeles trade-only source to the stars) and painted in layers of Benjamin Moore colors, resulting in a distressed look that improves with age. “The boys are rough and tough on this piece,” says Brown. “They leave stuff right on the finish, and it’s held up. There are a few nicks, but they look like they’re part of the piece,” she says, noting that it’s important to have closed storage and open shelving, for easy access to towels or laundry baskets. White oval cast-iron sinks by Kohler were set above the top of the vanity both for the look that complements the white trim in the room and also because the chunky raised edges protect the vanity surface from splashes.

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Colors found in the Waterworks penny round floor tiles inspired the hues in the rest of the room, including the Ralph Lauren striped wallpaper and the sailboat-patterned fabric for the Roman shade. The subtle grays and blues are set off with high-gloss white trim in the substantial crown moldings and baseboards, as well as the wider-than-normal bead board that Brown specified for a transitional look.

Her sons have matured from bath takers into shower guys, and their new shower starts with a cast-iron drop-in tub with a beveled-brick subway-tile surround, all enclosed with glass doors. Every detail counts in the design, including the glass in those shower doors and in a partition that separates the toilet from the rest of the bathroom; Brown opted for ultra-clear Starphire glass, which has an attractive aquamarine edge.

Brown credits her contractor, Van Carvalho of Edgewood Contracting Corp. in Port Chester, for his expert installation. When the vanity arrived, it measured 1/8” bigger than the space. “But not to worry if you have a good contractor,” says Brown. “There’s a solution to every problem.” Carvalho notched out the wall a little bit and cut the bead board around the piece so that it appears to be a perfect fit. “It was a little bit of a ‘sweat’ moment,” she says, “but then it became an ‘aha!’ moment.”  

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