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Your Home | Kitchens & Baths

They wanted to fix a chilly bathroom, but wound up updating the house

A traditional home in Newburyport gets a clean, modern makeover.

Glass privacy panels separate the toilet and shower from the soaking tub in the primary bath.
Glass privacy panels separate the toilet and shower from the soaking tub in the primary bath.Freebird

Grace and Chris Johnston credit the leaky insulation below their en suite bath for jump-starting the extensive renovation they undertook in their Newburyport home. Unable to get a firm to install radiant heat to remedy the icy floor, the couple turned to Jordan Cashman, co-owner of local shop Sage Market + Design, for a more holistic approach. The project, which ultimately encompassed a total redo of their kitchen, living room, and mudroom along with a freshening up of other spaces, started with a full gut of the too-cold bath.

Rather than key off the traditional design of the 16-year-old Federal-style home, the Johnstons, who have two little girls, two orange tabby cats, and two Boston terriers, opted for a younger, fresher look. “The house had a lot of crown moldings and decorative millwork, but Grace has a cool, mid-century modern style,” Cashman says. “That’s where we came in.”

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To achieve a light and bright palette, Cashman proposed mixing white surfaces with pale wood ones. Taking cues from their bedroom furniture, the couple chose ash from the assortment of wood samples Cashman called in from Cronin Cabinets in Charlton.

The redesign didn’t require that they relocate the plumbing, but they did need to take down two oddly angled walls that enclosed the toilet and shower on either side of the tub. Now, instead of drywall, large floor-to-ceiling panels of privacy glass separate each area. Charcoal-colored ceramic tile runs from the floor up a new half wall behind the sleek soaking tub. The resulting ledge sets off the tub — and provides a convenient spot to perch a wine glass after a long week.

For the opposite wall, Cashman designed modern his-and-her ash vanities topped with quartz countertops and integrated sinks, as well as matching tall, skinny storage towers. She also removed the door from the linen closet, re-plastered the opening, and retrofitted it with substantial ash shelves. The result is a handsome place for plants, baskets, and towels.

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A similar design scheme made its way downstairs. The two-tone kitchen has ash base cabinets and white uppers with unadorned flat fronts. Imperfect terra-cotta tiles handmade in Morocco take the edge off the contemporary design by providing textural relief from the clean lines and matte finishes.

Just as they did upstairs, the team maintained the location of the sink and plumbing. The gas hookup also remained in place, though the couple traded in their range for wall ovens and a cooktop. “I know industrial ranges are the trend, but I wasn’t loving it,” Grace says. The cooktop practically disappears into the white quartz countertop while the backlit controls — Grace’s favorite feature — are set into an ash panel.

To gain storage space, the couple sacrificed a window in the spot where the fridge now stands and tore out an awkward closet to make room for user-friendly, floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets. The new island includes a fridge drawer for the kids and a beverage fridge for Chris, who also asked for a trash compacter. The request for the out-of-fashion appliance became a running joke with his wife and their designer; even the salesperson at the appliance center looked askance at the idea — they ended up with a trash drawer. “He still mentions wanting one every time he has to take out the trash twice in one day,” Grace laughs.

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Removing the closet in the kitchen also let Cashman expand the mudroom, which is tucked just around the corner. The ash-lined space has two facing walls of storage, each with rows of black metal hooks and its own built-in bench. There’s a tall, pull-out broom closet on one side and slatted shoe tower on the other, a simple remedy for the piles of shoes that used to spill out into the hall.

The renovations have been a welcome change for their aesthetics and function. “We didn’t think we would gut so many rooms, but once we started we couldn’t stop,” Grace says. “Now everything not only matches and flows, it works really well for our young family.”

RESOURCES

Interior designer: Sage Market + Design, sagemarketdesign.com

Contractor: Head Above Builders, habllc.com

Kitchen and bath design and cabinetry: Cronin Cabinets, cronincabinets.com

MORE PHOTOS:

A local metalworker cut bar-height Arne Jacobsen stools to counter-height 
for $15 apiece. The ridged 
stoneware pendants in the kitchen are Cedar & Moss.
A local metalworker cut bar-height Arne Jacobsen stools to counter-height for $15 apiece. The ridged stoneware pendants in the kitchen are Cedar & Moss.Freebird


The living room sofa (bottom) is from Croft House.
The living room sofa (bottom) is from Croft House.Freebird
Kid-friendly wire drawers pull out from under a bench in the mudroom.
Kid-friendly wire drawers pull out from under a bench in the mudroom.Freebird
Mitzi sconces in aged brass and black flank round mirrors in the primary bath.
Mitzi sconces in aged brass and black flank round mirrors in the primary bath.Freebird

Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.