“A playful ambience” would probably not be on your list, but if you hired Jeff Jenkins that would be part of the deal. Not only would he create a bathroom that you have never seen before or even imagined, but it also would bring a smile to your face every time you use it.
At least that’s how I would react if I were the owner of the house in Fairfax where Jenkins recently showed me some of his work.
This Alexandria-based designer’s makeover of the master bath was a radical transformation. The 10-by-12-foot bathroom in this 32-year-old tract home was standard 1980s issue with a large, built-in whirlpool bath that Jenkins said his clients hated and never used, a tiled shower stall, a separate toilet compartment, a two-sink vanity, terrible lighting and everything was “basic beige that’s great for resale.” Beyond the worn-out visuals and dysfunction, another major complaint was that the space felt “claustrophobic and chopped up.”
The first thing you notice in the new bathroom is the most unexpected — a large, 20-by-72-inch high abstract painting in the shower that is suggestively festive and beachlike in its shapes and bright colors.
A collaboration between Jenkins and Alexandria artist Eli McMullen, the painting was Jenkins’s novel solution to adding some color to the space. When he proposed this to the owners, he recalled: “They thought the idea of a painting in a shower was crazy and it’s a foreign idea to most people. They were less skeptical when I showed them sketches, and once it was up there they totally loved it.”
To ensure that the art was not damaged by water, McMullen used weather-resistant exterior enamel house paint, and he painted directly onto the same white marble tile that Jenkins used for the shower. The painting was also framed with the marble tile so that installed it appears to be part of the wall.
After that showstopper, your attention moves to a large, sleek, freestanding sculpture which, on further inspection, turns out to be an off-white, egg-shaped Water Works bathtub. It’s made of an acrylic composite material that is similar in look and feel to solid surfacing materials like Corian that are used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops.
Once you’ve absorbed these highlights, you begin to notice how economically Jenkins has arranged the other functions in the room. Rather than an enclosed shower stall, the shower spray is contained behind a simple five-foot-wide sheet of floor-to-ceiling plate glass.
A single three-foot, floor-to-ceiling wall separates the toilet from an adjacent dual-sink vanity that floats about 15 inches above the floor across a span of six feet. To ensure that the vanity did not sag over this distance, Jenkins fabricated it out of alder, an unusually lightweight wood.