In November 2011, Elizabeth and Fran Rametta completed a major home interior and exterior upgrade. What began as a simple renovation to the master bathroom stretched to the finished room over the garage and even the garage door. “It all started with a leak in our master bathroom,” says Elizabeth. “To fix the leak, we realized we’d have to tear up the bathroom floor. If we tore out the floor, that would mean redoing the wall tile, too. It just became a case of ‘might as well.’ If we’re going to redo all of the tile in the bathroom, we might as well take out the builder’s cabinet. We ‘might as well-ed’ ourselves all the way down to the studs!”
The Ramettas are both retired after notable careers in federal service. Elizabeth was a longtime agent with the Internal Revenue Service, while Fran, her husband, retired in 2010 as the longest-serving ranger-naturalist of Congaree National Park. To bring their dream bathroom to life, the Ramettas enlisted the services of a reliable partner: South Carolina Certified Master Builder Tony Thompson, owner and president of Remodeling Services Unlimited.
“We’ve worked with Tony on three different projects,” says Elizabeth. “We first used his company in 2005 for a major upgrade to our kitchen. He does outstanding work, and he is meticulous. He gives you a calendar of what will be done on every day and who will be doing it. We are so happy with his work ethic and the quality of the work he does.”
The Ramettas live in the well-established southeast Columbia neighborhood behind the VA hospital, and they knew just what they wanted before construction began. “It’s very important to know exactly what you want in the beginning. You have to research to know what’s available,” says Elizabeth.
The large shower in the master bath has frameless glass doors and is tiled using a mixture of earthy stone tile and glass mosaic accents.
While the master bath footprint remained the same, they discovered a whole new world of function and style updates. “There are so many new products available now that just weren’t on the market when we built the house in 1974,” says Elizabeth. For some, the decision-making demands of renovation can induce sleepless nights. That’s not the case for Elizabeth, an artist who paints, draws and inks calligraphy as a hobby. “I picked everything out. It wasn’t stressful for me at all. I know what I like, and I can make decisions.”
Armed with her confident style, the Ramettas incorporated their master bath design with new ultra-modern features such as radiant heat flooring, a moisture sensitive exhaust fan and a heated towel bar. “We just love the heated floor, and it costs only a few cents per month. The exhaust fan is sensitive to moisture so it automatically turns on when it detects steam. Then when the steam is gone, the fan turns itself off. With no moisture, there’s no mildew. No scrubbing grout or wondering if you left the fan on all day,” says Elizabeth. “The towel bar even has a reservoir to hold essential oils that add a wonderful fragrance to the whole room.”
The large shower has frameless glass doors and is tiled using a mixture of earthy stone tile and glass mosaic accents. “My theory is it’s better to do big permanent things like tile in neutral colors. Our tile is beige and looks like stone. Even the accent is neutral,” she says. “One thing that’s different in the new bathroom is the tile itself — in the shower, it goes all the way to the ceiling. Back when we built the house, the standard was to stop the tile at six feet.”
In addition to a handheld showerhead and grab bars, the shower has a seat and three luxurious pivoting body sprays that make everyday showers a therapeutic experience. “We went to the Ferguson showroom to find our Kohler fixtures. You really do have to stay with one manufacturer these days. Something as simple as ‘brushed stainless’ can be a very different color from one manufacturer to another,” says Elizabeth.
They completed the update by pulling out the original builder cabinet and replacing it with a modern mahogany Restoration Hardware console topped by a glistening white marble top. The entire look is complemented by deep gold walls and glossy white trim and moulding.
As part of the renovation, the Ramettas opted to redo a main level bathroom using many of the same elements as the master bath. Elizabeth, a dedicated gardener, wanted the bathroom to have a fresh, modern look but sought a very distinctive feel when it came to the floor. “I wanted it to feel very natural — like dirt,” she says.
The Ramettas, who enjoy travelling and collecting from around the globe, opted for a mix of stone wall, accent and floor tiles throughout the bathroom, a black honed granite counter, a roomy Restoration Hardware console and worldly touches like a bamboo towel rack. “With neutral tile, you can easily change the look and feel of the bathroom by simply changing the towels,” she says.
A downstairs bath features a mix of stone wall, accent and floor tiles, as well as worldly touches like a bamboo towel rack.
Another “might as well” project was turning their grown children’s former playroom — a finished room over the garage — into a useful art studio for Elizabeth. “Before it was more like an A-frame where you could only really stand up in the middle. We knocked out some of the roof, added a nine foot window and gained a lot more walkable space,” says Elizabeth.
Because she planned to use the space as an art studio, Elizabeth decided the room needed a sink. “Then I thought if we were going to put in a sink, we might as well make it a half bath. And when we were looking at the space, I wondered if we could possibly squeeze a shower in there,” says Elizabeth.
Tony crafted a plan to maximize the sloped-roof space and gave the Ramettas not just a sink but a beautiful bathroom with many of the same touches as their master bath. “The shower enclosure was a real challenge and so was fitting a narrow vanity in there for storage,” says Tony. “We had to do things differently so they would work in the space. But we really wanted to give the bathroom a very different look and feel.”
In a finished room over the garage, builder Tony Thompson maximized the sloped-roof space to give the Ramettas a beautiful bathroom.
“We were even able to use a frameless glass door in the shower,” says Elizabeth. “The glass is a trapezoid. William Godshall of Columbia Shelving and Mirror did an amazing job in the space.”
The scope of the original renovation grew … and grew.
“Because the master bathroom had leaked into the downstairs office, we had to fix the ceiling there,” says Elizabeth. “Once that was done, we decided we might as well go ahead and paint it, too. It looked so good, we thought we should repaint the walls, and before long, we’d repainted the entire interior of the house!”
Elizabeth attributes a good portion of the impromptu renovations to high-quality handiwork. “Tony’s subcontractors are excellent. When we saw the work done on the sheetrock, we decided we wanted them to fix the cracks in the rest of the house. And the painters were so good, we wanted them to paint the kitchen, too,” she says.
The renovations continued all the way through to the exterior, where Tony’s crew replaced moulding, siding and even the garage door. “When we saw how beautiful the new HardiPlank® siding was, we had to replace the old garage door. And if we were doing that, we might as well update the shutters,” laughs Elizabeth. “It was far more than we planned. And it sprang from one leaky bathroom.”
A wave of renovations later, the Ramettas couldn’t be happier. The studio now has two purposes, giving Elizabeth space for art and Fran a place for music. “It’s the perfect place to practice trumpet for upcoming Heart ‘n Soul performances,” says Fran, a longtime member of the local nonprofit rhythm and blues band.
A leak brought the Ramettas a new, modern updated master bathroom, but it was a “might-as-well” philosophy that gave their 40-year-old home an all over freshness that’s felt from the walls to the garage door.