Walnut slab counter & other design questions

sochiMarch 18, 2012

HI there,

For my master bath vanity I plan to use a walnut live edge slab for the vanity. We don't need storage in this bathroom (large linen closet right across the hall), so it will be a vanity with no drawers or cabinets beneath. We will recess a medicine cabinet on the wall next to the bathroom door for DH's basic toiletries.

Here is our inspiration picture, taken from Elle Decoration UK:

We want a modern, clean, earthy (organic??) feel I think.

The actual slab that we plan to use is below. At the deepest part it measures just 18" deep, 14-16" otherwise.

We want a more practical vessel sink than the one in the inspiration picture. We also want an oval shape (probably around 20" long, but only 14-15" wide or deep, given the modest width walnut slab. There are some oval white porcelain sinks that we like out there. We came across the sink pictured below as well. It is expensive, but it is the perfect shape (17" x 12") and beautiful. But I'm not sure that the weathered bronze look will work on the also brown walnut. Thoughts?

Any other thoughts re: design etc. most appreciated. We will sand the live edge of the walnut to ensure we can't get snagged on the corners, plus the walnut will need to be treated regularly so it can endure the humidity.

Here is our inspiration picture for the shower part of bathroom (from Houzz).

modern bathroom design by san francisco architect Cary Bernstein Architect

We plan to extend the walnut slab to run the 88" length of the wall, so into the shower section as shown in the inspiration picture. We won't have cabinetry below it, but probably river rock on the floor. We will use teak mats for the main 48" x 60" part of the shower.

We will primarily use a rain shower, so the approx 15" deep vanity should *just* be outside the splash zone, but it will certainly get the odd drop of water, no question. We don't need to run the walnut the whole length of the wall, but want to. Thoughts?

While there will not be a living plant wall in this bathroom (as I first planned), there will be plants, probably as pictured in the first inspiration picture.


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These are my thoughts: "will you please come and help me redesign my house?"

I think running the slab into the shower area will look fabulous. I'm assuming you wold use a water proof finish on the slab of the sort that people use on wooden surfaces on boats. "Waterlox" maybe? If that can withstand water punishment on a boat it should suffice for a shower, I would think.

Hard to tell about the sink. It is gorgeous. But I think you'd have to look at them together after your slab has been finished, as the color may change.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Thanks sharonite. I'd love to! :)

We will absolutely water proof the slab. This is stil a nagging concern for me though. The slab will not be regularly exposed to water, but it will get a bit of spray occasionally I imagine. Plus lots of humidity of course - although we are installing a supposedly super exhaust vent.

Only DH and I will use the shower, we can take some care re: spray. I know that teak would probably be better than walnut for this purpose, as it is better with water (they usually use teak on boats). But in my city I can only find walnut, bubinga (only 60" long though, and expensive) and sapele (VERY expensive), no teak slabs. If anyone knows where I might find teak slabs let me know, as I could use the walnut slab for a desk off my kitchen.

I will consider the bronze sink further, but think that I should probably do white...

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 1:29PM
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I'm sure your bathroom will be unique and incredible, but I'm not sure about that sink on the walnut. I'd go with the white.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 1:29PM
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The walnut can work fine, but definitely give it a film finish on all sides prior to installation.

If you just toss your towel on the countertop prior to showering the towel will catch most of the overspray. Then simply wipe off any other droplets when exiting the shower and it should perform fine.

My main wood store here in CT will order me a slab of a certain width and length if I need one. Getting a live edge or wane that's attractive and acceptable for the application, that might be another issue. So ordering a live edge slab can be tough.

I like your design ideas. Very nice.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 2:06PM
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Thanks mongoct. What type of film finish would you recommended in a bathroom application? Happily my brother-in-law is a cabinet maker and will hopefully help us out with the sanding/shaping/finishing if he has time. But I don't think he has done an application in a bathroom like this.

Anyone think that the teak mats in the shower will be at odds with the walnut slab vanity? Two different wood types, etc.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 2:36PM
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I think having three different shades of brown (walnut, teak, bronze bowl) is going to be a bit much. If the teak and the bronze are super close, you might be able to make it work, since two shades of brown is more doable. You would be able to pull off the bronze if the walnut was distinctly darker than the bowl - then try to use both shades of brown in accents throughout the room. There's also the monkey wrench that the teak is going to age and change color in that environment.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 3:24PM
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You may be right cloudbase. Based on the advice I've received (and my own gut) I think I will forego the bronze sink. So just two browns - the walnut and the teak.

I understand if you care for the teak regularly (oil it I guess??) it can retain much of the original colour?

fyi, I'm considering this tile (Yakarta Blanco from Porselanosa) for two of the shower walls. It reads white, but has a subtle pattern and light brown / green undertone:

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 3:51PM
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That's a really nice looking tile, very natural and complex white. My only concern there would be if the tile has a lot of tooth (I haven't handled that particular Porcelainosa in person, so IDK), it might be tough to clean and keep clean in a damp area. Emser Strands Oyster, Ottimo Contemporary, or Venitian Architectural Grasscloth are all smoother tile with a fabricky (yep just made that up) pattern to them. I especially like the Venetian Architectural since they offer a cool white (cashmere) warm white (chinchilla) and I found it for $3.64/sqft which is quite reasonable.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 4:17PM
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Good word, fabricky.

