The allure of Asian-style design in American homes has existed for some time. In the bathroom, homeowners have come to appreciate its calming atmosphere, warm colors, clean design and sense of serenity.
Hawthorn Woods residents Jeri Alles Hanley and David Hanley spent most of their 30-year careers in Asia, where their love of the design blossomed. Their 3,000-square-foot home is deceiving from the outside, where its design is thoroughly all-American. But step inside and you will feel as if you have been transported to points Far East.
"We knew exactly what we wanted when we decided to remodel our master bathroom," said Jeri. "My husband and I are both airline pilots and former Federal Department of Aviation flight instructors. We lived and traveled extensively throughout the Orient and learned to appreciate the variety of cultures. Our Hawthorn Woods home was overdue for some updating so we decided to begin with remodeling the master bath. There was really no debate about design because David and I both wanted that Asian look."
Once the decision to remodel was made, the Hanleys turned to David Kunzweiler, partner in Cabinets Plus of Palatine, to handle the project. They brought photos of Asian-style baths they had clipped from magazines to their first meeting with Kunzweiler.
"We have noticed a growing interest in the demand for Asian-style design. Fortunately, so have the manufacturers of kitchen and bath products. Now we have a large variety of cabinetry, tile and other materials to choose from," said Kunzweiler.
One example of Asian style in the Hanleys new bathroom is the simulated rice paper design of the porcelain floor tiles. Another are the faucets, cabinet hardware and towel holders in a "South Sea" design that imitates bamboo stalks. The cherry wood cabinets feature a dark "espresso" finish that contrasts nicely with the pale wall colors and are topped with Asian-inspired hardware.
The finishing touch is the custom fretwork in a distinctly Asian pattern that adorns the tub surround and the custom mirror. Jeri added her own design touches including the wall art from Polynesia and the hand-carved elephant from India.
Phil and Denise Giuntoli of Palatine are also admirers of Asian design. Both practice yoga and Phil built a meditation room in his basement. When the couple decided to remodel their master bath, the call went into Melissa Wilson, a certified bath designer with Cabinets Plus, who had designed the couple's remodeled kitchen.
Wilson removed two closets and a wall and added a skylight to convert the 130-square-foot room into a Japanese-style sanctuary that was brighter and felt larger than before.
"The view into the bathroom from the master bedroom was very important. By angling the vanity wall, the multiple cabinet depths and curve of the countertop could be better appreciated and draw you into the space," Wilson said. "Phil and Denise love beautiful things and insist on feeling comfortable and pampered in their home. I believe we met their desires with this new master bathroom."
The Japanese influence is evident throughout the room. Walls are painted in shades of green and blue, meant to imitate the colors of the sea. Mouser brand cabinets of alder wood are finished with a natural stain. The tall storage cabinet provides essential space for towels and other bath necessities. Mouser also provided the floating shelves that feature no visible wall brackets. The double-vessel sinks and wall-mounted faucets blend nicely with the glass tile backsplash and Silestone counter top.
Limestone tiles line the walls inside the frameless glass shower enclosure, while custom-made sliced pebbles, sanded and polished smooth, make up the shower base.
A glass block wall provides privacy for the fully-contained Kohler hatbox commode without reducing natural light. The towel rack and tile floor are heated for comfort. Potted plants in the room allowed the Giuntolis, avid gardeners, to highlight the room's use of all-natural materials.
While Asian-style design remains popular in Western culture, most designers don't believe it is a dominant trend. However, many of the elements used in today's homes are influenced by Asian-style design that embraces nature and all of its beauty.
• Contributed by David Lewis, Levinson Communications International.