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exotic inspiration

From Habitat magazine - issue 14

Using the image of a lacquered Chinese box, architect and homeowner have created a pair of rich and unusual bathrooms.

The ordinary bathroom brief to an architect usually has a list of sensible things like the number of basins and lights, and a nice safe colour scheme of crisp white. But homeowner Sarah does not do ordinary.

Chinese lacquer box inspired bathroom
An old French school table was converted to provide a character vanity in the main bathroom. The walls are in Resene Triple Mondo.

For the pair of bathrooms in the renovation of her 1970s townhouse, she gave architect Lloyd Macomber three words: Chinese lacquer box. Lloyd, director of Salmond Reed Architects, has worked on enough projects with Sarah during the past 10 years to know exactly what she meant. The pair complete each others’ sentences, neither has the words ‘neutral’ or ‘resale value’ in their mindset, and both love colour.

Says Sarah: “Because we are beside the sea and because they are not big spaces, you’d expect to go white and bright. We just didn’t want to do the obvious. I think the darker the room, the darker you make it, so it feels like a little jewel box.

”But before they decided on surface finishes, Sarah and Lloyd had to juggle spaces. The former rental property had a long narrow guest room on the ground floor which was anything but welcoming. Upstairs, there was barely any room for a dining room and instead of a pampering master suite, there were two average-sized bedrooms and a very small bathroom.

Exotic inspired bathroom
Bathroom vanity
Bathroom: The homeowner’s vision of a ‘Chinese lacquer box’ is interpreted in the guest bathroom with confident colour choices such as Resene Sambuca walls and Resene Red Berry ceiling.  Shower: A frosted glass panel set into the ceiling of the guest bathroom shower brings light in from the bathroom above. Get the look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen (walls) tinted to Resene Sambuca and Resene Red Berry (ceiling).  Basin: A top mounted basin sits in front of sparkling glass mosaics, chosen to match the Resene Sambuca walls.

So Lloyd reconfigured the ground floor space to shorten the bedroom into a more appealing size and create separate zones, cleverly squeezing in a walk-through dressing room to a glowing jewel-box bathroom. There was nowhere to fit a window, so Lloyd created two glittering light sources: an uplight running around the pelmet of the room creates a glow off the red ceiling, while a slice of frosted glass skylight borrows light from the master bathroom on the floor above.

And then Sarah unhesitatingly nailed the colour palette in one sitting from a thumbnail off a colour chart on her computer. “I’ve worked with colours enough to know this would work,” she admits. The ceiling is a perfect ox blood red (called, more gently, Resene Red Berry) while the walls are Resene Sambuca, a deep dark chocolate brown. The rooms are a glowing progression from the grainy aromatic beige of Resene Caraway in the guest bedroom and dressing room.

Sarah’s confidence with colour is evident with two more clever touches – a ceiling of a serene sherbet ice blue (Resene Polar) and splashes of pattern in two wallpaper panels of a tropical leafy print.

Upstairs, Lloyd took the opportunity to steal former bathrom space for a dining room, and reconfigured the two bedrooms into one suite with private dressing rooms and a generous, glamorous master bathroom. Sarah knew that a narrow antique French pine school table was going to be the heart of the new master bathroom: a skillful joiner lengthened the legs to bring the table up to a comfortable vanity height.

Lloyd specified three huge skylights to draw sunlight into the bathroom (only a slim window breaks the wall). The client is delighted with the play of light in the room as the sun moves around the sky. A slice of frosted glass in the shower floor sends shafts of this light into the guest bathroom below. At night uplights around the ceiling pelmet create an interesting glow. Again, client and architect were unhesitating in selecting the colour: the deepest bitter brown of Resene Triple Mondo on walls, ceiling and light wells. They carried through a high gloss dark stain on the existing tawa floor, matching dark tiles on the shower and another touch of sparkle with glass mosaic tiles in the same hue as the Resene Triple Mondo.

Like all good designers Sarah and Lloyd are happy that what they have done doesn’t fit a look or a trend, but that the bathrooms are as luxurious and rich as any Chinese concubine’s jewellery collection.

Did you know... Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen Kitchen & Bathroom combines anti-bacterial silver protection and MoulDefender mould inhibitor, perfect for minimising unwanted nasties in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries.

Accessories: Guest bathroom vanity: custom-made, master bathroom table restoration by Parris Cabinets, Glenfield. Basin: Cilindro. Architech: Lloyd Macomber, Salmond Reed Architects. Glenfield Shower fitting: Methven. Light fittings, both bathrooms: Firefly Light & Design, Devonport.

words: Catherine Smith
pictures: Mark Heaslip

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