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Renovating a small bathroom

You’d be forgiven for thinking your options were limited when it came time to renovate your tiny, suburban bathroom. And you’d need to meet visionary contractor Manuel Neves, the owner of Toronto-based Hardcore Renos who always manages to discover how luxury and function complement each other, even in unlikely places. One of Neves' recent challenges was a tired, tiny bathroom desperately in need of a makeover.

Typical in its suburban drabness, this bathroom had its share of problems, starting with an ugly bulkhead smack in the middle of the main wall. Neves managed to transform its “bulkiness” into a beautiful vanity with intricate tile work framing the upper shelves and deep drawers below - including a unique toilet paper drawer right above the toilet.

Unusual and innovative design

“You’d never know that something so big and clunky is behind those mirrors,” says Neves, “We were able to create a backlit space, lots of storage, and a medicine cabinet with a special mirror that didn’t open up into the space itself.” The unique mirror, which slides vertically, allows for residents to access its contents without having to step backwards.

Neves’ vanity wall is unusually beautiful in its layering of materials: black-veined marble, grey-white ceramic tiles, and simple white wooden shelves.

Centred by a stunning shallow glass sink from Kohler, (who sponsored the renovation and a short film Neves made along the way), the entire wall is a picture of functional luxury. And a beautiful design that can also withstand the wear and tear of family life.

Create, don’t compromise

Since space was also a concern, it looked like the owners would have to choose between installing a shower or a bath. “Ultimately, most people take showers,” explains Neves. “But when people walk into a bathroom, there’s nothing that can deliver the wow factor of a beautiful bathtub. So we had to figure out how to do both.”

His solution? Install the bathtub at an elegant 45-degree angle, opening up extra space for the shower. To expand the space even more, Neves did away with some of the mouldings and hardware typically used in a shower installation. “For me, it’s visually obstructive,” says Neves. “I just want to see glass, then tiles – and nothing else in between.” The result is a seamless presentation, with a glass door that barely touches the tiles. The sparing use of hardware makes the shower appear as if it’s somehow floating.

Overhead, a skylight opens up the ceiling, allowing natural light to stream in. “The residents love walking into the bathroom and, in the morning, they tell me they don’t even need to turn on the light,” he says.

The eyes of an artist

Neves was thrilled to find the perfect curved, overlapping tile at Ciot. “I was amazed at this recurring butterfly imagery I found in the way the tiles curved because it exactly mimics the way that the bathtub and the shower meet up. If you stand back and look, you can see that the curves are exactly the same.”

If you get the sense that Neves isn’t your typical builder, you guessed right. As well as being a contractor, he is a film graduate from Toronto’s Ryerson University, so it’s no coincidence that his renos have an almost cinematic quality.

For this room, he says the theme was “curves.” “If you look at the shelves above the bathtub, the shape of the shower glass, the tiles, they all speak to this theme,” he explains, with an artist’s sensibility and a builder’s pride – a winning combination that helped transform this tired, teensy bathroom into a zen-like retreat.