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For busy families, a second home should ideally feel like an escape to another world. But for one family spending their weekends in a Greenwich house that had last been renovated about two decades ago, that world was well past its prime.

Susan Alisberg of Alisberg Parker Architects in Old Greenwich oversaw the gut renovation of the 1930s colonial house, replacing a dated interior with clean, bright spaces that breathed new life into an old home. In the master bathroom, that meant first reconfiguring the layout. A dark anteroom with side-by-side pedestal sinks became a dressing area, while a windowed area which was flooded with natural light, originally home to only the tub and toilet, became the bright heart of the entire master bath. “We put things where they belong,” Susan says. “You still have the tub near the window, but the light is reflected across the room toward the sinks.”

Susan brought in classic materials to outfit the space: black and white hexagonal floor tiles, polished-nickel fixtures and Carrera marble. “The idea is that these are all traditional elements, being used in a more contemporary way,” she says. Instead of dainty marble placed sparingly, which might conjure a more stately opulence, Susan topped the vanity and the area surrounding the Waterworks’ Classic Bathtub with two-inch-thick slabs. Their heft makes them less precious, more utilitarian, and even casual, she says. “The wide marble anchors the room, like a thick wooden table top. It’s less formal.”

In creating the homeowners’ ideal bathroom—one that was simple and calm—Susan’s mission was to keep it uncluttered and spare without going too far in a modern direction. To that end, she incorporated traditional moldings that tie in with the architecture of the house and are mimicked in tile molding on the wall surrounding the tub. The cabinets also have a classic design, albeit with a touch of contemporary cool: frosted, ribbed-glass panels in the front. The black and white hexagonal tile, typical of turn-of-the-19th-century homes, is decidedly un-modern, yet it looks fresh and neutral in the new construction. “It’s a great backdrop—as simple and clean as you get,” Susan says. Black faucet handles pick up the black in the tiling, lending a little color coordination in an almost all-white palette.

Conscious of the fact that it was a weekend home, Susan made sure that the homeowners wouldn’t spend their downtime surrounded by clutter. The two generous cabinets were designed to conveniently hold anything that might ordinarily sit around by a sink or get draped over the edge of the tub. “It’s easier to keep your life in order if there’s a place for everything,” Susan comments. Their size and convenience—like closet-sized medicine cabinets—make it easy to maintain an immaculate space.

The overall serenity of the neutral tones and clean lines, shored up by traditional elements and materials, proves it’s possible to have a modern edge without pigeonholing the design into one era or detaching it from the history of the home. And while no architect or decorator can predict the changing taste of a client, Susan hopes this bathroom will still feel current decades from now. “We wanted to respond to a modern lifestyle,” she says. “But the goal was to keep it timeless.”

Alisberg Parker Architects, Old Greenwich, 637-8730; alisbergparker.com
Waterworks, Danbury, 792-9979, Greenwich, 869-7766, and Westport, 227-5008; waterworks.com