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I Design, You Decide: Guest Bath Materials Edition



When designing five bathrooms at the same time for one house, the goal is for them to look like siblings or super close cousins…but not twins. (No offense to twins…we have three sets in our close extended family, and regardless of that “identical” label, they are never “identical” and are full of their own personality despite perhaps looking similar.) To add to the challenge here, I’m not designing only five bathrooms…I’m designing TEN (two plans for each) for this whole “I Design, You Decide” program…isn’t that hilarious??? How do you do this? Well, that is a post that we are working on because I learned SO MUCH throughout the process and I want to share it in the best blog post ever full of process and resources. Meanwhile, I’ve been given the fun news from my contractor that if materials don’t get here ASAP, they are essentially at a standstill with nothing to do and they’ll start another job until materials are on site. We ordered plumbing months ago so all the rough is in, but as far as finishes? We (you and I) are tackling those this week.

You’ll see full rendered plans for each bathroom with all the fixtures and where they are going to live soon, but for now, we need to order our materials to keep the project going, sans the renderings, mirrors or hardware. It’s like talking about “half twins,” which doesn’t even equal “one” full person…it’s just half of two people. Fifty extra “Vacay Giveaway” entry points for actually following this analogy. I just lost, but it’s my cabin so I don’t need to win a week there anyway.

First (sibling) is the downstairs guest bath, which has a tub/shower combo (that’s the one we’re focusing on for today). As a reminder, it looked like this when we bought the house:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper First Level Guest Bathroom Before Photos

It’s tucked away so it will likely not be a bathroom the kids use and is really just for guests (its location is circled in the below floor plan, for reference).

Lake House Floor Plan

You’ve already chosen the design of the master (which is the most substantial) but we have four others to play with which means maybe it’s time to have a warm, modern BLACK bathroom.

Modern Bath Black Wood Walls
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Here’s what you need to know: in this option, the walls and tub front will be clad in reclaimed wood that is stained black. We have a sample (see below) and it’s SO PRETTY. It’s so warm, has so much texture and grain and feels rustic in a modern way. It was super hard to find any photos that accurately represented what’s in my head but let’s try:

Studio McGee Powder Bath Black Walls
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Unlike this space, our wood would go vertically and again, it’s stain reclaimed wood so it has way more texture than shiplap. We also have a new huge window with a wood frame going in and the tub surround and floor will be white tile.

Dark Powder Room
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That bathroom, above, is too cold for this house but we would have more wood texture, a lot of warm marble and brass fixtures. This is actually what I’m afraid it would turn out to be, not that I don’t like it because I do but it won’t feel like the rest of the house.

Warm Rustic Black Bathroom
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I would LOVE the above bathroom but again, that is a different house. We don’t have concrete floors or a big wood slab vanity. It’s stunning but more tonal than we are planning.

Modern Bathroom Black Vanity
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I LOVE the above bathroom very much. The trick is making sure that it’s NOT this super high contrast stark-black-and-white, so adding a warm tone and having handmade tile is crucial.

Modern Mountain Bathroom Black Wood Bathtub
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The black wood clad tub is something I want, and with white tile and some wood detail, could we pull it off? Just maybe…

I know you are scared. I don’t go dark often and when I do, it’s navy. But nobody wants me to do the “Emily Henderson Special” (navy, white, blush and brass) so instead, I offer you my moody, more dramatic alter ego. Here are what my materials would be:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Guest Bath Downstairs Materials Option One 6.14.18 3

Shower Surround Tile: It’s hard to show you how pretty and simple this tile is. The edges have the perfect amount of “shakiness” as it is handmade (in Portland). It’s called the “Portland finish” because they actually glaze it on the opposite side giving it a sharper edge which apparently a lot of people in Portland (and the world) love. We will run it horizontally inside the shower. I’m also debating this being a gray so that it’s not such a stark contrast.

Calacatta Oro Marble: Oh boy is this marble beautiful. We found it at Bedrosians and it has a ton of warmth and gold tones, which this bathroom will need if there are black walls. We MIGHT also cut it up and use it on the floor. Once we get everything in the rendering, we’ll know if the bathroom needs more warmth than just the white tile. Speaking of…

White Floor Tile: This tile will be a 2″ x 2″ version of the surround tile—from Pratt & Larson—and we will likely have them set very close together, with a darker non-white trim.

