Custom Master Bathroom Podcast Transcript:

Welcome to this edition of the Houston Custom Home Builder Podcast series, brought to you by Houston’s leading luxury construction team, Morning Star Home Builders. I’m Greg, your host, and for today’s episode, we are joined by one of Houston’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builder’s, Ted Cummins.

Greg: Ted, good to talk to you, how are you this morning?

Ted: I’m doing fine Greg, how are you doing?

Greg: I am doing well. So I feel like I owe you an apology on our previous podcast episode, you were trying to talk about master bathrooms, and I kept interrupting with general questions, and I cut you off from really giving us some real good examples of what you have been doing, so apologies and hopefully we can make up for it this time.

Ted: Well, no problem, and I am about as big as talker as you are, so we can talk plenty of times.

Greg: Maybe we will come back for Part Three!

Ted: Well, if we don’t get it done, we may have to do that. You know, master bathrooms are very important, right? It’s probably the second most important place in the entire home, and that’s whether you’re an empty nester or whether you got a bunch of kids, you still want your space and your privacy. And that’s why people ultimately want to design and build their own custom home and get exactly what they want.

Greg: I have no doubt, and I would guess, I don’t know for sure that when you are dealing with someone, your clients spend a lot of time and probably a lot of money on this room.

Ted: Well, it is. People don’t often think of it this way, but if you look at the average square foot size of a kitchen, and then the square foot size of the master bathroom, obviously, typically the master bathroom will be smaller than the kitchen. But when you think of the level of fixtures and money spent on the tub, on the light fixtures, on the showers, the spray jets, the rain dome, the type of toilet that they chose, it quickly becomes one of the most expensive, from the square foot standpoint that you will spend on the entire home, is in the master bathroom.

Greg: Wow! So you gotta do it right the first time? So can you give me a couple of examples of maybe a master bathroom you’ve put in, like a specific neighborhood or what some of the considerations were and what you ended up with, and then we’ll put some of these pictures on the show notes when we publish it?

Ted: Yes sir. I want to talk about one of my more favorite projects we’ve done. We did it in 2014, it was a Southern Living showcase home that we did, that was open for tour in the spring of 2014, in one of the neighborhoods called Towne Lake. In that home, which by the way was a 5300 square foot, one story, we did a really cool detail, when you walk in the door, you walked into that little foyer, like I mentioned in the previous podcast going into the bedroom or going into the master bath. When you open up that door, what you saw center was this free-standing tub, we did a little faux fireplace that was actually wrapped in Carrara marble, with etched antique glass inside of it for candle detail, and then we did this arched window above.

A quick story about the arched window was I actually found that at an antique show and it had real old leaded glass in it, I just was very excited about the overall shape of that window. So, with the shape of the window told me, that was the radius that I wanted to do with the arches leading into where the tub was sitting, and we’ll be able to see pictures of that, and this will make a lot of sense.

So what’s also cool is, because that’s a window, and that was interior space, I actually worked with Velux and we put a skylight in a sun tunnel up in the attic that fed light from the attic, coming out that window. So most people think that that was an exterior wall, but it wasn’t.

Greg: Oh, wow.

Ted: So it was very unique on how all that worked, and then in the ceiling above the tub, we did, in that one, probably about 150 starlight feel, which is done in fibre optics, LED fibre optics to give a look like a star, like you’re having the tub outside at night. So you would see stars above you in the tub in the evening.

Greg: That sounds very nice, I’m looking forward …

Ted: Greg, have I just described your master bathroom?

Greg: I think so, yes! But you know, I could choose between so many, right, there are so many different aspects that I love.

Ted: Sorry, I had to get that in. I couldn’t help it.

Greg: So why don’t you talk about some of the … Well, go ahead.

Ted: No, what I was going to say is, is people look at this picture off to the left, they’ll see a knee space, a little sitting area, and that was the wife’s area for her makeup and sink area, and we detached that and moved that away from his sink and his area. So it really helps with all the, could be clutter, from the wife’s things that are sitting out on the counter …

Greg: Or the husband’s…

Ted: Yes, or the husband’s, you’re right, the husband could have his stuff on the counter. So, that was one that we did over in Towne Lake that I wanted to talk about. I’m gonna kinda jump to another one that we did, this is actually for a client’s home, and it was pretty special and I’m rolling to that one, and again, we’ll have that on this one.

So this is one that we did, once again, when you step into the master bath, the tub centers on the door. We have a barrel ceiling that runs from that door all the way over to the master, where the tub is sitting, and then the back wall behind the tub, we did in stone. Then we put some shelves for some knick knack type stuff to give that kind of look, and then to the left and right of the tub that connected this wall, is the entry and/or exit out of the master shower. So, that works from a function standpoint, and then on the barrel of the ceiling, we also put deco tiled all that with accent LED tape light. Then we’ve got a big hanging fixture over the tub, and then her space is off to the left. It was another one that was really, really nice how it all turned out.

