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When in Rome

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The public nature of Roman baths and the tranquility of solitude coexistin this bathroom suite

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Open-plan houses are now an established feature of the architectural landscape. Yet, master suites have, until recently, refrained from following this fashion.

The open, crystalline nature of this 49th floor penthouse master suite, by architects Michael Gabellini and Kimberly Sheppard of Gabellini Associates, draws upon the bathing traditions of ancient Rome. It was designed to evoke the public-private dynamic of Roman public baths, which frequently occupied a central sky-lit space.

"This master bathroom is designed to enhance the senses and heighten pleasure," says Gabellini. "The space is made up of interconnected volumes that create a geometric resonance."

A bathtub, carved by Italian artisans from a single block of Yugoslavian Sivec marble, acts as the central focal point that ties the design together. The bath sits on a raised plinth, accentuating the bathing space from the bedroom. Its simple outside shape gives way to a softly curving body mould on the inside.

"The shape and proportions of the bath suggest the intimacy and simplicity of bathing," says Gabellini.

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Ovular and rectangular marble hand basins, also custom-designed in Sivec marble, aresuspended from the wall to complete the geometric and material harmony. Subtle lighting techniques such as light pools emanating from behind floating, off the wall mirrors, enhance the tranquil atmosphere.

The space is designed to encourage an open bathing experience, but privacy is provided via automated window blinds and an internal glass wall, which, at the flick of a switch, turns opaque.

"This master suite is about providing individual serenity and effortless comfort," says Gabellini.

First published date: 28 April 2006

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Credit List

Architect Michael Gabellini, FAIA, and Kimberly Sheppard, AIA, Gabellini Associates
Main contractor Bernsohn & Fetner
Carpentry and drywall Niclin Builders
Plumbing Pace Plumbing
Electrical Jet Pak Electric
Marble and ceramic installer Precision Stone
Bath, shower stall, basins, wallcoverings and floor panels Custom designed by Gabellini Associates, in honed white Sivec marble
Taps Vola custom nickel-plated with a satin finish
Lighting consultant Ross Muir, Muirreality
Lighting controls Lutron Electronics
Lighting supplier Litelab Lighting Corporation
Architectural glass and metal Zecca Mirror and Glass
Audiovisual Videosonic Systems Inc