The window (from Marvin) is currently ordered in an unfinished white oak so that we can stain or paint (or leave) however we want. I think opting for a darker walnut tone might be nice. We will go for a washed linen shower curtain versus glass panel (maybe). This might change, who knows, but when we were in there, we wanted to soften this room and bring in more of a cabin feel (plus finding a solution to the tub shower glass panel situation that is actually attractive and not functionally annoying is VERY DIFFICULT – more on that later).

The only thing I’m nervous about is that the vanity itself is white and already ordered (and on site). If I had known that I was going to want to do a black reclaimed wood bathroom, I would have ordered a wood tone or even a gray vanity. I don’t love the idea of a stark black and white bathroom for this house—it HAS to have some mid tones and a lot of warmth to not look dark and cold as heck. I could bring the wood flooring into the room instead of the white tile, which is definitely something I might consider. That or use the calacatta on the floor. OR we could always paint the vanity…

You scared? I am a little. I’m super excited about the materials, I just want to make sure they look good with the vanity in a rendering.

But part of this process is to give you two options, and if the black walls TERRIFY you, remember that we have four other bathrooms in this house, and this stained reclaimed wood will be a consistent theme, they aren’t out of nowhere. But here is some inspiration for a much brighter option…OPTION #2:

Modern Farmhouse Bathroom With Freestanding Tub
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This option would still have the same theme—simple materials with lots of integrity, white reclaimed wood on the walls, and lots of grain and texture. We would use slate on the floor and bring in a different honed marble.

Powder Room Open Vanity
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Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Wood Clad Tub
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None of these really represent exactly what I’m thinking it will look like, but it gives you the idea that it will feel brighter and lighter, probably more “Emily Henderson” but less of a risk.

White Shiplap Bathroom
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Here is the material board for Option #2:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Guest Bath Downstairs Materials Option Two 6.14.18 3

Shower Surround  Tile: We chose the same tile on the surround but in a really beautiful greenish gray that looks amazing with the honed stone. Again, this tile doesn’t do itself justice—it’s so pretty and has a subtle handmade quality to it in person.

Honed Cielo Quartzite: That stone is not one I’m typically drawn to but when it’s honed, it feels really humble and mountain-y (the photo of it here shows it in a polish finish because they didn’t have a honed sample, but picture it a little more subtle). We would use it on the counter, possibly backsplash and tub surround. Oh, and if you guys are worried about the wood on the tub front, don’t be. We will build it so that it has a ledge (unlike in my kids’ bath at our house). I would also generally not put wood in a kids’ bath, but this bath won’t be used that much and rarely by toddlers so I’m not that concerned.

Slate Floor Tile: I love the idea of a dark floor to keep it consistent with the rest of the house, which has a lot of hits of black in the form of wood or stone. I reserve the right to change this to a handmade black tile if when we get these all together it looks generic. Slate is tricky because it can come off builder-grade fast, so we want to make sure that it looks special and has a lot of movement. We plan on using dark grout so it’s more seamless.

For this version, I might stain the window a darker wood tone, and a glass shower door could work better, but I’m still kinda loving the idea of a really soft beautiful washed linen curtain to help bring down all the hard surfaces.

What say you, readers???? Do you want to see me attempt a black bathroom? Or do you know secretly deep down that it’s less “me” and you want to rescue me from myself??? I thought I was cool with either, but after writing this post, I’m kinda nervous about the white vanity with the black walls, but I’m up for the challenge of making those work together and potentially painting it (maybe a camel or mustard tone pulled out of the marble?). I know that Option #2 will look beautiful and bright, but in a perfectly appropriate cabin way. Brian likes them both but thinks “it would be cool to be in a black bathroom.”

It’s up to you: Should we attempt a dark wood-clad bathroom or stay safe with the lighter wood-clad version? You VOTE.

I Design, You Decide

Guest Bathroom Materials

Option 1

Guest Bath

81 %

Option 2

Guest Bath

19 %
(Vote by Monday, June 25th to have your voice heard.)
You did it!

