design as a performing art

June 2016 Newsletter

how design happens

Being a creative process, architectural design evolves from intuition, artistry, experiences, and most of all a shared discovery between the designer and the client. Sometimes, a client would come to building Lab with a pretty detailed vision. Very often, he or she would start with a vague idea: about something not working in their existing floor plan, or a wish to open up the space. In this edition, we chat with bL's senior designer Hideaki (Hide) Kawato to get more insights about how a modest request blossomed into a treetop retreat for grownups.

floor plan as the plot line

The client, a venture capitalist, art collector, world traveller and sportsman, approached us about a new powder room for the top story of his family residence on the north slope of Russian Hill, an exclusive neighborhood of colorful old buildings, some dating back to the 19th century. The existing master bedroom, a small office, and adjacent family room and sitting room all shared one dark and cramped bathroom located at the center of this floor. The family room and sitting room, with panoramic bay and city views, were used frequently as entertainment space for grownup friends. The teenage children have their own venues in other parts of this large residence.

Hide recalls that at first glance, the simplest solution would have been adding a powder room by enclosing a small roof deck off directly from the family room. Upon further investigation and discussion, it became clear that a much better aesthetic and functional outcome could be achieved by reorganizing the floor plan. Our design team (Stephen and Hide working closely together) carved out a part from the old bath to make a new powder room accessible from the hallway and main stairs. The remaining part of the old bath is combined with the enclosed roof deck to create an en-suite master bath with an adjoining dressing area.

glimpses and bounces: playing the light like music

Hide and Stephen got quite a bit of inspiration and cues from the site and the client himself. The floor-to-ceiling entryway is in keeping with the grand scale of the residence. The play with the variegated light in the foliage creates an indoor/outdoor shower experience. Blue sky and lush trees are visible from the shower through a large picture window, while light filtered by the greenery splashes over the counter through a long, low view window. A new skylight straddles the master bath and the powder room. Transom glass around the perimeter of the powder room allows glimpses of light bouncing through both the bath and the powder room as well as the new dressing area.

materials and details are the main actors

White walls form a quiet backdrop for the bold modern art and rich teak cabinetry. An 8-foot-long custom concrete countertop with integrated dual sinks anchors the space with its earth tone and sculptural feel. Handmade tiles add to the room’s warmth with their natural color variations and pleasant tactile quality. Our partner Jeff King & Co did a fantastic job in building and fabricating. Custom details such as cabinets with no visible pulls (touch latch), sliding glass doors with tracks that disappear into the ceiling and a handle carved directly into the sandblasted glass allow the materials to speak for themselves. See more photos...

taking a shower is a heightened experience

From a simple idea of adding a powder room to reorganizing the entire top floor as a retreat and entertainment area for grownups, our design team worked closely with our client every step of the way. Indeed, the selected color palette and materials had a lot to do with the client's preferences. Without the benefit of a big view, the master bath is now a private oasis nestled in the trees.

best of east and west

Hide's passion is to help clients to realize their visions in creating custom modern homes that elevate everyday activities to special experiences.

He credits his early interest in architecture to his having an engineer father and a Martha Stewart inspired mother. Growing up in Japan, he also developed a deep appreciation for simplicity, beauty, and nature. These instincts were further enriched by his experience of indoor/outdoor living in an Eichler home after moving to California. After college, Hide did a stint in traditional design/build, wearing a tool belt on job sites during the day, and designing on the computer at night. He joined bL's modern and design focused practice in 2008 and the rest is history.
Photo captions L - R 
1. View of master bath from dressing area  
2. Bold modern art sets the tone   3. Skylight straddles both bathrooms; transom glass allows glimses of light bouncing through the rooms
4. Entryway with concealed pocket door   5. Powder room
6. Before: old bathroom with no views or light  7. Close up

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stephen and taya at home 

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