Greg: I’m looking at this one right now, and it’s beautiful, but I have a question, and you said you had to ask a lot of questions when you’re designing these for your clients. Do some people like sort of an, enclosed, cozy bathroom, and other people like a large, airy bathroom? Because some of these are very different feels, I mean, this one, the bathtub’s, I wouldn’t say it’s in the middle of the room but it’s pretty out there.

Ted: It’s really more about the coziness of the shower, because people often … We have this discussion a lot … Okay, do you want a door on your shower or not? Most people think of maintenance, most people think of, they don’t want to have to deal squeegeeing the shower glass. Well, and that’s a conversation I wanted to have, in fact, we’ll have another picture I want to talk about, I want to get to that we did up in Willowcreek Ranch. So we’ll have a conversation about that.

The downside is, when you take the doors off, it’s hard to keep all that heat and steam and humidity from your hot shower in the shower. And it can feel a little bit more breezy and a little bit more airy. We tell people, “Look, let’s go ahead and design it and build it”, we’ll tile it, and we’ll have it set up with no door on it, but if he wants to come back and add the shower glass, we can come back and add the door. So if we set it up that way, we can let them kinda try it out with no door, and if it’s too breezy or cool, then we’ll come back and add the shower glass door to it.

Greg: Okay. So there was another one you were saying that, did it not have a door that you wanted to talk about?

Ted: Actually, this one has a door, but I wanted to go ahead and talk about it. This was, in 2014 we were pretty busy because we also did that fall Southern Living showcase home, in Willowcreek Ranch, which is up in the Tomball area. In this home, was the one I wanted to talk about of how we set up that master bath.

Again, we talked with our clients and again we asked the nosy questions, literally, what side of the bed do you sleep on? When was the last time somebody asked you, Greg, what side of the bed you sleep on?

Greg: I can’t remember the first time!

Ted: You say, “Why would you want to know that?” Because the way the bedroom is set up is, we have doors going into the master bath, both on each side of the bed. If he sleeps on the, and in this particular case, I believe the husband slept on the left, he would slide out, go through his door on his side of the bed, step into the master bath, which takes him to his vanity, his closet, and his own toilet. Then we replicated that on the right hand side, so when she comes in, she’s got her vanity, her knee space, her closet, and then walk in, there’s a separate door that goes into her own toilet room. That was something that is actually very popular. Behind the bed wall, again, is a shower, that has an amazing three side wrapped shower glass. Very, very spectacular.

Now, I show that to some people and they are thinking, “What is the maintenance involved in that?” Well, there’s several manufacturers that will actually chemically treat the glass to significantly reduce the amount of maintenance and upkeep, as it relates to squeegeeing. I think she tells me she does it maybe once every couple, two or three weeks. It’s not every day, and she is thrilled about it, and then even in framing, we didn’t come up with this during design, but I came up with the idea of giving some more light over the shower. It just so happened that the roof line over that shower faced the east, so we put in a light well on a four by four skylight that in the morning, feeds a huge amount of light coming in the shaft, that’s at an angle, so it doesn’t directly get into the shower, but it provides all this amount of light of a morning coming in and bathes her, not only in water, but in the sunshine.

Greg: Wow, what a great way to start the day. Natural light, that’s great.

Ted: Yeah, and in that one, it’s all the body sprays, all that kind of stuff, shower heads, and we did a free standing bathtub there. Then over the top of the tub we did a really cool ceiling detail that we deco-tiled it as well again with tape light, and back lit that area as well.

Greg: So again, I’m amazed at the number of things that go into a nice master bath.

Ted: Well, there’s always levels of detail to talk about. How are we doing on time? Because, I’ve got one of them I was thinking about talking about.

Greg: Let’s just make this one a little bit longer, and I think we will be okay.

Ted: This is actually a client’s home that I want to talk about and we’ll refer to it, because it has a window with plantation shutters that are operable and they’re open looking outside. This is a project we did for a client up at High Meadow Ranch a number of years ago, and it sits on, I think six acres, so he’s got plenty of room around the house. So privacy was not the real big concern. We did a drop in tub, again, so it’s got a deck that we built around the tub, with storage underneath of it or access to mechanicals underneath.

But then we did a window above the tub and it’s showing plantation shutters that are arched, and there’s an arched ceiling over top of that we did in beadboard with crown molding and lighting and the chandelier over the top. This one turned out very nice, we’ve got storage left and right of the tub. To the right, it may not be too noticeable, but there’s actually a small flat screen TV in there. So if she wants to sit in the tub and watch her favorite show, she’s all set up.

