Ordinary. Bland. Uninspired—is how Alison Price describes the original look of Paula and Tom Nunn’s master bathroom in their home in Victoria. Extraordinary. Unique. Elegant—are the words she now uses, thanks to a bit of key additions and creative inspiration. “[It’s] a total transformation from an okay bathroom to an oasis,” Paula Nunn says.
An artist, Price also is an interior designer, limiting her full house design clients to two or three per year. After the Nunns moved back to Minnesota from Seattle, they decided to remodel their home, which they wanted to mirror their design aesthetic and lifestyle, so they connected with Price.
“Having lived in a number of large metropolitan areas and extensively traveled, they have exquisite taste and appreciate a modern approach to traditional design,” Price says.
“The house has a gracious floor plan … ,” Price says. “The decor was a bit tired and needed a new perspective. My design approach is green. I work with elements that are functional and envision ways to economically and aesthetically make them sing. So often, people gut entire spaces, not realizing that with a bit of imagination, so much can be saved from the landfill.”
A unique element of the redo is featured in the master bathroom, where a hand-painted mural by Price embraces three quarters of the space. “The moment you enter, you feel relaxed and content,” Nunn says. After the walls were prepped, the mural took about 10 days to complete. We asked Price to walk us through the creative process.
What vibe were the owners looking for in terms of the mural?
Initially, we were intrigued with the idea of wallpaper. Paula wanted trees and birds, something beautiful and pastoral. Tom hoped for something traditional, interesting and unique, without being over the top. After measuring the bathroom, … we realized that it would not be a cost-effective idea. We would have ended up with a simple wallpaper, with a small repeat, instead of the grander look we had in mind.
What inspired the mural?
The clients have enjoyed living in so many wonderful places—Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota and abroad. We kept discussing different ideas for the bathroom and looking at wallpaper. It was then I thought perhaps a mural would envelop the space and personalize it in a way that wallpaper could not. An absolutely magical thing happened, as I worked, and added mountains and trees, plant life and water, I didn’t realize I had painted Paula’s favorite mountain. It just popped into my head and made itself at home on the wall. (The mountains and water in the mural remind us of Yellowstone Lake,” Nunn says. “One mountain in particular resembles the view of Longs Peak, a Colorado fourteener near a past home.”)
How do you describe the mural?
The mural is a quiet panorama of mountains, lakes, trees and wetlands. It successfully repeats all the colors of grey found in the new enlarged shower. The mural allowed us to punctuate areas of most importance and focus on spaces in between all of the space interruptions. Paula loves flowers—lilies, irises and hydrangeas. We added those near her bathroom vanity. Tom likes trees, so his vanity area reflects that. We wanted the space to be a quiet and relaxing place to be elegant and meditative. I think nature provides all of those things. (“I love the touches of flowers near my sink and makeup side,” Nunn says. “The area my husband uses has a more masculine look, but it all blends together beautifully.”)
Was it difficult using the grey palette?
All color is beautiful–bold and strong or gentle and dreamy. It is important to infuse grey with warmth in our latitude. The 45th parallel is one known for blue light in the winter months. I often work with monochromatic color palettes, as those are often the most relaxing.
Do you need to use a special moisture-resistant paint?
The most important part of any mural is the substrate. The walls were primed and painted with Sherwin Williams high quality paint, and the paint for the mural was the same. It is surprising to note that only four colors were used to create the full spectrum of grays shown in the mural.
The mural features Sherwin Williams (interior satin) Dorian Grey SW7017, Westhighland White SW7566, Inkwell SW6692 and Napery SW6386.
The original porcelain floor tiles were given a facelift from an expert tile installer, “ … an artist in his own right. The floor is fixed and beautiful,” Price says. “It is wonderful seeing how all the elements come together, and a space can be transformed without a full demolition,” she says. “Spaces, which have evolutions and share design elements from many diverse origins, are richer and more eloquent, in my humble opinion.”
Doubling in size, the shower commands attention with a clear glass door and partitions. The enclave was created with hexagon Cararra tile floor (The Tile Shoppe), Cararra subway tile on the walls (installed in a running bond pattern), a marble angle seat and a wall niche for toiletries.
Three new mirrors, silver leafed with a corresponding beveled edge (Wayfair) help give the vanity area lighting a fresh look. A new Clarissa Drop Round chandelier (Pottery Barn) marries function with glamour.
Determining what can and can’t be reused is a design function in itself. Price notes that some elements in the Nunns’ home needed to be replaced, while others just needed some extra attention.
The remodel gave the builder-grade oak cabinets a “new hue do” with satin finish Sherwin Williams Indigo SW6531, a rich deep blue. The sink and countertops were in great condition and feature a pale grey and white pattern, perfect for the space. New hardware from Hickory, the Cottage Collection (Menards) in brushed nickel finish give them a fresh touch.
Art Imitates Humanity
Alison Price co-owns a gallery with Kathleen Krishnan in the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis and collectively showcases art from 13 artists. “We like to think our art is delicious and the perfect way to finish a room, much like a dessert completes a great meal, and so the name Tres Leches Art Gallery came to be,” Price says.
Her current body of work comprises three series. Of Witnessing Waves, Price says, “The Mississippi River Gorge and her wealth of heritage trees has always intrigued, inspired and comforted me.”
The Shifting series is a collection of large mixed media paintings, conceived after Price read about the discovery of the ghost fish in the Mariana Trench. “ … The highly textured sculptural paintings reflect the ‘shape’ of the trench or ridge and allow the imagination to wander through the depths of the work. The trenches, the ridges and the plates, connect and unite us all.”
Lastly, The Fireflies six inch by six inch textured paintings that are part of Price’s zero studio waste initiative. “Sometimes I have a painting that disappoints me. If it is overpainted and not salvageable, I chop them up into tiny sections and make them into Fireflies. I incorporate anything non-recyclable into the art.”