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂


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Number one! Please go the black wall, this is so beautiful and something a bit different


Quote-“…But nobody wants me to do the “Emily Henderson Special” (navy, white, blush and brass) so instead, I offer you my moody, more dramatic alter ego….” I said it last week and I’ll say it again….”a dose of moody drama works for a cozy mountain house. I also think here is your chance to create moody drama not happy go lucky white brightness. Basically Emo Vaguely Danish Emily is an interesting concept for all of us to watch. ????” I love your bright clean happy spaces. They inspired my home decor. But I feel like you need to put down… Read more »


I voted for the black option, but I will say I don’t like the idea of the white vanity with it. In fact, I don’t think I white vanity reads very “mountain house” in any design…even in the white bathroom option, wouldn’t something warmer or wood toned be better? But, it’s on site, so I’m sure you’ll figure out how to make it work with whichever design is picked! Also, I realize the “black” is the basis of the first design you’re proposing above, but you obviously control how much and where that wood is applied. If it feels too… Read more »


I agree, I voted for the black but don’t like the idea of the white vanity – is it really too late to change it?


Is it a Kohler vanity? Aren’t they sponsors for this project? It seems like they would swap it out for you, on a rush too. Love the black wood and calacatta. It’s going to be a stunner.

Jaclyn York

Dark and moody! Black walls! I want this look in my own home, so I am really curious too see how you pull it off, especially with the “limitations” of the vanity. I know it will be beautiful!


I have a crazy love for black rooms, but think they work best where (a) lots of light, like the big window you’re pulling in, and (b) they’re somewhere off and secret and a little special. How amazing would it be to be a guest staying in a fantastic black bathroom? I completely believe in your ability to pull it off within your larger theme…


I voted for Option 2, the light option, because I love the countertop, like the larger floor tiles, and like the shower curtain better to boot.

I like the dark wood in Option 1, but a 2×2” floor tile seems really odd to me, and the countertop seems like something I’ve seen used a lot before.


totally agree with the above comment that a guest bath is the perfect place for something unexpected! Like hotel bathroom can get away with being a little loud and daring.


When there a multitude of the same space–ie many bathrooms–thats when it’s a perfect opportunity to to take a risk! It’s still a big risk in that individual room. But in the whole house it doesn’t have the heaviness of a huge risk since there are more opportunities elsewhere for other bathroom options in the same house! Perfect scenario! I say go for it and go all out! Like another poster said–its off the beaten path and a secret wow moment. No holding back!! 🙂


Option one by far. I don’t like the stone for the counters in option #2 AT ALL. And I love the dark and moody feel of the black reclaimed wood in #1.


I LOVE the dark wood but personal experience tells me the white floor tile is a bad idea. I never, ever felt they looked clean enough. I’d go for the wood floor effect, which also warms it up, as you suggested.


I like the thought of the wood floor also. It’ll be just the thing with the black and white. #1 baby!!!


I’m really drawn to the moody darker-walled bathroom with warm touches and textures; it keeps me looking. A bathroom that is tucked out of the way a bit is a great opportunity to have fun and take a risk and try something less expected. I love the idea of seeing how you might go this direction and bring your own warmth and polish and perspective to it. It also looks comfortable and moody and fun to be in (and probably fun to photograph).


Hands down option 1.

Rachel Friedrichs

I voted 1… yes, paint the vanity camel or mustard!!! that would be just the right amount of moody warmth to balance the black (but clash with brass hardware? hmm…)


blaaaaaack ! oh my, it will be so special + it’s interesting to see you deal with a “too white/too starck” vanity as it is often what big stores only have in stock … let the transformation begiiiiin !

Vicki S Williams

Love, love, love the first black wall option. Please do that. Probably not loving the white vanity so maybe paint or clad would have my vote. 5 bathrooms? Definitely go for the drama and something different!


Please, please don’t do wood on the bath panel – you will regret it!

It will over time get damaged by the water and retain moisture causing mold.

I know this from personal experience. It looked great in the beginning and now just drives me crazy.


I love the idea of mixing things up and going more moody with the black. That being said, I totally understand the concern with the white vanity paired with all of the other elements and feel that a wood tone would work better. Can that vanity be re-purposed elsewhere and a new one purchased for this space? Or could it be distressed/refinished to make it less stark? Either way I know you’ll figure it out and it will be gorgeous! You are so gifted!


