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Archive for Bath Design

Aug 23 2017

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Cabinets to Ceilings: Finding the Focal Point

Sometimes the ceiling can be a challenge in kitchen and bathroom design; beams, soffits, ductwork, angles and height can either be a hindrance or a catalyst. You either go around, through or follow the ceiling – respecting the limitations for a site-specific composition. Without balance, there is no composition, and without composition, there is no art.

One Upmanship
This pre-WWII apartment kitchen (above photo) has a structural beam down the center. With the hood duct, little ceiling remained so we blocked it in. The sequence of the detailed cabinets and negative space around the hood elongate the room, and the usable height on the refrigerator side is emphasized by the hanging lamps.

To unite the two halves, the granite counter’s low backsplash aligns with the stove back guard and turns the corner as it rises to full height at the sink up to the glass cabinet. Similar to the black stove anchoring the main wall, the dark slate sink aids in drawing the eye to the transition. The cabinet void in the back corner creates a dynamic focal point contrasting the two heights in a display of movement unexpected in a normally staid, traditional setting.

Dynamic Symmetry
More height than width is common in NYC kitchens. The crown on the tall cabinet (above) goes through the beam, providing vitality without overwhelming the room. The architecture of this space suggests that the tall cabinet is against the column and the shorter lighter cabinets are at the open end. The deeper, tall cabinet with handles instead of knobs signifies greater importance than the surrounding cabinets.

This variation precludes the use of (everyone’s favorite) mirror symmetry (but me). Instead, balance is created using the tenets of the Golden Proportion. whereby the width to length ratio is 62 percent. The tall cabinet proportion is a golden rectangle, similar to the far-right cabinet, as well as the combination of a right cabinet, middle cabinet and shelf. The whole wall to the ceiling is an 86½-in. by x 55-in. golden rectangle.

All the cabinets are different dimensions, yet they are the same proportion. The diagonal lines from the corners cross in the center of the middle cabinet – precisely where the eye is drawn. Any other dimensions, be they wider, shorter or narrower, would generate crossing in a different spot, rendering the dynamic arrangement less visually appealing. The discrepancy might not be noticeable, but understanding golden proportions illustrates the beauty of the composition.

Height is an Illusion
The magic of kitchen and bath designers is their ability to create the illusion of space, movement and height. Above, space is created by the openness of the glass and display portion of the cabinets. Movement occurs as the dynamic eave runs the length of the wall with a reprise at the soffit panel, and height is achieved by the stepping arrangement of the cabinets. The three steps have differing personalities from the same cherry family:

  1. One curved open shelf
  2. Two louvered, angled, sliding doors
  3. Three glass doors with vertical dividers in the open area that lead to the ceiling

The 1-2-3 progression is the pleasing Fibonacci Sequence where each cabinet increases by 62 percent.

When Mirror Symmetry Isn’t Possible
Because of the beam in the photo above, a more dynamic approach to balance is required. From the tall cabinet, the line of the shelf over the window skirts the beam to touch the glass cabinet that embraces the window. This arrangement maintains an open look as the movement expands and unifies the entire wall. It’s not merely cabinet-window-cabinet that focuses on the window; now the window is one piece of the overall composition. Another detail: the glass cabinet is shallower than the right cabinet to align with the beveled angle of the shelf – adding the variety of depth to the composition.

  • A cabinet up to the beam would succumb to being handcuffed by the limitation.
  • Solid doors would produce an unsuccessful attempt at symmetry.
  • Each object has its own personality; similar to islands differing from the perimeter cabinets.

Angled Roof
A bathroom addition of an angled ceiling skylight (above) provided the opportunity to have creative fun. The blue trapezoid follows the roof and floats in the space. Field tile surrounding the design is the golden proportion 62 percent of the width of the blue form. This ratio determines the pleasing size for the space that is neither too large nor small. Connecting the dots confirms the dimensions as diagonals from the corners of the walls align with the corners of the design.

What is Going on Here?
Admittedly, the design in the photo above is not everyone’s taste. The point of discussion is using the space to the hilt. I surmise, in most cases, that cabinets would only be set along the 8-ft. height line with the remainder of the most exciting portion of the roof line left blank – what a shame. I submit this design to illustrate how by connecting the dots similar to constellations, we make familiar patterns as seen in the masterpieces: Taj Mahal and Cathedral of Notre Dame. The angle of the hood points to the apex of the refrigerator cabinet, and the extended right side of the hood and the angle of the refrigerator cabinet touch the ceiling at the same spot. Aloft in that negative space – higher than the cabinets themselves – is the focal point.

– By Mark Rosenhaus, CKD

Jul 09 2017

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Micro-Design


New York City apartments are notoriously small, but living in small quarters is a growing phenomenon globally. Particularly in larger metropolitan areas, people are looking for less-expensive, more efficient ways of living. One solution is the micro-apartment – a studio space with the optimum minimalist layout.


Designer Ajay Chopra of New York City-based Echo Design + Architecture designed one of these spaces for a client living in Manhattan. The space is only 220 square feet, so the design team needed to make every inch count.

“Architecturally speaking, the square footage was not a lot of space to work with, especially when you’re trying to include a full apartment’s worth of functional features,” said Chopra. “The goal was to create a micro-apartment that appeared far more spacious than it actually is without sacrificing practicalities of everyday living.”


Hidden Kitchen
The team found that the best way to conceal clutter in the kitchen was by hiding it completely behind a fold-out wall, creating that illusion that the space is larger than it really is. Behind the wall, the custom kitchen cabinetry is arranged to maximize space. For example, the door and cupboard panels can be maneuvered to double up as a table.

