Bath Time for Junior
Maria Shollenbarger -- Interior Design, 1/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
When the Kohler Co. launches a bath line, the Wisconsin manufacturer usually introduces the new merchandise to the public by inviting an interior designer to create a vignette at the Kohler Design Center. Clodagh did the honors for the stainless-steel Timpani sink; for the retro-urbane Kathryn collection, the job went to Ferguson & Shamamian Architects.
A designer with a passion for color was the logical choice when the time came to spotlight Vapour Colors, a line of cast-iron sinks and tubs in a sorbet and candy palette of an unusually pronounced luster. And who better to take on the task than Christopher Coleman? The modern-flamboyant Caracas apartment he'd renovated for his partner, fashion designer Angel Sanchez, had caught the eye of Kohler design scout Diana Schrage when she saw the project in a magazine, and Christopher Coleman Interior Design had worked wonders with brightly colored masking tape at the eBay Showhouse in New York.
"Christopher's innate color sense was clearly a draw, but there's also an exuberance at work in his interiors," Schrage explains. His inspired proposal sealed the deal: Preliminary renderings presented a no-holds-barred luxury spa bathroom for kids—complete with plasma TV tuned to Finding Nemo. "The first project I ever did was a kid's room," Coleman says. "Currently, I'm working on about 11 projects that comprise kids' spaces."
There's no shortage of playfulness in the Kohler vignette. Assisted by Schrage, Coleman and project manager Magdalena Keck chose materials and colors that put paid to the standard notions of "spa," with nary a hint of soporific beige in sight. Ceramic floor tiles in aqueous tones ' set the tropical theme, complementing a Dolce Vita sink and Tea-for-Two tub in Vapour Blue.
The tub, under-mounted in a custom concrete surround, features an integral step for little legs to scale. The top of the step is veneered in zebrawood, as are the tub alcove's ceiling fins. Behind the tub, an enticing photo mural of white-capped waves, printed on mildew-resistant vinyl, draws bathers into the seaside fantasy.
Which isn't to imply that Coleman ignored realities. "It was of paramount importance that everything feel safe and accessible to a kid," he says. Hence the frosted-acrylic vanity's eased edge, intended to prevent bruises and bumps, and a custom step stool, for access to tooth-brushing and face-scrubbing. The shower has a hand-held nozzle for child-friendly washing.
The installation process could only be described as designer-friendly, what with the aesthetic freedom and Kohler's whole showroom as a resource. Plus, Schrage says, "We revise dimensions, deal with purchase orders, everything. Our job is to execute Christopher's plan to a T."
She notes that even one of the few failed experiments had a felicitous outcome: "Instead of veneering the shower dowels in zebrawood, we just hung whole bamboo rods. It turns out they're one of the things people have loved the most." As for Coleman himself, he's as pleased as a kid in a candy store.