Go dark!! I pooh-poohed your two-toned tiles, but this is something that would add so much impact without being really expensive to change. You’ve also got so many other bathrooms, so why not do something fun? Go moody emily!

I painted a master bedroom dark blue, and I loved it. Everything looked so beautiful against it. I’m sure you can make the white vanity work.


Don’t do white tile floors! It was the biggest mistake I made in my home. I have dark brown hair and I could sweep them every time I blow dry my hair….It shows everything.


Cosign this. I have white floor tile in my bathroom and kitchen. It’s horrible.


I’m not sure if this has already been addressed but if not, will you give us some tips/thoughts about how to make wood work in a moisture filled setting like the bathroom?? The wood paneled tub sounds/looks beautiful but I’m interested in learning more about how the wood is prepared to withstand the inevitable water it will be in contact with.


Type of wood (teak for example) will handle the water beautifully, just needs to be sealed / treated every now and then. And this seems to be more like a powderroom anyway.

Plus boats. They have wood. It does fine. 🙂


Why not use the Ann Sacks triangle tile down here? Since Option 2 won?

Feels to me like a guest bath kind of a thing:). And I like the dark wood. I mean, have fun.


I am really liking the feeling of depth and warmth in Option 1. I love the idea of the floor in that gorgeous warm-toned marble and the painted vanity in particular, and perhaps the shower surround in a warm grey too… The coldness and contrast of the white tiles is actually what potentially bothers me more than the black materials. I think the black-stained wood and the warm marble are the stars in this mix and having slightly less contrast everywhere else will bring it all together. I wasn’t really excited about this scheme until I saw the additional warmer/mid-tone… Read more »


I believe the “black wood paneled” tub pic is actually board-formed concrete, which shows the grain of the wood boards used to form it. It’s lovely and would probably hold up better than actual wood.

emily jane

OH! how intriguing… i am a bit obsessed with concrete anything these days but a concrete clad/paneled bathtub that looooks like it’s wrapped in wood? ohmygod, be still my beating heart… a synergistic merging of style and function -my favorite : )


I voted for option #1. It’s a guest bathroom. Go bold or go home. My only concern was that if the bathroom doesn’t receive much natural light then the bathroom will seem a lot more cave-like if it’s all dark. Also if the wood is burned like the Japanese technique (shou sugi ban) instead of stained it does make the wood more resistant to water. But your guys are probably doing a poly coat anyway, right?


I had the same thought about the wood and burning technique (saw the rerun of the Fixer Upper with the houseboat again), and it seems like thats why they went that way. Could be a good way to seal it up… I was worried about that too.


Love option 1. I think with the new window it looks like you’re adding, there will be plenty of natural light to complement the moody room.

Julie S

I’m voting for the black bathroom, with some important considerations. One, it seems the window is large enough to get plenty of light… important! Two, because the shower surround is white, it brightens the away-from-the-window side of the room. I was a roommate in a super pretty house once and my bathroom was papered in black with Turkish figures on it and I loved it! Its main problem was not enough light to do makeup. The small window was insufficient as was the number and wattage of the light fixtures. I do wish you were able to do a wood… Read more »


I voted for the black option (it is gorgeous) but think you should definitely bring that amazing marble down to the floor instead of the white tile. That marble with the black wood is a stunning combo.


Your passion for option 1 is really coming through and I’m really intrigued to see how it plays out so it gets my vote! Curious, since it’s the guest bath and appears to be attached to the guest room, does that bedroom need to take on some of that dark vibe or do you see them as totally separate spaces? I love living vicariously through your remodels. And I learn so much. Thanks!

Fatou Bah

I’m so excited to see this bathroom come together. Option one all the way. I don’t think the white vanity will look too stark just because you have enough variations that it won’t look to black and white. That marble has a lot of movement and some warmth to it and the window surround as well. This is going to be pretty.


