Keeping it Clean
Jane Margolies -- Interior Design, 1/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Glass wall panels in luminous colors, mahogany medicine cabinets, sinks made from ceramic bowls handcrafted in Japan—these are not your standard bathroom materials. But then there's nothing standard about the bathrooms in this New York loft. Or the rest of the apartment, for that matter.
Occupying the entire 15th floor of a converted industrial building off Fifth Avenue, the space had previously housed a sound studio. It was still completely open when Murphy Burnham & Buttrick was hired by the new purchasers, a young family, to 'effect a 4,000-square-foot transformation.
To preserve the wraparound views, MBB left the perimeter of the floor plate unobstructed, building a square core for the kitchen, a guest room, and three of the four baths. The core is no mere cube, however, but a highly articulated, meticulously crafted volume—with glazing that carefully frames views of the surrounding interior and the city beyond. "The baths are like lanterns for the apartment," says partner Mary Burnham.
Consider the open-plan master bedroom, which backs up to the master bath inside the cube. A 7-foot-wide glazed portion of the enclosure faces west, permitting the owners to watch the sun set while they soak in the tub at the end of the day. The bathroom's other walls are surfaced in custom panels of white or gray-green back-painted glass, and the reflective combination of glass and mirrors lends the space an illusion of boundlessness. (The water closet is separate.)
Two other full baths speak a similar design ' language. The children's blue-paneled bath enjoys light from the adjacent hall, thanks to a generous clerestory. In the guest bath, the glass panels are in three shades of pale lime green, and MBB set a small window in the wall between the shower enclosure and the guest bedroom.
The Japanese ceramic basins, commissioned by the owners, appear in the children's bath and guest bath as well as the windowless powder room, the only bathroom not part of the central cube. "Because a powder room is small, and you're never in it for very long, it's a great place to do something more daring," explains Burnham. Thus the glass wall panels here are yellow, orange, green, and blue—grounded by schist flooring that project architect Bogue Trondowski handpicked at a Massachusetts quarry. The resulting effect, Burnham says, is "about as far from white porcelain as you can get."