A Splash In Kips Bay
Annie Block -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
"I knew it immediately. The moment I saw the fireplace and the light coming in the windows, I envisioned a bathtub here," recalls McMillen senior designer Robin Bell. The "here" she's referring to was the room she chose for her debut at New York's Kips Bay Decorator Show House, located this year in a 1906 Federal-style mansion.
Fireplace and windows aside, the 450-square-foot top-floor space started out as a humdrum guest bedroom with white walls and a worn dark-wood floor. Now the room is a feminine, glamorous, eco-friendly aerie replete with a two-person soaking tub, a treadmill, and English antiques, notably an 1860's recamier and an 1880's hanging lantern.
The room's size and furnishings reflect a trend in master suites. "Clients are spending less time in their actual bedrooms," Bell says. "So, instead of one grand room, I've been creating equally customized dependencies, such as larger dressing areas. I've also been breaking up the bathroom into units. The tub needn't be in the same room as the loo."
The room's black-and-white palette is a first for Bell, who says the combo came to her in the "flicker of an instant," too. She developed the walls' large-scale floral graphics—rendered in natural pigments on a cotton-duck ground—by considering the bold, rhythmic styles of Keith Haring and the artists in London's Bloomsbury circle. The white-painted cork floor's black Greek key border is intended to have the tailored crispness of tile. "It's both 1920's and contemporary," she says.
The curtains, made of white cotton hopsack, are trimmed with what appears to be little bells. Actually, they're silkworm cocoons strung on silk tape, an exotic fringe produced by a women's collective in Colombia.
A very different country yielded Bell's concept for a room "where the lady of the house can relax, read, exercise, even receive people." Her source in this instance was David Hicks, who created similarly intimate salons in groovy English country houses. And Bell's sanctum's name, the Crystal Cabinet, is also the title of a poem by another Englishman, William Blake.