Creative Tile Turns a Scary ’90s Bathroom Into a Fresh, Fun Space

“It was…interesting,” says designer SuzAnn Kletzien of the “before” state of a recent bathroom project for clients in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Kletzien is being diplomatic; the bath in question, before she got her hands on it, was downright scary, a veritable mashup of 1990s design elements in an oddly oversized space that, somehow, still felt cramped. “It was just so strange—there was so much wasted space,” says the designer.”

That is to say, Kletzien’s work was cut out for her. After rearranging the floor plan to a more sensible layout—including carving out space for a stackable washer/dryer unit so the homeowners no longer had to trek to the basement to do laundry—the fun part began: trading in the bath’s dull beige decor for something a little more fresh.

Luckily, the designer had a clear starting point for her design. Kletzien’s clients had actually reached out to her after seeing a kitchen of hers that was featured in House Beautiful. What struck them (and many of our readers!) about the space was the unique floor design, a combination of stone and wood that makes a bold, graphic statement.

“The clients loved that transition—gray hexagon floors that melt into the hardwood,” Kletzien explains. “So knowing that, I had seen this tile from Clé that I loved, and I had this idea of doing that on the wall.” She also knew the clients coveted a copper tub. “So those were the two elements,” she says.

Using the copper’s orange tones as a counterpoint, Kletzien opted for blue throughout the space, arranging the large-scale cement tiles in an irregular pattern on the wall. “When they were laying the tile, we came in and basically traced on the wall where we wanted it to go,” she recalls. “It was really fun.”

The resulting wall treatment creates an ever-so-subtle nod to bubbles foaming from a bath, a motif the designer repeated with a globe pendant and sconces from Visual Comfort.

For the custom vanity, meanwhile, simplicity was key: “I was inspired to just keep that flat,” she says. “I didn’t want to overkill it, because really, the focal point is the tub and this interesting tile on the wall.”

On the floors, Kletzien scored a design hit with penny tile that marries the room’s various tones. “It took awhile to find what we wanted in a way that didn’t take away from the rest of the space, but when we found this it was a done deal,” she recalls. “We carried that into the shower to make it feel less busy.”

Summing up the design process, Kletzein echoes our feelings about the room: “It was a unique project—and just really fun.”