SPECIAL- Throne room: Architects re-draw the bathroom
Bedrooms range from humble bunks to lavish boudoirs;
kitchens run the gamut from a single hot plate to vast temples to the cooking
gods filled with every state-of-the-art convenience; and dining rooms can be
anything from the space in front of the television to giant halls seating dozens
of guests for a five-course meal. But one room in modern houses offers very
little variation in design.
No matter whether it's a studio apartment or an eight-figure mansion, the
bathroom is a sink, a toilet, and a place to bathe. True, other rooms in the
house have their essential elements, but whether it's for practicality or simply
convention, it seems homeowners and architects alike apply the least amount of
imagination to the bathroom. One architect we interviewed even says, "I actually
get bored designing bathrooms."
But undeterred, we pressed on and found two architects who are thinking
outside the water closet.
Baskets instead of a medicine chest?
A window in theshower?
They're all in a day's designing for these two pioneers of the powder room.
But what's more radical than any individual aspect of the designs they showed us
was the unifying concept they reached independently: blurring the line between
the natural and man-made worlds to re-imagine the bathroom as a treehouse
JEFF DREYFUS, BUSHMAN DREYFUS
It's typical that Jeff Dreyfus prioritizes both privacy and storage for
personal items when he designs a bathroom. How he does it is what's surprising.
"Daylight is very important to me because bathrooms have turned into such
predictable, cluttered, and claustrophobic spaces," he says, "They ought to be
fun places where you want to be."
So when restoring his own 1930s-era Charlottesville house along with partner
Bob Headrick, Dreyfus decided to convert a bedroom into a master bath to indulge
his desire for a spacious oasis from the day-to-day grind. The result is a room
that looks decidedly minimalist, even typical upon first glance. However, it
quickly reveals some quirks.
For one thing, Dreyfus guaranteed that nobody would ever go through his
medicine cabinet– there is none. Instead, he decided to install baskets on the
back of a door leading to the washer and dryer, immediately
"People say, 'I'm used to having everything in front of me,' but it's really
no more effort to turn around, walk a step, and get what you need," says
Dreyfus. "It's more appropriate for the way we live now: uncluttered and
That sums up the effect Dreyfus intended. In keeping with the idea of natural
simplicity, he made an effort to keep the space open for natural light and
intrude as few individual design elements as possible.
Instead of two separate sinks, there is one long trough with two faucets.
Instead of lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling, he put lights inside the
top of a short wall that divides the sink from the shower. Instead of a curtain
or glass door, a short wall separates the shower from the rest of the room.
Making the short walk around the wall sheds light on the room's most uncommon
feature: a window in
"We used the existing window from the bedroom, and it's nice for bringing a
lot of daylight in," says Dreyfus.
The window not only lets the sunshine in: it offers a view of lush greenery
behind the house that Dreyfus says he looks forward to every morning.
Additionally, he says it assures the only peeping going on back there is at the
"We don't have any neighbors out that window," he says, "but if somebody's
coming to do some work on the house, we want to be aware."
CANDACE M.P. SMITH
Candace Smith doesn't necessarily consider herself an architect who's at one
"Each bathroom design is meant to respond to the client's needs," she says.
"I've done everything from French doors leading outside to curved ceilings. It's
really a matter of the feel the client wants."
However, in the case of an addition she designed for UVA law professor Mimi
Riley and her family's 1984 Albemarle home, a bucolic feel was exactly what the
doctor (of laws) ordered.
"I wanted to feel away from it all," Riley explains. "We knew the bathroom
was going to be above the sunroom we were putting in on the first floor, so we
wanted to retain a fair amount of that feeling."
With that initial vision, Riley and Smith collaborated on a room that was
right up Smith's alley.
"I got to use a lot of the features I like to put into the bath: a private
room for the toilet– a water closet, as I like to call it– a nice big window,
a large shower, two different vanities so both partners can be as neat or as
messy as they want without getting into each other's faces," she says. "It has
all the natural light and space that a bath should have."
While compromises due to budget and space are par for the course on any
project, there was one element Riley succeeded in getting exactly as she had
dreamed it would be: a tub from which she could look out on the forest behind
"I wanted it to feel like a treehouse, and that has definitely happened," she
says. "You really do feel like you're out in the woods sitting there. We even
put stone in instead of glass tile to add to that feel. It's a great refuge away
from everything, and it's remarkably private."
Of course, not every aspect of the room occurs in nature.
"They have towel warmers in there now," says Smith. "It fits with the whole
warmth of the space."