Transforming a closet into calm master bath retreat | Home & Style

Hlavaty is a lover of works of art and shows them in every room. The bathroom is no exception. The tile that lines the wall behind this freestanding bathtub was hand finished in England with a glaze that crackles over time – just like the tile around a 140-year-old fireplace in another room in the house.

Photography / Lindsay Sisting

From Devon Dams-O’Connor

The master bathroom of Aubrey Hlavaty, owner of Copper & Cotton Bath Design & Supply, and her husband Jon the Plumber started out as a blank canvas. And as a designer who specializes in bathrooms and kitchens and has an entire showroom full of hand-picked high-end fittings, Hlavaty came up with many, many ideas for the bathroom project of her own home.

But first she had to work out the space herself.

Like many Victorian homes from the 1880s in the city of Buffalo, the home was not built with a master bathroom. The room that is now the new bathroom originally consisted of two successive closets, each serving adjacent bedrooms. A previous owner turned one of the closets into a very small and very beige bathroom with a toilet and sink. Hlavaty added a custom built closet to his master bedroom so that the remaining storage space could be used to expand the bathroom.


Both antique brass fittings are from Copper & Cotton’s own brand, Kingston Brass. As a designer and plumber married couple, Hlavaty and her husband specialize in fittings. Rejuvenation, maker of the light in the center of the room, has options to customize details like the finish, base and globe.

Instead of starting with a specific color scheme or dresser, Hlavaty first imagined how she wanted to feel when she was in the room. As a business owner, wife of a business owner and mother of three young children, she wanted to convey a sense of calm and relaxation. She also wanted a room that felt modern but wasn’t out of place in a 19th century house.

The most noticeable piece in Hlavaty’s new main bathroom is the dark blue vanity that anchors one end of the room. It is a former antique chest of drawers with original brass drawers that has been converted into a sink. Compared to new vanities for sale, old pieces like this one, Hlavaty explains, have solid wood craftsmanship and more character – both important elements in a useful focus.

“The vanity is the most common part of a bathroom,” she says. “Every day you stand there to wash your face, brush your teeth, wash your hands. It is used a lot. An investment is important. It’s also a great way to make a statement in this area. There are few large lights around, and the rest will likely be porcelain. “


Colorful drawer liner paper is a joy every time you open it.

Another deliberate bridge between old and new is the tiles that Hlavaty chose. The floor is made up of tiny hexagonal pieces reminiscent of those found in Victorian homes, but in a randomly laid subtle palette of whites and warm grays. The backsplash behind the tub and sink has the familiar look of subway tile, but with a hand-applied light blue glaze and herringbone pattern to keep it fresh to the touch.

Luminaires follow the same logic. The middle pendant has an Art Deco flair with a frosted glass cake ball. It’s brand new but feels like it has been there for a century. The two vanity lights are a bit more modern, but still fit into the brass surfaces of the bathroom and offer enough light for applying make-up.

One modern amenity is purposely lacking in this master bathroom: a shower. Hlavaty is a self-described “bath person” so she opted for a deep freestanding bathtub instead of a shower that would take up valuable space. The other bathroom in the house has a walk-in shower so that it can be flushed quickly elsewhere.


Common accents in other rooms – plants, textiles, a wooden side table – soften an otherwise harsh room.

It’s also a decision that underscores the original intent of the master bath concept.

“You should come home and you should create a moment in your room,” says Hlavaty. “Softer touches like great bedding and artwork give you the opportunity to sit in the tub and look at beautiful things instead of just using tiles. It’s all about the feeling of calm and being at home. “

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