For the Super-Rich, the Bathroom Must Have a Stunning View, Too
In every home she designs, Clodagh is known for her focus on sustainability and nature; above all, she’s uncompromising in her efforts to bring the outdoors inside. And the Irish-born interiors expert (yes, she goes by one name only) believes there’s one room in which such connections with nature are more impactful than anywhere else in a home. “I always suggest designing bathrooms with a view,” she told us by phone from her office in New York. “That’s a room, remember, that used to be called a water closet, because it was so tucked away. But you spend eight or 10 hours in there a week, and it’s one of the places where you can refresh, renew and get natural light. The skin is the largest organ on your body, and taking in natural light is very propitious for health and wellness.”
In Clodagh’s own home offers a view of the outdoors from every amenity, be it tub, sauna, shower, or toilet; for clients, she finds ingenious ways to provide a view, such as a skylight so “you can lie in the tub and look at the sky.” Recently, she even insisted on blasting a large hole in the load-bearing exterior wall of a client’s house in Miami, giving the rain shower a view over the inland waterway. “I’m not nicknamed the Demolition Queen for nothing,” she laughed.
Clodagh isn’t alone. Increasingly, whether in luxury developments or private homes, the design and location of a bathroom is no longer an afterthought. What was once a handy way to maximize dead square footage that remained after the rest of the living space was mapped out has become a stand-alone selling point. High-end developments now place bathrooms in prime locations, where they can enjoy maximum light and the best-possible views.
The Sky as Bathroom Decor
The wet rooms in Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Ave. in New York, for example—heavily featured on Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Listing—have huge, picture-frame inspired windows that, quite literally, turn the views of the city into wall art. Converting the 1929 Walker Tower into contemporary condos included expanding the windows and installing a huge tub in front of the south-facing views, while the poured concrete tubs in John Pawson and Ian Schrager’s 215 Chrystie St. are also positioned to overlook the best aspects—in this case, the Chrysler Building. The wet rooms in Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Ave. are enormous, with almost an entire wall of glass where the vanities sit. “Even today, Viñoly will tell me it’s his favorite bathroom in the city,” explained Roy Kim, who worked on the project and is now chief creative officer at Elliman, by phone from Milan.
Likewise, when developer Kevin Maloney began master-planning his new Cary Tamarkin-helmed tower in Soho, 10 Sullivan, one of his first considerations was where to put the master bathroom. “In all the full-floor units of the building, it looks north, so that when you’re soaking in the tub, there’s the Empire State Building,” Maloney said by phone from a construction site in Miami. “A buyer walks in, and every time they see that, they’ll say, ‘Wow.’”
It isn’t just New York buyers tub-thumping for bathroom vistas, though. In Miami's Oceana Bal Harbour, designed by local starchitect Bernardo Fort-Brescia, each of the 240 units has bathrooms placed specifically to capture views of the Atlantic Ocean or of the Miami skyline.
Wet rooms first began morphing to flashy perches around a decade ago, when Gwathmey Siegel’s Sculpture for Living building appeared on New York’s Astor Place, according to Corcoran superbroker Julie Pham. Bathrooms with huge windows and stunning views, such as those in that development, weren’t instant hits, though; Gwathmey Siegel’s building famously struggled to attract tenants, in large part due to some of the goldfish bowl-like atmosphere its window-heavy design created. Pham says such concerns are rarely raised now, especially on any apartment with a price tag higher than $10 million.
“The bathtub in front of a picturesque window? It’s become iconic for the uber-wealthy,” she explained by phone from her office in New York. “A bathroom with a view catapults you to the super-luxury caliber, not just the everyday luxury class.”
A Spa in Your Own Home
Elliman’s Roy Kim believes an additional factor has contributed: the nesting instinct that’s become more prominent since futurist Faith Popcorn first coined the concept of "cocooning" in the 1980s. (See also: Netflix-and-chill) “People want to be comforted, to have a spa-like experience in their own home. I call it super-cocooning,” Kim noted.
Consider, too, the influence of hospitality design, which often now provides touchstones for high-end real estate. The Signature Room at the John Hancock Center in Chicago, for example, is renowned as much for the views from the women’s restroom as for its menu, while New York’s Standard Hotel was an exhibitionist’s haven in the Meatpacking District. Bathrooms in its rooftop bar were fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the city, curtain free—until waist-high screens were added three years after it opened. Such screens are recommended for many glass-fronted bathrooms, though some developments opt for a more high tech solution. See the late Zaha Hadid’s building in the west of New York’s Chelsea, for example: Its glass-encased bathrooms are fitted by Innovative Glass with smart walls that frost to opaque at the flip of a switch.
The Next Step?
Perhaps such steps are unnecessary, though. It’s no coincidence that as privacy becomes less and less important (or even possible), exhibitionist bathrooms that offer views for both residents and neighbors are likely to become even more common. Not every buyer will be quite bold enough to embrace the layout at 737 Park Ave., though. The condos in this 1940s conversion feature bathrooms with an unexpected view: so-called dueling toilets—cisterns placed directly across from each other, so there’s no need to leave your significant other’s company for even a moment. It’s certainly a bathroom with a view, if not one that will appeal to everyone.