From the August/September 2023 Issue  

Special Effects

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Lauren Hagerstrom  |  Designer Sheila Rich, CID, CAPS, ASID, IIDA  |  Location Monmouth County, NJ

A unique combination of striking elements makes up this Monmouth County primary bathroom

The words “edgy” and “Victorian” tend not to be used together, but both of those adjectives could describe elements of this primary bathroom in Monmouth County, New Jersey. “The house is contemporary,” says designer Sheila Rich, of Monmouth Beach-based Sheila Rich Interiors. “But when I went shopping with the client, she fell in love with the bathtub. I told her we could make this work.”

Brass inserts frame the black tile behind the vanity to create a smooth transition between the white tile, with its markedly raised lines, and the black tile, which has subtler texturing. The vanities are stained, rather than lacquered, which allows the grain to show through. “They have their own personalities,” Rich says. “They needed to be important without screaming out.”

And make it work, they did. The bathtub in question is a claw-foot beauty resting on monarch feet — with a shape well known from its Victorian predecessors. The tub’s black exterior is what makes it special, and what made it exactly the right choice for this bathroom. “The clients love black and white,” Rich says. “Everything else in the house, except for the children’s rooms, is black and white.”

The bathtub isn’t the only history-inspired element in the room. “The floor has an Old World look,” says Rich, a state-certified interior designer Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist and member of the American Society of Interior Designers and International Interior Design Association. “Floors like this used to be made from cement. These are porcelain copies of cement tiles.” The dramatic design of the tile required that other fixtures be carefully considered. “We had to work around that floor because it makes a very big statement.”

In contrast to the floor tile, the walls in the bath and shower area are a shingle shade: white. But the wall tiles are not without their own distinguishing features. Rich wanted the walls to be just as distinctive as the floor, without clashing. “I was looking for something that was not going to fade into oblivion,” she says. The solution was tile featuring raised, undulating lines. “When you touch it, you can feel the waves.”

The white wall tile wraps around the space until it gets to the dual vanities, which are on opposite walls. There, the wall tile meets the black tile of the vanity backsplashes. “The two tiles have to marry,” Rich says, “but I didn’t want the black tile to be boring, so we opted for tone on tone with a little texture. It doesn’t compete with the white, but it holds its own.”

And though this space is furnished with a variety of unique elements, it comes together harmoniously. “I wanted each space to have its own personality within the whole, but there’s nothing that’s screaming out at you,” Rich says. “I always say that interior design is the art of geometry, where the whole is larger than its parts; that’s what is happening here.”

Editor’s Note: Sheila Rich won a 2023 Silver Design Excellence Award for this project in the Residential Large Bath >51 Square Feet category from the American Society of Interior Designers, New Jersey Chapter.