Hired by a composer and a lighting designer with unusual requirements, Desai/Chia Studio conceives a thoughtful master bath suited to lounging
Linas Alsenas -- Interior Design, 3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
"The core of the apartment was envisioned as a Japanese bathhouse," begins Katherine Chia in describing the bathroom she and partner Arjun Desai recently completed for film-score composer Carter Burwell and lighting designer Christine Sciulli's home in New York. Images of nature that the creatively inclined clients had assembled provided inspiration for Desai/Chia Studio's design, as did a survey of Burwell's own compositions. His music informed the program in another way: He stipulated that he be able to plug in and record anywhere in the TriBeCa apartment, including the tub. The resulting design, while satisfying technical requirements, is a well composed meditation on simplicity, serenity, and order.
Dividing the living area from the master bedroom, the bathroom is wrapped with sapele, a West African mahogany. Recessed ceiling fixtures project raking light onto the oiled panels, bringing out the purples of the horizontal wood grain. Beyond the sapele walls, the bathroom is informed by a calm, Far Eastern aesthetic. The concrete countertop and integrated sink, hand-waxed stucco walls, and limestone floor reinforce the weightiness established by the extralong poured-concrete soaking tub. Translucent glass elements, such as the acid-etched windows and door, impart a soft luminosity. Desai and Chia sandblasted the mirror, leaving only a floating reflective rectangle; Sciulli periodically alters the arrangement and color of lamps located behind the glass to achieve various effects. At her suggestion, the designers installed a glowing light well above the sink to create the illusion of a skylight—a remarkable visual trick she borrowed from artist James Turrell. The total effect is of meticulous order and blissful calm conducive to a use still more unusual than musical composition: Sciulli, due to give birth in April, plans to be in the soaking tub during labor.