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Relaxing Refuge

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Thomas Leonczik  |  Designer Hollie Velten-Lattrell  |  Location West Orange, NJ

A West Orange bathroom features shades of white and natural textures

Though the 20-year-old primary bathroom in this Essex County home was in need of refurbishment, the space itself had good bones. “It was a nice size, with a standing shower beside a standard tub,” homeowner Haley Vogel says. “There was a lot of room to work with, without having to move walls or do anything drastic.” Based on these solid underpinnings, Vogel and her husband, Max, established specific goals for their new space. “We wanted functionality as well as a place to re-center ourselves (read: hide from our kids!).”

Ample storage was a priority. Vogel says, “We swapped the vanity from single to double and raised the countertop. (We’re both tall.) Everything has a home, down to the electric shaver that I used to hate seeing on the countertop. It’s now housed below deck in the electrified cabinetry.” Velten-Lattrell made the vase on the small table from the collected treasures of the homeowners’ children.

The Vogels asked Hollie Velten-Lattrell, owner of Maplewood-based SPACES by Hollie Velten, to help update the bathroom to meet their needs. “Haley really wanted a calming, spa-like retreat where a busy mom could unwind and the family could have a little more breathing room,” the designer says. “She wanted it to feel clean but warm, and she didn’t want anything too fleeting that would age itself.” Still, Velten-Lattrell steered away from an overly traditional look. “Haley is vibrant and creative with a radiant personality, and her family home is clearly full of love and art. It wouldn’t make sense to do something on-the-nose or expected.”

Velten-Lattrell used white as a foundational hue and, though that may seem like a conventional choice, she used it in an unusual way. “The color palette was really important. I wanted to lean into white as a true color.” She chose Kelly Wearstler’s “Salt” by Farrow & Ball for the walls. “It’s a textural, seaside-like mineral white.” The shower features three types of white tile. “The texture was highly mixed,” the designer notes. “The marbled veins in the wall tile; the hand-touched, uneven surfaces of the subway tile; and the round pennies of the shower floor tile add rhythm. While the whites and nearly-whites work together, they are all quite different in nature. It’s unexpected but not cacophonous.”

  • Designer Hollie Velten-Lattrell framed the bathroom window in black for a dramatic look. “It was intended to disrupt and add definition,” she says. Homeowner Haley Vogel loves the new bathroom. “It’s absolutely a calm space. It feels luxurious but also grounded in natural materials like wood, marble and greenery.”


  • A bathtub was removed to create space for a two-person shower. Three tile styles work well together in the shower, thanks to similar white tones. “It’s the main event of the space for sure, a real showstopper!” Vogel says.


  • The homeowner handpainted the custom corner shelving.


The designer enhanced the look with furnishings that pop against the white backdrop. “I layered in various non-whites and pulled in texture from nature.” Organic elements include a wood vanity and corner shelves in rich tones that add depth to the space. The combination of shapes, patterns and textures is intriguing and inviting. Velten-Latrell says, “We knew organic shapes would be important. From the finishes to the forms of the objects, there are a lot of natural irregularities that make a ‘white clean bathroom’ feel welcoming and warm,” she says.

A final layer of furnishings adds nuance that completes the look. “We used brass finishes to elevate, added a bit of matte black to modernize and then accessorized with of-the-earth woods, terra cotta, and plaster.” Vogel says that while working with the designer, she learned a lot about choosing elements for the room. “Hollie taught me to value texture, like seeded glass sconces, penny tile and sentimental vessels. I think this offsets the modern brass and higher sheen aspects in a really nice and timeless way.”

Though the pandemic created challenges — “It wasn’t easy to move quickly in the tangle of supply chains,” Velten-Lattrell notes — the designer and the homeowner made the most of their cooperative effort. “I love Hollie,” Vogel says. “She is daring but reads the room (and me) and understood our design aesthetic. She listened and was thoughtful in all conversations and recommendations.” The designer returns the compliment. “Haley was incredible with her ability to multitask and usher in quick decisions. She also took on a huge amount of the project management load. She was a pro and really fun to work with in such a wild time. It was definitely a collaboration, and I would never discredit any client’s work; it’s always a shared effort in some way or another. But Haley took the cake here — very impressive.”

Behind the Lens

Bathrooms can be tricky spaces to photograph — ask any architectural photographer. They tend to be on the small side, they’re full of reflective surfaces that can interfere with the shot and, very often, there’s little to no natural light. Thomas Leonczik knows these challenges well. He took the photos of the bathroom featured in this story. You can see him at work in the pictures below (taken by designer Hollie Velten-Lattrell) Here, he tells us how he captures that perfect shot in less-than-perfect circumstances.

Photo by Hollie Velten-Lattrell | Sometimes getting the shot requires wedging oneself into a corner …

He gets situated
“Bathrooms tend to be small; there’s not too much room to navigate. You can tell from the photos that I’m fighting for every centimeter of space. I’m pushing myself all the way to the wall, trying to get the camera as far back as I can.”

He scopes out the mirror situation
“This is super tricky, though the bathroom I shot with Hollie was okay because I was able to position myself so I didn’t pop up in the mirror. Usually, I don’t have that luxury. Sometimes, there’s not much I can do about my head and fingers showing in a mirror. It just comes down to editing myself out afterward.”

He deals with flashes
“I like to use external flashes to compensate when there’s a lack of light. But that big flash of white light washes away a lot of detail and doesn’t look natural. I make sure to edit that out later.”

… Other times it requires hitting the showers. | Photo by Hollie Velten-Lattrell

He checks his angles
“When I’m photographing a small space, I have to decide how much I want to include in any single shot. If I take a wide shot that includes a large segment of a room, I have to be careful because that can “warp” the shot, skewing and distorting it. I’ll usually take narrower, detailed shots of individual segments of a space — like the sink or shower — to keep a proportional look.”

He thinks like a reader
“It’s my job not only to bring out the best in the spaces I photograph but also to make sure the reader is immersed in the photos and not distracted by lighting or spacing issues. A designer like Hollie makes everything look super, super pretty. It’s just a matter of me showing up with my camera and making sure I capture that beauty.”