In the Zone
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Hard to believe, but Santa Barbara does have a light-industrial district. Alongside the flawless California beaches and mission-style houses, the city's Funk Zone, as locals call it, is home to cabinetmakers, sculptors, welders, even surfboard shapers. In a further anomaly, the Zone also boasts a pair of contemporary loft duplexes.
Mark Kirkhart, principal of DesignARC, developed the attached residences for himself and a married couple, friends and partners in the deal. The architect's 1,700-square-foot unit started out as his bachelor pad. But it was created with great expectations. "If you build it, they will come," he said. She certainly did. A few months after the project's completion, Kirkhart was engaged to be married.
Safe to say that the happy ending had something to do with the 500-square-foot master suite, located on a mezzanine reached by a steel-and-concrete staircase. Who could resist the 110-square-foot internal bathroom, tucked into a corner near the bedroom door?
"The fact that the views aren't great from the second level gave me the idea for a windowless-bath," Kirkhart explains. So he designed a shoji-inspired enclosure to provide privacy—or not. Sturdier than the Japanese original, his version combines light steel framing, which he welded himself, and panels of translucent plastic.
Open, the sliding panels reveal a modern sybarite's dream, a custom tub for two. It's constructed in layers—a timber frame clad in plywood that a contractor encased in a waterproof membrane and scratch coat, then plastered, sealed, and waxed. To maintain continuity, Kirkhart specified identical plaster for the adjacent shower stall.
In a similar vein, the slate floor tile ties in with the double-sink counter's SlateScape, a stone look-alike that's based on fiber cement. The custom vanity is lightweight MDF, while the sinks are stainless steel.
Behind the sinks, a mirrored wall rises to a height of 62/3 feet before giving way to an internal clerestory. (It's there to borrow light from the study at the front of the mezzanine.) Other play- of-light strategies include back-painted glass behind the toilet and—in the bedroom proper—an etched-glass entry door.
The sparsely furnished bedroom features a bed with custom nightstands of bird's-eye maple and Le Corbusier's chaise longue in stylish pony skin. Who needs more? Especially since the Funk Zone is just two blocks from the ocean and two blocks from the shops and restaurants of Santa Barbara's bustling State Street.