An (almost) completely new layout enlivened this build-quality bathroom in Livingston, New Jersey

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View from the master bedroom into the bathroom

Photography by Kirsten Francis

Like so many parents, this Livingston, New Jersey couple had put off renovating their own bathroom to update rooms their family — they have three children, ages 7, 4 and 1 — would enjoy together. But after several years of starting and ending the day in a 20-year-old beige master bathroom with a cumbersome layout and next to no storage space, it was finally their turn. “They said, ‘Do your magic and let’s create something awesome,'” says New York-based interior designer Rachel Sloane Sherman.

First, Sherman tackled the floor plan, moving everything except the shower. “We found that there were water pipes in every corner, which gave us flexibility,” she says. She then layered natural materials and textures—marble, ceramic, wood, linen—for a feel she describes as “more organic than polished.” Here’s a glimpse into their process.

Play architectural elements that work

Arched window in a 1990s bathroom

The bathroom front alcove. Courtesy of Rachel Sloane Interiors

By framing the semicircular window with an archway, Sherman softened the angles of the sloping ceiling and created an alcove for the new freestanding bathtub the couple designed and Her three children are looking forward to it. On either side of the arch, she added marble-lined fixtures to grab towels without a single drop on the tiled floor. The curvature of the window doesn’t lend itself to full length curtains, but semi-sheer linen cafe curtains provide all the privacy the family needs while still letting natural light through.

Consider your lines of sight

dated 90's bathroom toilet alcove

The bathroom before. Courtesy of Rachel Sloane Interiors
WC framed in marble

Constanera Tapestry, The Citizenship. Photography by Kirsten Francis

“As you entered the bathroom, the first thing you saw on your left was the toilet,” says Sherman. The view through the door wasn’t much better: a wall of rickety right angles where the Jacuzzi tub and shower stall met. The designer’s solution? Stow the toilet in “a real water closet with a pocket door” and then frame the entrance with wide slabs of Calacatta Fantastico marble. Now the focus is on the stone’s striking blue-grey veining.

Think outside of double vanity

dated beige 90s double vanity

The vanities, before. Courtesy of Rachel Sloane Interiors

The new water closet and bathing niche left few options for accommodating a double vanity, so Sherman decided to install two opposite single sinks that flanked the tub. No storage—or symmetry—was sacrificed in the process. Each side has a drawer cabinet and a mirrored medicine cabinet on the side (the more hiding places the better). Sherman’s trick to making store-bought vanities feel custom: “We just swapped out the hardware for glass knobs, which worked with the rest of the brass and black finishes.”

Use every sliver of your marble slab

from 1990's bathroom bath and shower

The shower stall, before. Courtesy of Rachel Sloane Interiors
marble shower cubicle

Casablanca 2.0 Square Wind Hatch Tile, Nemo Tile + Stone. Photography by Kirsten Francis

To stay within the couple’s budget, Sherman kept the shower in its original corner but transformed its footprint from an angular walk-in to a sleek, elongated rectangle. The savings didn’t stop there: She also repurposed what was left of the toilet liner to use as a shower bench and two-tier storage alcove. “Often clients come in wanting a beautiful marble primary bathroom. In this case I wanted to use it more as an accent rather than making the full experience out of marble,” she explains.

outdated beige shower stall

A closer look at the shower, before. Courtesy of Rachel Sloane Interiors
tonal white and gray tiled shower

Photography by Kirsten Francis

Add warmth to classic black and white

Wooden vanity with marble top

Photography by Kirsten Francis

“They’re a very stylish couple, and I wanted to give them something neutral enough that they wouldn’t get tired of it,” says Sherman of the room’s monochromatic color scheme. Yet the space never feels strong. The secret lies in the designer’s choice of materials – polished herringbone floors in Nero Marquina and chalk-white Zellige tiles in the shower reflect the light. Then there’s some pottery and artwork that, yes, argues Sherman, belongs in a bathroom. “You need that nice extra layer that makes it feel like a part of the house instead of a forgotten room.”