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Project Spotlight

The Fresh Exchange: Basement Bathroom

By Kali |

Design + Images: The Fresh Exchange // Installation: Shugart Builders 

Talk about double-duty—layered in chic, earthy neutrals, The Fresh Exchange's multitasking basement bathroom fields heavy traffic in style. See it all on today's blog! 

About You:

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do? Where are you based?
I run a lifestyle brand and blog called The Fresh Exchange that is based in Leelanau County, Michigan. We live at the base of a peninsula that is surrounded by the fresh waters of Lake Michigan. I focus our brand on talking about living an intentional life amongst the seasons. Since we live in a place with four full seasons we spend most of it our life here embracing each one to their fullest. I discuss food, eating locally, buying local, and awareness of self on my blog. I also run our online store focused on creating goods amongst the Great Lakes region with makers and production facilities here that I feel both exude quality and design for life amongst the seasons. When I am not working I am raising our three year old son, growing our garden and orchard, shopping at the farmer’s markets, and holding gatherings all over our area here in Northern Michigan. 

Megan Gilger's bathroom featuring our 2x6 tiles in Sand Dune with our Large Star and Cross in Antique on the floor

How did you initially hear about Fireclay Tile?  What did you enjoy about the experience? What are your favorite products?
Instagram! Isn’t where we hear about everything these days?! I fell in love with the options and look first, but then discovered how great of a company they are. Being B-corp certified was the selling point for us. We are always looking for that in brands we use in our life if we aren’t buying locally. We loved the recycled product as well. We have quite a few types of Fireclay tile in our house, and I have to say the Glazed Thin Brick is for sure our absolute favorite, but we also love the Engobe finishes and the variation of those glazes. It creates so much interest in a space. 

2x6 tiles in Sand Dune in this shower + shower niche.

Why do you love tile? 
Living in the country where our doors instantly open to all the elements from snow to rain to sand tile holds up to our life so well. We have a little boy and 2 dogs running around in our home, so I love how easy it is to keep clean and adds such interest to a space that could of easily been very bland. The possibilities are both endless and exciting while offering resilience in our life which means I don’t have to sacrifice much of anything. 

Floor to ceiling tile in this beautiful basement bath, featuring 2x6 tiles in Sand Dune and Large Star and Cross floor tiles in Antique

Can you tell me about the space? Is there any story behind It and the project that you want to share?  What did you change?
This space was kind of a bonus. Building here, basements are like bonus square feet to build out because most houses need basements here because of the sandy soil from all the dunes so it brings a sustainable foundation. So when we built we pretty much couldn’t refuse the potential it offered us. When we built almost a 1.5 ago we only had the dry wall and utilities placed in the space. We didn’t do much else, but knew we would eventually finish it. We found out how great a basement is with kids and winter because it gave us extra space to play so we began finishing it last spring and did most of the work ourselves other then the bathroom. We wanted this space to be kind of a utility sort of bathroom since it is quite accessible for post outdoor time. We also designed it so we could wash dogs in here as well, but I didn’t want it to mean we sacrificed design at all. 

Do you love color variation? Both our Sand Dune (wall) and Antique (floor) glazes have the highest degree of variation at V4.

Utility doesn’t have to mean utility, if you know what I mean? So we wanted to keep with our theme of using every space to embrace the natural world around us and since it is the basement we also wanted it to take on the characters of the earth it sat in. 

Large Star and Cross floor tiles in Antique.

When I brought these ideas to Fireclay, their team encouraged me to think about using Antique in the large Star and Cross because it would embrace the dirt and grime coming in but still add a TON of style. Then I loved the femininity of using Sand Dune and the name stole my heart since Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is only 30 minutes from our home. The dunes are a huge part of our life so it felt natural. If you had told me though I would have ultimately had a pink walled bathroom though I would have laughed at you, but here we are. I love it and I never thought a basement bathroom could come together so perfectly and naturally while being feminine and full of utility and purpose whether to wash our dogs after a muddy time in the woods in the spring or for guests to use when visiting. 

Love this wall tile pattern? It's called a vertical broken joint and we love how it highlights the variation of our glaze, Sand Dune.

You used our tile in your other bathrooms and kitchen, how did you play off the color scheme and design of the rest of the house in this room?
The beauty of using Fireclay is their tiles really play easily off one another without much thought. I had loved Sand Dune when we were choosing the colors for our house originally but never found the natural place for it. It fit in with the theme of using the landscape of Leelanau County and the coast of Lake Michigan as our greatest inspiration. 

2x6 tiles in Sand Dune with Large Star and Cross in Antique.

This tone is a huge part of the landscape and even though it says Sand Dune, it also is the color of many early mornings in the spring and sunsets in the winter as well. It is a part of the landscape as much as the blue tones are. The cool color of it really plays well with the rest of our palette in our home. The Antique was a wild card but it also is the color of our garden and ground when we plant so it felt natural to sit on the floor in our basement. It was a natural fit once it all came together. 

