A series penned by Architect (and my partner in business and life), Joseph Vance, AIA.

After the kitchen, more money is spent building a bathroom than any other room in the house. They are often lavished with marbles and fine finishes, however, they are more often than not “decorated” and not “designed.” While it is not always possible to pull off, whenever I can, I design bathrooms like any other living space in the house – as a furnished room – with the fixtures as furniture.

While this is fairly easy to pull off if you have a large space to play with, that is not often the case in New York City where I predominantly work. Usually, you have 6’ x 12 or 14’ to play with – the typical result being the fixtures are all crammed in a row – and yes – you end up decorating that. The main difficultly in implementing the fixtures-as-furniture concept is the size of the fixtures – the shower in particular being the culprit. Not only is it a large footprint, but the materials to make the walls waterproof and the enclosure take over the room. Below are a few examples of how I minimized the impact of the shower, allowing the furniture-in-a-room concept to be realized.

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Above is the master bathroom in a townhouse I previously owned and my most successful example. Here, the shower “disappears” through the use of material technology I have refined over the years. Besides full floor-to-ceiling waterproofing behind the surface, the wall surface (and baseboard) are all a fully waterproofed sheet product painted with low sheen epoxy paint. The marble flooring continues through the shower – with no curbs – and utilizes a concealed “infinity drain” on either end. The shower enclosure has been minimized to a single panel of glass, attached back to the walls with polished nickel rods. No doors, no frames.

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The bathroom above is from a 5th Avenue apartment we completed recently. In this one, both the shower and toilet are off to the side, with door openings between them and the bathroom space. This makes the bathroom feel more like a dressing room. The floor is book matched marble slabs – the matching marble wainscot is flush with the painted walls separated by a small reveal. Our office designed the custom lacquer and nickel vanity – topped with a gloss white synthetic surface for durability.

74 Wooster bathroom

The last example is from a large townhouse nearing completion in Soho. This bathroom is integrated with the hall leading to the master bedroom and faces a large walk-in closet. The herringbone wood flooring from the master suite continues to this area with the tub as a centerpiece – flanked by two vanities that are lacquer with nickel trim and high-gloss pure white synthetic countertops. The shower is a room to its own entered on the right corner of this image, the toilet in its own space entered in the corner on the left of the image.

Joseph Vance Architects specializes in Townhouse renovations in New York City.

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