Design Master Class Tips and Tricks from The N&O Design TeamDesign Master Class Caroline Shillito

Updated hall bath has organic feel

March 7, 2014 

  • Design Master Class

    N&O Design Team members who will share their expertise twice a month in Home & Garden are all members of the Alliance of Interior Designers, a group of Triangle-area professionals. Learn more at

  • About the designer

    Caroline Shillito, owner and principal designer of emma delon in Durham, has been creating kitchens and bathrooms for more than 10 years. Originally from Chapel Hill, she graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, with a degree in interior design, a minor in biology and an emphasis in sustainable design. She spent more than six years working in the Chicago and Pinehurst, N.C., markets before returning to found her company, emma delon, in the Triangle in December 2009.

The challenge

This 1968 home in Chapel Hill has beautiful features, but the outdated bathroom was not among them. The challenge was to create an eye-catching, updated space that tied in with the arts and crafts detailing in the rest of the home. Here is the stunning result, an inviting hall bathroom that is perfect for everyday use by the homeowners as they age, and a space their guests can also enjoy. Learn how it came together on page 4D.

Super space

The owners loved the original green tub, cream and green floor and windows in the tub area of their 79-square-foot bathroom. They wanted to consider local materials in their selections and tie in an organic feel since the home is on a beautiful wooded tract with lots of natural light.

Since the original tub and floor were in good condition, we decided to keep them. We replaced the framed sliding glass doors. The existing floor, a glazed porcelain mosaic in shades of green, white, taupe and cream, just needed a thorough cleaning and some minor repairs to bring it back to like-new condition. Unfortunately, the windows above the tub were leaking and didn’t provide privacy. We repaired the window openings and wall and installed these antique English stained-glass windows from a Pittsboro shop. They provide light in this otherwise-windowless room, while still allowing complete privacy. They also bring in a handmade element, a hallmark of the arts and crafts style.

When we first saw the space, the walls were covered in a floral-and-trellis wallpaper, the cabinetry was white-topped with cream laminate, and the avocado green sink matched the tub. None of it fit with the beautiful elements elsewhere in the house. The rustic cherry cabinets and mirror frame were custom-built by a Bahama cabinetmaker. Rustic cherry was selected for its interesting and pronounced grain pattern and knots. The finish on the cabinets (low in volatile organic compounds) was selected for its durability. The clear finish enhances the wood’s natural beauty. The cabinets are topped with a remnant of Cambria Windermere quartz found at a local fabricator. Using a remnant (left over from a larger project) for a small space can often save money. Quartz was selected as it provides better durability and stain resistance while still achieving a natural, granite-like look. The veining in the stone picks up the color of the cabinets, while the warm cream background ties in nicely with the creams selected throughout the rest of the space.

With the existing green elements, we decided to add just a hint of green in the accent tile surrounding the tub. We selected a cream 2-inch-by-8-inch tile in a brick pattern to provide contrast and combined it with a simple slate 4-inch-by-12-inch border at about eye level. This border also provides a textural contrast to the smoother finishes in the room. Storage was provided by using a little more of the quartz remnant to create shelves and niches in the walls surrounding the tub area.

Terrific trick

Often, a space contains elements that are still in great condition but look out of date – in this case, the tub and the floor. By building the design around these existing pieces, it is possible to tie them in and make them look brand-new. Keeping these items helped to enhance the space, reduce the cost and, importantly, kept these materials from ending up in the landfill.

(Not) by the book

Homeowners often feel overwhelmed by the variety of paint colors available. Select the other elements first (tile, flooring, cabinetry, etc.) and then the paint. You will find this narrows down the paint options considerably, leaving a few that stand out as the best choices to go with your décor.

emma delon: kitchen & bath, design & consultation

2408 Reichard St., Durham

919-360-7735 or

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