In a guest bath, people will have their toiletries in a bag or container of some sort, and will need room on top of the vanity, or a nearby shelf, to place them. Along with that factor, guests may not understand how easy it is to stain real marble or stone, so if you can get the same look with quartz or some other non-porous, forgiving surface, you’ll be thankful down the road. Both designs are pretty, but I prefer anything that is light and bright and makes it easy to see what I’m doing. Especially when it comes to… Read more »


I love the idea of a dark bathroom. I’ve seen a dark navy bathroom that was great. It is the perfect place to try something bold.
I’m wondering if the chevron tile will feel dated soon. I feel like chevron was everywhere a few years ago and got tired.


ABSOLUTELY go with the black walls! I agree that the white vanity is not the best choice, I’d try to paint it or repurpose elsewhere. I am not a huge fan of the floor tiles, mainly because I assume you’d be going with a lighter grout, and 2×2 tiles with a light grout can be a mess… I really like the idea of using the marble on the floor in big slabs since it has so much color/movement/warmth. I assume you are on it, but make sure that the wood is sealed on the bath tub since there is often… Read more »


While I LOVE the first option and am not scared of black walls, I vote for option 2. Option 1 screams high end modern home to me, not mountain cabin. Especially with the use of marble and brass. I think style of house, and environment, are extremely important in choosing materials.


honestly, they are both beautiful but this a great opportunity for dark and moody. I vote #1 all the way.


Oops! I wasn’t paying attention and I tapped the wrong button. I voted for the (very good) Option 2, but I meant to vote for the incredible Option 1- the black stained wood is amazing!


You gotta do number 1 for 2 reasons – 1) that Calcutta needs to be used and loved and I need to see it being used and loved and 2) think how thrilling it’ll be to do something so different from your status quo! I’m getting more and more excited watching this unfold!!

Debra LaJoie

No. 2 option…I like the light and bright. It feels welcoming and peaceful. The dark option is something different, but it’s very depressing looking to me. I personally like black as accents but not wall color. I guess I’m not into moody.


Now I need to see the white vanity!




I am giddy about the mustard vanity/black wood idea. It’s moody in a fun way. Kind of reminds me of Orlando ????


I didn’t even have the patience to read Option 2. I just scrolled down to vote for Option 1. This black stained wood has erased everything else that’s been on my mind today – and it was a lot!


Same here! Lol


Both options are amazing and would be so great, but there is something exciting and moody about the black bathroom…and not just moody but comforting and soothing which you definitely want to offer your guests. Am I dreaming that you said it is a basement bathroom??? If so, all the better in black. Embrace the basement!


Kinda feelin’ number 1

Diana L. Tisdale

My grandma’s half bath had black wallpaper with a floral pattern and it always made me feel so regal to be in there. Love the drama!


I love the black slate for floors, and used it in a home we built many years ago (and still live in). To keep it from looking too “generic”, I used it just as an accent. I love a pattern, so had them cut the slate into small diamonds (about 3-4 inches), and inset into Saltillo tile. I know, I know…Saltillo is kind of “out”, but it is gorgeous with the slate diamond accents. Perhaps you could do a “tone on tone” floor…dark tiles, and the slate diamond insets. Just a thought. Would be $$, but SO beautiful!


I prefer the mix of materials in Option 2, but I’d LOVE to see you swap out the brass fixtures for black. I’m just kinda over seeing brass in every room (I love it, just feel it’s a little played out – and comes across too bling-y for a mountain house).


I was going to comment on the brass! It just doesn’t seem to fit the style as it’s too glam. I’d prefer a black finish as well or maybe a silver tone!


Number 1 for sure!


I’m curious why you chose to put the toilet in front of the window and not the tub?


* ** Just a thought. It may be a good idea to keep the shower, sans bath, in the downstairs bathroom. If the house is rented by families with older members or those with physical disabilities who find it difficult to step over the side of a tub, an easy to enter shower with a downstairs bedroom in a holiday house would be such a special find! Especially if there are plenty of tub options for the kiddos upstairs. Both design options are gorgeous (as usual), but I think you should go wild and explore your dark side.


That’s a good point about easy access for the downstairs bath. The older I get the more important it is.

Cf Betcher

I LOVE the black stained wood. And if you are using it in the kitchen, it will tie nicely into the house and not feel like a satellite design. I vote wood floor!!!


Option one…and it looks like the overwhelmingly more popular choice!

Option two is fine. Just fine. And kinda meh.

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