19 July 2009

A tale of two master suites

I am drawing out two master baths this weekend. I don't do too many of them and I enjoy the challenge when I get one. The first is an exercise in more and my client wants me to use this image as an inspiration photo.

I don't like it, but nobody pays me to like what I design. When it's finished, it will be lovely and tasteful and my clients will love it. Their friends will too and for a lot of people, a master bath like this is something they aspire to.

Not me man, my fantasy master bath is one similar to the second design I am doing for another client. In my heart of hearts I'm a minimalist and so is client number two. Even though I will pour myself into both projects, project number two will satisfy me more because it strikes so close to what I like.

I like minimalism because it doesn't provide any distractions or places to hide. In a minimalist setting, some one's alone with his thoughts and for me that's a peaceful and enjoyable thing. I get it that not every one's wired that way but after years of considering why I'm so drawn to the kinds of room settings that a lot of people think of as cold, I've come to the conclusion that it's because I like my own company.

Anyhow, master bath number two is going to be as clean and unencumbered as I can make it. For years now, I've loved the shower systems made by Chicago-based LaCava. In particular a pan system they call the Tatami.

The Tatami is a series of fluted, porcelain blocks that sit in a shallow pan. This allows for a smooth and seamless transition from the floor in the room to the shower. Because this transition has been so smoothed out, it allows a designer to re-think the whole idea of a shower enclosure. The lower left illustration in this diagram shows how the Tatami works in cross section.

The shower set up I'm working on has a single, clear glass splash guard that will be about four feet wide and run from the floor to the ceiling. That's it. Just a single sheet of glass at the end of the room with the Tatami system on the floor.

This is sort of my idea for this shower. Sort of. Only in my plan, I'm going to use a single sheet of glass and leave it open at both ends. With a single shower head in the ceiling I can do this. Talk about minimalism. When this shower's not in use it will all but disappear.

Master bath number two is a lot more challenging to design because I can't rely on any of my usual tricks to make flaws in the structure of the room disappear. It requires me to think about every finish and every fixture because the few objects in the room have to work together to add to the sense that the room's empty.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with the vanity yet and I'm sitting here wondering this morning. I'm wondering how to pare down the idea of a bathroom vanity until it's just that, the pure idea of a bathroom vanity. How do I suggest utility without sacrificing utility at the same time?

There are times when I love what I do for a living, and having the opportunity to think like this on a Sunday morning is definitely one of those times.

So what do we think? Am I out of my mind? Anybody have a competing master suite philosophy?


  1. I like the the minimalist approach however it would also have to include the necessities of convenience, namely maintenance and storage elements.

    Does that make sense? -Brenda-

  2. It does, it makes perfect sense. That where the artistry comes in. I love sleek and minimal, but I'm pragmatic about it. Maintenance and storage can be hidden effectively, it's just a matter of figuring out how.

  3. aggrh! keeps deleting my comment!

    Have you thought about hidden drawers? I have done one like a table style with hidden drawers either side of sink area...just a shadow line so less visible clutter..also, if using veneer, the continuos lines will add to the "flow" ...hard to say though without knowing other design elements. I love your dilemmas though...makes me feel not so "alone"!! I have similiar one now and am struggling with vanity as well. --cheryl

  4. I keep hearing about cross-platform comment problems. Hmmm.

    Anyhow, I have thought about hidden drawers Cheryl and I really like your idea of sheathing a wall in a veneer to better hide them. Thanks for that. This master suite backs up to a large closet and I'm thinking about how to integrate the function of both into the lavatory part. There has to be some way that I can steal space from and access to the closet without using a door.

    I'll figure it out. But if this is my big dilemma for the day than that can only mean that I have a pretty great life.

  5. I don't have anything in the way of suggestions, but I'm with you on the minimalist bit. That first bathroom is not even a little bit attractive. It looks like it would be difficult to clean and that it the last thing I want in an area where human waste is deposited. Gross. Kind of like that hideous pink carpeted monstrosity you pictured a couple weeks ago. Yuck.

  6. Complicated bathrooms certainly present more shit to clean, and I mean that literally. If more people understood E. coli's (and everything that piggybacks on it) penchant for becoming aerosolized I think we'd be seeing more of the latter and less for the former when it comes to bath design.

  7. hey any ideas on a really great, meaning works well, high cfm, bath fan/light? that is sleek and as minimalist as can be? "lighting be us" store dropped off fans at my client's house without me knowing and s--t" hit the "fan" so to speak..."... I am so cleverrrrr at 2am!!!

    like Broan but just not finding one contemporary enough and this is very large master bath...any ideas welcome!--cheryl

  8. Hunter makes a model here:

    That's rated at 100 cfm.

    Or check out this one:

    That one's rated at 70 cfm.

    This one's more contemporary than modern and rates 80 cfm:


    Do any of those help?

  9. I'm totally loving the showers in the minimalist bathrooms. I would LOVE to replace the horrid, horrid, HORRID shower we have now with a clean & simple glass-enclosed shower like these ones.

    I should send you a picture of our shower -- you'd have a field day insulting everything about it!!! :-D It's seriously bad.

    So that being said, I'm way more into minimalist bathrooms. The less clutter and crap in a bathroom, the better!!


  10. Some of the showers and bathrooms on LaCava's website will take your breath away. Check it out!


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