The interesting story about this one as well is the level of detail. In this home, we actually did under tile floor heating. That’s done … It’s electrical, and you see that more up north, maybe in your area or even farther north, we’re actually putting wires underneath before you lay the tile, that’s hooked to a thermostat. That one was interesting because the client who built that home, this became one of his favorite features that he really didn’t care for when his wife first mentioned it. And now it’s become one of his favorite features because he’s the early one up in the morning and when he steps on that tile floor of a morning like at 4:35 in the morning, it’s as warm as it is like an electric blanket.

Greg: Oh, that’s wonderful.

Ted: Those are just some of the level of details that we want to have a conversation with people about.

Greg: Because that whole floor is tile, I’m looking at it right now, the whole thing is tiles, so there’s no way … If it’s cold, you can’t get around it, right, it’s not like it’s …

Ted: Yeah, yeah. People will say “I’ll do rugs” but you know, you know what it’s like, so you hop and skip from one rug to the next. Or you put your slippers on before you step in that bathroom. Doing the floor heating is obviously it’s an expense, but it’s not crazy expensive, and people don’t often think about it, especially in our climate, but we are on a slab foundation, unlike homes that have a basement. That tile is adhered to concrete, which is cold. When it does get … even in Houston, we had some below freezing temperatures for about a week, we were down in the 20s and that tile gets pretty darn cold in the morning.

Greg: I bet. I’m looking at this, it’s really pretty and I like how you have the couple sinks and they are on separate sides of the bathroom, so again you are trying to give people their own space. I guess that comes when you ask, “How are you going to use this space?”

Ted: Right. It’s again, from a construction stand point, we’ve learned over the years. Once we decide on what the arch of the window is going to be, once we set that, then I have my framers come back and replicate that arch, so it mirrors exactly the radius of the window below. That’s kind of one of those details that I see mistakes on pretty regularly, that that arch window is not the same radius of the barrel that’s above it. In our design build practice that has been going on for 17 years, those are the level of details that we feel like our clients are looking for.

Greg: Now I am going to pat myself on the back. I noticed that, and I didn’t miss that detail, so good for me.

Ted: Congratulations!

Greg: Thank you! All right, so I’m going to have to leave it to you if you want to do a part three and keep talking about master bathrooms or, if you think you’re good for now.

Ted: If we have one other quick one, I’ll mention it really quickly.

Greg: Sure.


Ted: We’re in the process of building right now our next Southern Living showcase home, which will be up in Bluejack National, which is the first golf course community designed by Tiger Woods. The home will be open for tour in September, October of 2017, and one of the things I’m really excited about that we’re doing, it’s the first ever in the master bathroom, we’re doing what we call a “wet room”. We will have a picture of one that, it’s kind of an inspiration picture, it’s not exactly what that room is going to look like. But we’ll also have that up online with this podcast, talking about the details of that one.

So a wet room literally is behind all glass, it’s both the shower and the bathtub that are behind glass. So there’s this term called “wet room”, so if they do have younger kids and they want to throw them in the tub, it doesn’t matter the splashing and all that kind of stuff that occurs, it’s all in the same space. So we are going to do a huge accent wall across the back, so when you step into the bathroom, it’s gonna center on that shower, it’s pretty spectacular on how that is gonna look. So I wanted to kinda throw that in as our last comment.

Greg: I have seen that in pictures more and more. Is that something that people are asking for, is it becoming more popular or is it just something I’m starting to see a little bit more often because I’m clueless sometimes?

Ted: I think it has become a little bit more popular, it really separates those spaces from the rest of the room. You know, it’s obviously it’s kind of a new trend that people are considering doing. It may not work for everybody, but it is very functional when you think of just the overall areas to be wet and it’s all done in the drop shower pan.

Greg: Does it make a lot of sense from the builders point of view to keep it all … It’s a lot of tile but it looks great.

Ted: It’s probably a personal preference, but people are looking for something different. I think this is something people might consider.

Greg: Okay, I’m looking forward to… some of the pictures you talked about I’ve seen, and we’re going to put those up and some of them I think you’re gonna put up on the show notes and people will get a great … This podcast and the last podcast … People will get a great idea of what can be done in a master bathroom. Ted, thanks so much!

Ted: Thanks Greg, I appreciate the time and hope it warms up in Kentucky for you.

Greg: You know it’s supposed to warm up 30 degrees today, so that’s Kentucky for you.

Ted: All right, thank you very much Greg.

Greg: Thank you.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Houston Custom Home Builder podcast series. If you have any questions, or would like to contact us at Morning Star Builders, you can find us on Facebook, and you can always visit our website at We appreciate your time with us today and look forward to bringing you another episode soon.