One of the challenges in working with clients is interpreting what they say in order to give them exactly what they want. Take the case of a single lawyer with a hectic life. He wanted a modern redo for the master bath in his condo and had some idea of what he was after. Sort of. He envisioned a spa-like room that he described as “cool,” “natural,” “museum,” “serene,” and “Zen.” It had to be low maintenance, and budget was a concern. But beyond that, he admitted, he didn’t really know what he wanted.

Architect Mabel Tweddle didn’t mind; she embraced the terms her client used. First, to make way for both a glass-walled shower and freestanding bathtub, she knocked out the partition that separated the toilet, creating an open plan. Then she chose natural-looking materials that would reinforce the spa-like vibe that the busy lawyer craved. To line the shower, large, glossy slabs of ochre-toned tile were used. Grouting is minimal, and the stone tile’s subtle sparkle picks up light.

The freestanding tub—oval, deep, and roomy—became the focal point of the room. Tweddle accomplished this by designing a floor-to-ceiling backsplash made of large slabs of ceramic tile composed of smaller, 2-inch-by-2-inch pieces of varying thicknesses. The smaller squares add texture and shadow, look like natural stone, and give an impression of water cascading on rocks. The backsplash anchors the freestanding tub, giving it a sense of belonging. Best of all, it helps deliver the Zen vibe the client was after.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.