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Bathroom of the Week: A Japanese-Style Bath in London, Greenery Included

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Bathroom of the Week: A Japanese-Style Bath in London, Greenery Included

April 21, 2017

London architect Simon Astridge is a master of materials. He gravitates to simple luxury and has a razor-sharp focus: A sampling of his projects have been dubbed, for instance, the Plywood HouseThe Pink House, and The Clay House. The latter, it turns out, belongs to Astridge himself and his wife, Taeko, who works in finance and whose Tokyo upbringing influenced many of the design decisions.

Set in a formerly crumbling North London townhouse, their duplex apartment now has walls finished in luminous layers of clay plaster known as arakabe and bedrooms and a hall with tatami-style carpeting. It leads to the most Japanese design of all: a two-room wet and dry “bathing zone” that Astridge tailored to Taeko’s requests, jungle of hanging plants included.

Photography by Nicholas Worley, courtesy of Simon Astridge Architecture Workshop.

Fumed oak paneling lines the outer room not only on the walls but also the floor and ceiling. The space is divided from the bathing area by a steel-framed tempered glass screen.
Above: Fumed oak paneling lines the outer room not only on the walls but also the floor and ceiling. The space is divided from the bathing area by a steel-framed tempered glass screen.

“The design is based on the Japanese way to bathe,” explains Astridge. “You move from the public-zone tatami threshold into the private undressing/dressing timber threshold, and then into the bathing and washing stone threshold.” Situated in what had been the kitchen, the two rooms occupy a total of 140 square feet.

The custom sink is made of mild steel that will weather with use and develop a wabi-sabi appeal. Astridge sees it as &#8
Above: The custom sink is made of mild steel that will weather with use and develop a wabi-sabi appeal. Astridge sees it as “a reminder of the terror of time,” something he points out “that is not present within pristine, white-tiled bathrooms.”

Shelves in the steel vanity hold toiletries as does the flush medicine cabinet inserted into the wall paneling over the sink. The cabinet has a touch-latch door with a mirror on the inside. Astridge found the brass faucets at an “old-school hardware shop” in Braga, Portugal, and uses what he calls “a plumber’s fixing hook” on the back of the door (not shown) for hanging towels. For more of his inventive uses of plumbing parts, see A Tiny Plywood Kitchen with DIY Brass Hardware.

 Astridge sourced the fumed oak from AH Peck LTD, and the steel-framed glass wall with inset door was made by the venerable UK company Crittall—for details, see Hardscaping data-src=
Above: Astridge sourced the fumed oak from AH Peck LTD, and the steel-framed glass wall with inset door was made by the venerable UK company Crittall—for details, see Hardscaping 101: Steel Factory-Style Windows and Doors.
To &#8
Above: To “provide thermal comfort while undressing,” the space is heated by traditional Victorian matte black radiators.

The toilet is “purposefully separated from the bathing zone” in a small room between the apartment’s two bedrooms.

Ferns, succulents, and other moisture-loving plants hang from the existing ceiling joists in the inner sanctum. Explain Astridge, &#8
Above: Ferns, succulents, and other moisture-loving plants hang from the existing ceiling joists in the inner sanctum. Explain Astridge, “The idea was to bring the outdoors in and make the space feel relaxing.”

The walls and floor are lined in stone-like gray porcelain tiles from Pentagon Tiles, and the shower ceiling rises into the plywood-paneled eaves of the roof above.

Refined meets rustic: the matte black Shower Mixers are from Vola and the brass bath taps are another score from a hardware store in Braga, Portugal: &#8
Above: Refined meets rustic: the matte black Shower Mixers are from Vola and the brass bath taps are another score from a hardware store in Braga, Portugal: “They’re very one-off but high quality,” says Astridge.
For help selecting the plants, the couple worked with garden designer Patrick Featherstone, who directed them to tropical varieties that thrive in humidity and mid- to low-level light. The results? &#8
Above: For help selecting the plants, the couple worked with garden designer Patrick Featherstone, who directed them to tropical varieties that thrive in humidity and mid- to low-level light. The results? “You feel like you’re in your own oasis,” says Astridge.

Create your own bathroom rain forest: Drape a few sprigs of eucalyptus over your shower for an instant spa effect. Here are some other Gardenista tips:

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