In lieu of a standard loo
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
You'd be hard-pressed to guess this bathroom's location. The way that design firm Forster usually refers to the project doesn't help much either—as the term Penthouse Bathroom tends to conjure up visions of a luxury condo in Miami or New York.
Nothing could be further from the truth: The bath is actually on the 15th floor of former subsidized housing in the East End of London. "Not the nicest part of town," as creative director Jonathan Forster laconically describes it. The two-bedroom flat was no great shakes either. For starters, the entry hall had turquoise walls, yellow woodwork, and linoleum "parquet" as well as a cramped, dingy bathroom tucked in one corner.
A boiler leak changed all that. Damage may have been superficial, but it was enough of a catalyst for the owner to decide that entry and bath needed an overhaul. Flicking through the yellow pages, he came across Forster.
Founded in 1998 by Jonathan Forster and his sister, creative director Rachel Forster, the firm has already completed an eclectic body of work. Both color and wit are central to their philosophy: They conceived a London menswear store as a "gentleman's club meets skate park" with black-walnut shelves shaped like skate ramps; at a London coffee shop, a funky camouflage motif covers one wall. All of which jibed with the bathroom client's desire for a flamboyant statement.
First, the Forsters cleaned up the 170-square-foot entry, took out the old-fashioned communicating doors, and opened the doorway to ceiling height. The linoleum gave way to walnut parquet outside the new bathroom, expanded to 90 square feet.
When it came to the bathroom's interior, the designers swiftly vetoed a request that everything be blue. "It would have been too cold on its own," says Rachel Forster. Instead, they suggested red, yellow, and orange as complements. Flooring, a mosaic tile commonly used for swimming pools, picks up on the reddish tones, while the freestanding cast-iron tub sports custom enamel in a fire-engine red. In the far corner stands the conical pear-wood form of Philippe Starck's pedestal basin, paired with his stainless-steel sink fittings.
The handsome interior of the bathroom, however, is indisputably outshone by its exterior—a daring exploration of layering and translucency. In more specific terms, the enclosure comprises two layers of translucent polypropylene panels, bolted to a stainless-steel frame "almost in the shape of a Nike swoop," says Rachel Forster. The partition was delivered in four parts, via elevator, and assembled over two days.
"The panels let light through, but you can't see people inside," says Jonathan Forster. To make the wall a little jazzier, the designers adhered rectangles of orange and yellow film to the inside of both layers of polypropylene, which are separated by 23/4 inches. A neon tube, placed in this gap at floor level, makes the entire wall glow. "It looks fabulous at night," he enthuses. "Almost ethereal." And practically Brickell Avenue or Central Park South.