Venetian Architectural is very nice, and certainly more affordable than what I was quoted for the Porcelanosa. I can get the tile I posted in a matte or gloss finish. The woman in the design showroom (who has apparently used this tile in a shower application before) suggested the matte as the gloss would show finger prints and water marks more than the matte. I too thought that the matte might be harder to clean, but it is still quite smooth, despite the fabricky texture. I will double check tomorrow, but I don't think it is too 'toothy.'

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 4:45PM
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So the weathered bronze has been voted off the island.

How about this oval in white from Scarabeo? 16.1" x 13.4"

Alternatively, something a little more 'earthy' with a touch of colour (turquoise glaze)? From Vermont Art Sinks, just over 14" wide. This seems closer to my inspiration picture.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:33PM
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I like the Vermont Art Sink, but I wouldn't vote out the bronze till the walnut is finished. I think it might actually work well, but it totally depends on what the walnut is like when it's done.

I'm sorry you're not going to do another living wall--I think the one in your living room is spectacular.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 10:06PM
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Ah the living wall. Thank you so much for your kind words - most people seem to think I'm crazy for liking them. I just love the one I have. I could still possibly have one in the shower area, but I've given up on having it visible to the bedroom.

If for whatever reason I don't run the walnut all the way to the far side of the bathroom, I could have a living wall at the end of the shower area (vanity end), draining into the rocks. Or possibly I could have one right in the middle of the far wall, opposite the pocket door. Once the bathroom is more or less complete I need to evaluate for light. There is already one sky light and I'm adding a solar tube, but the roof is some distance off and I'm concerned that I won't have sufficient natural light.

Thanks for the advice about the bronze sink. I don't think there is a panic to buy the sink as they are all a similar size and the hole in the walnut for the plumbing would probably fall in the same place. But ... I do need to choose the sink to be able to tell the contractor where to place the plumbing for the in wall faucet. The height of the sink matters there.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 10:17PM
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So, I think I figured out the puzzle. It requires a touch of offsetting.

It means taking advantage of the natural shape of your walnut slab counter, and it will aleviate some space concerns. I think you should bring your door very nearly to the edge of your vanity, and move the sink more towards the shower (as opposed to centered on the space).

Maybe you should try hand-drawing the outline of the counter slab on your blueprint, and indicate where the glass enclosure ends (for clarity).

As an aside, I am jealous of your pocket door.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Don't worry about the tile...I just installed Yakarta (matte) in my mb about 8 months ago and have no problems whatsoever with keeping it clean. And it is absolutely beautiful!! clean and modern looking.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 8:10PM
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Fantastic, thanks rsvlle-nj! Nothing like first hand experience.

Cloudbase - I will be sure to place door nearly up to the edge of the vanity. The walnut will be not quite 17" in its widest/deepest spot, so a 20" wall should be plenty, maybe even 19".

Demo started today, we leave the country for three weeks tomorrow (family will be staying here and minding the reno). And I have to finalise my faucet, sink and shower order tonight. No stress though!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:24PM
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Your design is really lovely. So calm and serene. It's going to be a great bathroom. Very zen-like.

These comments are coming late into this discussion, but I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts.

First, where are you geographically? We are redoing a bathroom and using some horizontal wood wainscoting. We discovered that of our three wood choices, teak was by far the most expensive, then walnut, with sapele being the least expensive! We're getting it from our local "wood guys" (they buy and mill the wood themselves). We're in New England. So if you'd really like sapele and if you are in NE, I'd be glad to pass along the company name. Unless, of course, you are already set.

Second, as to a bowl, what about checking Etsy? There are a number of ceramists there who make really lovely vessel sinks. One might make you just what you want. I'm including a link to one below. It may be too big, but I think this person's work is truly wonderful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Interesting Sink

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 11:46PM
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Oops! Just read your last post and see that you may have already made decisions. Sorry!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:00AM
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kashmi, thanks for your comments. Interesting that the sapele was least expensive! We've already purchases the walnut, so I think we're good. I have walnut elsewhere in the house, so it is a good choice for us I think. The sapele was expensive, but perhaps it wasn't that much more than the walnut - the sapele slabs were HUGE and priced around $700. My smaller walnut slab was just under $300, so probably still a bit cheaper than the sapele.

I had seen that Belgian sink in an Etsy search the other day, beautiful. But too big. I think we have decided on a Kohler 16.5" round sink, but I worry that it might be too big as well, as our slab will probably only be about 17-18". The sink in my inspiration picture extends beyond the slab, but I'm not sure how that would function IRL...

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:09AM
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Sochi, I just returned from Thailand where slab lumber is being used in gorgeous asian-modern interiors. Went to a slab yard or should i say slab porn! Table tops that are 30 ft long, 3 feet wide and 8" thick!!! Made from monkey pod wood.

I will post photos of some. I too plan to use a slab counter for the bathroom, probably have it shipped from there.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 1:03PM
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Pharaoh, I can't wait to see the pictures and hear more about the pod wood. Sounds like you had a fascinating trip! I'm in Italy at the moment, DH fears that I'm going to try to stuff a sink into our carry on luggage! So much here for a girl with a modern heart to love, so much choice.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:40AM
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Here you go, are you ready? I was drooling. These are the smallest of the slabs. There were slabs that were 30 ft long!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 11:02PM
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Wow, gorgeous! I'm definitely drooling. Can't wait to see it in your bathroom.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Went to a restaurant in chiang mai where the entrance floor was a solid slab of this wood! amazing..

my master bath is a couple of years away but the theme is: wabi-sabi, japanese, serene, natural. should evoke the calmness of a japanese tea room. The slab will be the counter. (No obvious bathroom storage in view)

any suggestions? ;)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 2:48PM
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