Starry eyed for this floor tile (Large Star and Cross in Antique)

What was the inspiration behind this space?
I wanted to bring together the cool tones I loved in the rest of our space with the warmth we needed in a basement space. There is not an ounce of natural light in this space, but I never wanted it to feel that way. I wanted you to walk in and feel like you entered an oasis even if we wanted it to be a space to use to get water for our work and painting or product packaging areas or for washing the dog. 

Sometimes more is better, especially when it comes to tile. Megan continued her wall tile into the open shelving into her basement bath. See more in our gallery!

I wanted it to feel calming and beautiful to us. Using our greatest inspiration for our work, Lake Michigan, as our inspiration easily brought that. The natural wood tones mixed with a wall of tile and the warming pink tone from Magnolia Home’s paint collection all paired perfectly together. 

For those of you wondering: this perfect, soft shade of pink paint is called Ella Rose

2x6 tiles in Sand Dune in a vertical broken joint pattern.

What made you choose the 2x6 tiles in Sand Dune?
I think this is one of the most gorgeous tile glaze of them all along with Salton Sea which we have in our Master Bathroom. So I just wanted it in this space no matter what. It felt warming yet I felt so connected to the color. 

2x6 Sand Dune tiles cover these shower walls.

Pattern play: For those of you wondering, this pattern is called a Vertical Broken Joint. 

Warm toned bathrooms? Yes please. Our glaze Sand Dune shows how warm neutrals can be just as soothing as cool tones.

How about the Large Star and Cross in Antique?
I actually loved the pattern, but the team at Fireclay really sold me on this one. I wasn’t sure about it, but I love it now that it is installed and feel thankful for such great installers who made it even better then I anticipated it to be. It is wonderful if you want a brick look BUTTT don’t want the problems brick can bring such as lots of mess and sealing and all sorts of other struggles. 

2x6 tiles in Sand Dune with Large Star and Cross in Antique on the floor. See more of this dreamy bathroom in our gallery.

How did the installation process go?  Did you face any challenges?  Did you work with a tile installer or contractor?
We really struggled to find someone to do the job for us. We were picky because we knew it wasn’t an easy job and handmade tile always brings challenges to installers. Our contractor that built our house helped us find someone and they were amazing, but when I cut him the check after the two day install (there were three men in there from 8 AM to 8 PM), he said “That floor has a ton of emotion…I left a lot out there putting it in.” 

Our glazes Sand Dune and Antique pair beautifully in this basement bathroom.

It is perfectly done, but for most tilers who do it production style, a handmade tile can be hard because it isn’t always straight and clean lines. The best thing was I knew that ahead of time and told him I knew it was going to be slightly off but we wanted the color variation mixed well. He got it and they did a great job. 

Large Star and Cross floor tiles in Antique.

You now have A LOT of experience working with our handmade tile, any tricks + tips you'd like to share?
Yes! When you using it know that there is going to be inconsistencies and that is part of it. Prep your tiler with that, but also know that the boxes need to be mixed and all opened to make sure the inconsistencies can be worked out both in color and shape. A good installer will get this and make it work. It may cost a little more money to install because of this as well, but the end result is something unique and timeless. It adds depth to new spaces you wouldn’t find with just regular tile. It is why we love it so much. 

Our glaze Sand Dune has the highest degree of color variation making for a beautiful handmade look.

A new build house can feel cookie cutter, but with handmade tile it makes it feel like that you revived something and made it new. It adds a ton of character which is hard to create any other way. Also I always recommend darker grout on the ground it makes it easier to keep clean especially if you have a family or high trafficked areas. 

2x6 tiles in Sand Dune + Large Star and Cross in Antique. See the rest of this basement bathroom in our gallery.

Lastly, What are your 3 best design tips? 

1. Keep to a palette and theme in your home when designing: This brings cohesion and flow to a house, but also shows you where you can break the mold but not break the cohesion. 

Our tile is also featured in her kid's bathroom: 

This kid's bathroom features our 6" Hexagon tiles in Sea Glass, one of our matte glazes.

Tile Shown: 6" Hexagon in Sea Glass 

2. Do 20% trend and 80% classic: This ratio to me leads to a space that transcends time and keeps you from hating something down the road. Keeping a space focused on the classics with that slight edge of trend always keeps it interesting but won’t date your space. A key when investing. Obviously some people do more trend, but this as been the proper ratio for me when designing since I easily bore of trends. 

Megan's kitchen features our Glazed Thin Brick: 

Megan Gilger's kitchen features our Glazed Thin Brick in White Mountains

Brick Shown: White Mountains

3. Natural light wins every time: Every space looks better in natural light and if you live in a place with seasons whether it is rainy and non rainy seasons, that natural light will change your feelings about a space in an instant. It is amazing what natural light does for design. I think it is the most powerful thing. 

Our tile is all of Megan's bathrooms! Here it is featured in her master: 

3x9 tiles in Salton Sea with 6" Hexagons in Flagstone

Tile Shown: 3x9 in Salton Sea with 6" Hexagons in Flagstone

Inspired by this warm toned bathroom? Order color samples online now or shop Megan's Story. Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly. 

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