Powder Rooms

I’ve been talking about bathrooms in my recent posts and about bathrooms I’ve created that are private retreats. I now want to show you rooms that are retreats for your guests.

The Powder Room
The term ‘powder room’ seems to have originated in the late 19th century; certainly by the beginning of the 20th well-groomed women were routinely using face powder. The powder room was always intended for guests-lady guests-rather than for use by the household. A powder room is a room in a home not designed for you or your family at all, but a small retreat, where your guests can have their private space even for a short while, where they can revive, retouch, make themselves ready for whatever, you the host, have planned for them.

I’m going to show you three powder rooms that I loved creating for my clients. Each one reflects the design scheme of each of the three very different homes I created for these three clients – little jewel boxes, microcosms of the sensibility of the rest of the apartment. They do have some things in common though. Since powder rooms are small and don’t typically have tubs or showers I was able to use unusual materials and special finishes. Each powder room has its own ventilation, and is sound-proof to ensure true privacy. And, I employed a few tricks which you can see in the photos. To gain more space, I placed the faucets so they’d come directly out of the wall. This pushes the sink closer to the wall to make more floor area. Floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls create the illusion of more space.

Tribeca Triplex [click here to see entire project]
The apartment has terraces and rooms that open to the garden; the owners also wanted to bring the sense of nature indoors. I used earth tones and nature-inspired materials and colors throughout, and in this little powder room too. A narrow, three-foot-wide room looked larger when I placed a floor-to-ceiling mirror all along the back wall. A second mirror behind the sink and across the ceiling creates a window and skylight effect in the small, enclosed room. Copper mosaic tiles create a warm, soft, nature-inspired backdrop. A floating iridescent glass hand-cut rough-edged shelf is also biomorphic in its shape. The eye is drawn to the sculptured metal stand in the shelf’s center where a vase of flowers would most beautifully finish the natural setting.


East 53rd Street Pied-a-terre [click here to see entire project]
The powder room in this art deco apartment was so small originally, that one had to squeeze between the toilet and the the sink’s counter in order to even close the door. Here I used the trick of mounting the faucet so it comes out directly from the wall. This is a great way to gain more space in a narrow room, allowing the sink to be closer to the wall. The sink itself, a sexy black glass oval, is mounted on a 15-inch-deep counter which gave us a foot of much-needed space. A custom diagonal marble floor widens the floor visually. The walls’ special stipple painted finish creates a sense of depth and movement. Black trim around the ceiling frames the space and extends the crisp art deco theme of the apartment itself. This powder room is also practical; the cabinet fronts in this powder room are a custom-made resin material-not wood-which cleans easily and texturally supports the design ethos of the apartment.


Upper West Side Duplex[click here to see entire project]
Again I ‘enlarged’ the tiny room in this duplex with a floor-to-ceiling mirror. Here, the beautiful, high-end materials create a feeling of openness and fluidity. The floor is a single slab of onyx with waves of color in the stone. The hand-blown glass sink echoes the tones and softness of the onyx; the rustic sink bracket picks up the rust hues in the floor. The glass tiles on the perimeter give the sensibility of floating water around the onyx. The glass tiles on the wall are installed vertically to elongate the walls and make the ceiling feel higher. Floating-yes, again-the clear glass shelf within the mirror reinforces the open feeling. The shelf allows guests to put down their things, so it becomes also a practical finish to this elegant space. Finally I centered the light source directly over the sink so it glows. A little gem in my opinion…
Detail of Onyx Floor with glass tile surround
Detail of hand blown glass sink
And finally… a beautifully-designed powder room, however, isn’t beautiful if it isn’t also useful and comfortable. A few parting thoughts; make sure it’s stocked with new soaps, hand lotion, plenty of towels, tissues, and other minor necessities. I was at a party recently _ the hostess had so many guests she used neatly-folded washcloths in a basket to provide enough single towels for each guest to wash up. And, cleverly, she placed a basket on the floor for the used ones. Flowers, especially scented ones, are a lovely addition. Remember, you invited your guests because they are special to you, and the powder room is the place to start. I’ll be talking more on guests and guest rooms in my upcoming post.