Historical Ambience, Modern Comforts

Modern-day secrets abound in an award-winning master bathroom addition that captures the bygone spirit of a 1920s home

Photos by Troy Thies

There are some spaces that wear creativity in plain sight while others quietly tuck innovative details into traditional, timeless surroundings. This bathroom addition by Ben Quie & Sons, which specializes in vintage and historical home remodeling, renovation, and restoration, is the latter. Built in 1921, the home brims with original architectural accents but was missing one modern amenity—a private master bath. 

When building this bathroom above the pre-existing sunroom, the priority was to not interfere with the home’s charm. As a historical-home devotee, it didn’t take convincing for Ben Quie designer Amy Rynerson Markus to be fully on board. In fact, her dedication to the project, constructed for homeowners Bob and Mary Beck, resulted in a well-deserved 2020 NARI-MN CotY Award and 2021 NARI Regional CotY Award for the St. Paul remodeler and general contractor. Mary says, “They really understood how to make a modern bathroom while respecting our older, classic house.”

Stunning Floor Tile 

To emulate the marble found in the home’s other bathroom, the space features polished porcelain tile, creating a tranquil feeling of continuity. A tile “rug” underneath the bathtub acts as an anchor, sporting a black marble border and herringbone field tile. And even though the floor looks traditional, it happens to holds a modern-day secret: in-floor
heating, something Rynerson Markus believes makes the space that much more enjoyable, especially during cold Minnesota winters. (Bob confirms the heated floor has exceeded expectations.)

Restful Soaking Tub 

A freestanding soaking tub is a luxe element in any bathroom. But in this case, it’s more than a pampering locale—it’s a prime example of how this master bath is subtly outfitted with aging-in-place features. 

“Other than honoring the period of the home, one of the main goals was aging-in-place,” Rynerson Markus says. “This bath is a great example of how designing a space for aging-in-place doesn’t need to be clinical. It can be modern and beautiful.” 

Although the tub is deep, it’s still one that’s “easier for an older person to get in and out of,” Bob says. The bathroom is also appointed with similar features like grab bars, a hand shower, and flip-down shower bench. “A good soak is always a pleasure,” he adds.

Calming Views & Lovely Light

As with most historical additions and remodels, Rynerson Markus says it was important the addition look as if it were built along with the house. To make the space look cohesive both inside and out, six double-hung windows that match the existing windows in the sunroom below were incorporated into the master bath. Another touch is the sizable mirror above the sink that maximizes natural light. “The bathroom is a calm, soothing room that feels like an escape in the trees,” Mary reflects. “All the windows give the illusion of a treehouse escape.”

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