Open-Door Policy

By staff June 1, 2002

Steven and Sharon Katzman comprise one of Sarasota's most design-conscious couples. He's a photographer whose work, whether it's about tent revivals or prizefighters, shows a fascination with light, dimension and space. She owns Ioptics, where fashionable customers come to find eyeglasses that mesh function, structure and beauty. The couple collects art, spends vacations in galleries around the world and studies the work of international designers. So when it came time to update their master bathroom, they mustered every creative resource to transform an ignoble 8-by-10 space into something more than a place to put their toothbrushes.

"The old bathroom was pedestrian, featuring traditional fixtures, two sinks, a shower and marble that had become stained and required a great deal of maintenance," says Katzman. "We're not high-maintenance people, and my wife really wanted a bathtub. We also wanted something visually interesting."

To effect a more expansive feel, the Katzmans stripped out every fixture and removed the bathroom door forever. "The fewer doors you

have to close-in life as well as the bathroom-the better," says Katzman. "Besides, Sharon and I are about being open. This house is our personal space and the design is directed inward. And there are space issues. We don't have 12,000 square feet. Eliminating doors gives a certain flow, a loft-like feeling. It seems beautifully basic."

Pipes were replumbed from 2 to 3/4 inch to increase water pressure. One wall was moved back 2 feet and stopped 3 feet below the ceiling, visually connecting the space to the master bedroom and eliminating an oppressive low bathroom overhead. A steam shower boxed with clear glass seems suspended in the room, displacing nothing, as the line of sight looks right through the walls.

"Sharon and I love natural materials and, fortunately, we found exciting products right here at home," says Katzman. "Five years ago, it would have been impossible to complete this project without ordering from California or New York."

They turned the floor into a riverbed, using tumbled granite stones set in pewter-colored mortar. Chinese silver slate tiles polished to a dull gleam cover the walls in cool, slippery smoothness. Twinkling 1-inch tiles surrounding shower and tub are actually sliced squares of glass that catch the light and reflect it back in a changing tapestry of brilliance and hue. As natural light pours through a large casement window, colors in the bathroom illuminate and dim, imbuing the space with a sense of energy and movement. More than 30 miniature star lights set in a ceiling of Santa Fe blue fade up or down at the touch of a switch, offering full illumination or a soft glow. "I saw these at a store called Light Up Your Life, and that was it," says Katzman. "Moritz [the co-owner] came out with his laser pointer and made a template and then came back to the job himself to ensure perfect placement."

Ordinary bathroom equipment became sculptures in gleaming white, thanks to Philippe Starck's designs for Duravit. The toilet and bidet are elevated off the floor, and a pedestal sink features a perfect porcelain circle balanced on four square legs. The elegant, oblong bathtub is suspended off the floor on four wooden pedestals, fulfilling the Katzmans' desire for clean lines and balanced form.

"I've always been interested in Starck, first taking notice of his work when he was designing for hotels," says Katzman. "I own some of his pieces, including two very good black chairs, and Sharon actually met him at an optical show. He's had a huge influence on optical design." Starck's Y-shaped minimalist fixtures, which the Katzmans used in the bathroom, are finished in high-grade chrome and were reportedly inspired by forks in a river. His bathtub faucet is a slender chrome wand that stands alone in a vertical support. All were manufactured by Axor and installed by Mark Brown of Aqua Plumbing.

Wall hangings include a glass mirrored cabinet with Art Deco detailing and lighting that illuminates the face from in front rather than overhead. "Who wants overhead lighting casting shadows on your face and putting bags under your eyes when you look in the mirror?" asks Katzman. An Italian-made Kartell cupboard of frosted synthetic drawers and chrome trim is wall-mounted.

The couple still hasn't settled on window treatments. One option is a shade fashioned of natural reeds. The other is a metallic screen-like fabric lined with silk. Katzman is leaning toward the screen because it seems a bit more over the top.

"We really believe that you should go into decorating with a sense of adventure," he says. "This bathroom took about four months of intensive effort and created an incredible mess. We had to move out of the bedroom, but we feel it was worth it. So many people take their living space too seriously and are terrified of making a mistake. Take a chance. Allow your home to say something about you." 

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