“This clean, simplified way of living encourages you to only have what you need,” said Chopra. “Beyond that, each element in the kitchen is multifunctional, designed to keep things contained and less distracting while also providing flexible usage for each feature.”

Behind the fold-out walls are small appliances like a microwave, mini-fridge and mini-oven. Outside, the walls in the kitchen are covered in chalkboard paint to create an interactive element and add a personal touch to the space.

Natural Light
Instead of using a regular door that would open out and take up limited space, frosted sliding barn doors were used to divide the bathroom from the bedroom. The sliding features also make the studio space feel more continuous.


“We utilized a white color palette, from features like mosaic tiles to the floating sink and shelving, to make the 5-ft. by 5-ft. bathroom feel clean and open,” said the designer. “The sealed bamboo flooring creates a visual contrast from the white scheme to create further depth in the space and ensure that the white walls really pop.”

These white-paneled walls were also Chopra’s favorite part of the space.  This aspect of the design took the longest to construct because many different modular pieces were incorporated. Even the TV has the same paneling, complete with a 180-degree rotating feature that allows the viewer to see the screen from anywhere in the apartment.


“I love that the dynamic paneling minimizes excess and declutters the space, encouraging the resident to focus on experiences outside the home,” said Chopra. “Working on a project like this has made me rethink the importance of necessity versus excess, while developing an innovative solution to maximize the space that was available.”

Jul 03 2017

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A Design for Everyone

Photo Courtesy of Bestbath

Trends often come and go, but one necessity in the design world is here to stay. Aging parents are moving back in with families with small children, veterans are returning from war, and the Baby Boomer population is growing older. To address this hot topic, KBB hosted the webinar “Making Bathroom Design Work for Multi-Generational Living,” sponsored by Bestbath.

The Q&A at the end of the discussion covered common questions designers have and ways they can encourage clients who would benefit from universal design elements to include them in their baths. These questions were addressed by Julie Schuster of New York City.-based Julie Schuster Design Studio and Barb Mueller, president of Designs Anew Houston LLC.


Is universal design a positive when it comes to resale value?
It is certainly a positive when it comes to multi-generational use. All of these things that you put into a bathroom don’t have to be obvious, but buyers can realize how comfortable, easy and safe elements like a comfort-height toilet and grab bars are without knowing they are universal design elements.

What height is considered to be a low-threshold shower height?
Three inches is the highest. If you can get away with it though, a completely cureless shower is the best.

How do you keep water from escaping a curbless shower?
Use something like the Schluter system, which actually brings the water-proofing membrane outside of the shower. It won’t affect the area outside of the shower. Plus, be sure to still use shower curtains and doors.

What should the minimum tub deck width be?
There isn’t a real standard, but we would say six to eight inches. The very thin decks that are sculpturally beautiful are not exactly feasible for a universally designed bath.

Should there be more contrasting colors in the bath so different areas are easier to see?
Yes, for example, there can be tile around the shower so the homeowner can tell where the shower starts. The client should be able to discern where one thing starts and another stops, like if the countertop is a different color than the cabinetry, someone with failing eyesight can more easily find drawers and sinks.

Is a universally designed bathroom more expensive?
If you’re gutting a bathroom, a universal bathroom is not dramatically more expensive at all. The cost of products like grab bars and different pulls make little small difference in the price.

Other takeaways include:

-A huge portion of the U.S. population is considered morbidly obese. When designing for a larger person, be sure to create more space and include thoughtful elements like a bench in the shower.

-There are several ways to warm up a bathroom for an elderly family member. Heated floors and towel warmers are some options.

-Have the bathroom door swing outward rather than in. That way, if someone inside falls, a family member is able to notice and reach them quickly. 

What are your thoughts on universal design? Let us know on our Facebook page and on Twitter @KBBconnect.

Jun 02 2017

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The Evolving Bathroom


I wish I had a before image still of my bathroom – the change after my redesign was drastic.

After a pipe burst in my condominium complex last year, my master bath was completely destroyed. The advantage was that I could completely redesign it – and use all of the insider’s tips I’d gathered from my job.

This week’s #KBTribeChat discussed bathroom design trends, and I saw how my redesign of nine months ago is already part of a changing discussion. Trends change constantly, and we can’t update our spaces every year – but we can certainly try to keep up.

With my bath, I picked materials and finishes that were hardy and easy to clean, like porcelain wood-look tile. My father and I designed and built a freestanding, furniture-like, black vanity with a square, inset sink. My brother-in-law works for a granite company and got me a slab of white granite with subtle sparkle for the countertop. After we tore off the giant frameless mirror and installed a thinner, framed one – topped with a modern LED light – my bath was transformed. I’ve since moved to be with my husband on the West Coast, and I still miss that bathroom.

The trends I had incorporated were all a part of the discussion this past Wednesday, plus a few new ones that were just coming into play since my redesign. Here are a few I picked up on:

•    Vanities with open shelving are growing in popularity.


•    Seating is now a priority in many baths. 


•    Simpler hardware, inspired by European design, is now trending.


•    The most popular faucet finishes are still chrome and brushed nickel, but copper and matte black are growing.


•    Tile for bathroom flooring will continue to be in because it is versatile and sustainable, and it adds character.


What trends are you most excited about in the bath? Let us know on our Facebook page, on Twitter @kbbonline and Instagram @Kbb_Magazine. Join KBTribeChat next Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST by looking for #KBTribeChat on Twitter.