All the World's a Stage
Michael Webb -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Milton Katselas gave up full-time acting in the early 1960's to have more time to direct the theater and film versions of Butterflies Are Free and found the Beverly Hills Playhouse—where he has famously coached Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney. Even now, however, he vividly recalls his years as a struggling actor living in a succession of dark, cramped apartments in New York. The experience, he says, left him craving "a lot of space and light."
So he hired LCMK Architecture to renovate what was previously a stucco-clad ranch house in West Hollywood, razing a neighboring house to build an addition. Katselas asked specifically for a master bathroom that was roomy and sunny—to say the least. Bathroom seems an inadequate word to describe his private sanctuary.
From the perspective of the master bedroom, a suspended steel door rolls aside to reveal the 400-square-foot space. On the right, stands a greenhouselike structure with a bay of five windows wrapping an asymmetrical sunken tub. Along one sidewall, three simple stalls contain the shower, sauna, and toilet. An opposite corner features a soapstone-topped, canary wood vanity placed perpendicular to a Japanese-style soaking tub of sweet-smelling eucalyptus.
"It's Milton's personal aesthetic," says principal Leonardo Chalupowicz. "Utilitarian but with its own beauty."
The chief floor and wall material is polished high-density insulated concrete. Planks of blond Douglas fir clad the ceiling; naked I beams still bear the builder's mark. But raw and refined details play off each other. Note the sink's shiny polished chrome fittings and the tub's gleaming marble spout.
When Katselas began to direct more, he says, it was partly for the pleasure of working with designers on blocking out stage sets. For the master bath, he and Chalupowicz first built a life-size mock-up of the tub in Styrofoam. Katselas also prefers his stage sets to look like sets. "It's foolish to try to conceal the mechanics in theater, as you would in a movie," he says.
In deference to Katselas's fondness for honesty in all artistic mediums, Chalupowicz spent hours researching and testing choices that would make the bathroom look unfussy. An exposed mechanized system of pulleys raise maple blinds from pockets in the floor beneath all five of the bay's windows, to balance light with privacy. The sixth facet of the bay is filled by a steel shutter that cranks open by hand to increase ventilation. Chalupowicz says he deliberately incorporated the equipment's rattling sounds as "part of the soul of the room."
If bathrooms with souls sound unusual, imagine one with a Le Corbusier chaise lounge. Katselas moved his pony-skin version permanently into the center of the floor, in case he feels like taking in a basketball game on the flat-screen TV or just contemplating the leafy backyard—bath time or not.
For guests who can't linger, Chalupowicz came up with an imaginative alternative to the huge master bath: a combination powder room and shower, housed in a vertical concrete cylinder 8 feet high and 5 feet in diameter. Its walls were cast in a mold generally used for water mains. Light enters this massive structure through its open top and a tall, narrow window of glass blocks. Chalupowicz claims Rudolf Schindler and Carlo Scarpa as his influences. But if just one architectural legend could shower in this powder room, it would unquestionably be Louis Kahn.