Some Washington area homes are becoming centers of a new wave of hedonism, at least if the lavish baths and kitchens being installed these days are any indication. A refreshing dip in the Jacuzzi after a jog around the park used to be reserved for those who could afford a health club membership. Today, a whirlpool bath in the home isn't uncommon. The bathroom is no longer a space that can be described as "1/2" or simply ignored in a real estate listing.
Next to the other important room in the house devoted to bodies -- the kitchen -- bathrooms have become the most popular place to lavish money for the latest in gadgets and equipment.
For those who want to bring the feeling of the outdoors inside, Kohler, a leading manufacturer of designer equipment and bathroom wizardry, has come up with an incredible "environmental enclosure." You open sliding glass doors and climb into a rectangular box built into the wall of your bath. Then, with a flick of a switch, you turn on your own "baja sun," cause "spring showers" or "tropic rain" to fall, or warm "Chinook winds" to dry you. There are two models: "habitat," which runs about $8,300 without installation, and "environment," a mere $18,350 without installation, but including all options. And you can program the unit ahead of your experience and simply sit and listen to your wired-in stereo music.
For those with more humble tastes, the latest in master bathrooms calls for a bath and shower, a toilet and bidet, and multiple sinks set in "vanities" or cabinet work -- in all, a room designed for pampering.
"In Europe the master bath is an important room. Today, in luxury homes, it has become an extension of the master bedroom suite," says Washington deluxe homebuilder Buck Hazzah. The 14-by-16-foot, parchment-colored all-marble bath pictured on these pages was built by Hazzah in Northwest Washington for about $10,000. The quiet elegance is reinforced by a custom all-marble sunken tub and solid brass fixtures.
Hazzah enjoys creating such opulent centers of luxury using only the finest fixtures, including those of New York bathroom designer Sherle Wagner. Wagner has managed to create a market for extraordinarily exotic fixtures such as malachite faucets, tiger-eye sinks, onyx tubs or porcelain sink bowls and toilets with delicate floral patterns. Wagner's designer lines are handled by Union Hardware in this area. The Kohler line is carried by Thomas Somerville Co. and others. For those who prefer the Italian look, Hastings has introduced a line called the "il bagno collection," carried in Washington by the Tile Gallery on Capitol Hill.
One of the area's most lavish baths is tucked into an addition in a Poolesville farmhouse. The room measures 20-by-14 feet and includes an 8-foot-square bathtub, his and hers sinks and toilets, a shower, a fireplace and a couple of oriental carpets. The bath is so large that Kohler provides two faucets just to fill it. Says owner Jane Queen of her special bathroom, "I just decided I wanted to build something very special that had everything . . . "
For real estate entrepeneur and agent Barbara Rothenberg, a resident of Logan Circle, setting aside one of her 14 rooms for the bath was no problem at all. "I saw a photograph of this red Kohler tub in a magazine, and I knew I had to have it," Rothenberg says. The tub sits in the middle of a room just off the master bedroom. An antique washstand against the wall discreetly obscures a pink Kohler sink. The room is made all the more fanciful by the placement of the tub in the middle of the room in front of a working fireplace. Faux bamboo costumers and Rothenberg's collection of fans, hats and lace pillows makes the pink room feminine. Around the corner she has outfitted the old, more conventional bath with a fiberglass shower with a built-in seat, a toilet and a bidet.
The all-black marble bath designed by Mary Douglas Drysdale for a client in The Carthage at Kalorama Circle is in stark contrast to Rothenberg's room. It features a sunken whirlpool tub with a view of the National Cathedral in the distance. The effect is understated elegance without the clutter that so often accompanies a bathroom.