Subtle Asian Influence Marks Winning Design

Subtle Asian Influence Marks Winning Design

By Daina Manning

Carroll elaborates that a number of designers in the Tucson, Arizona area were invited to participate in the show house project. "You could go and view all of the rooms to see which one you wanted to work on," she recalls. "The bathroom had floral wallpaper on the walls and ceiling, Mexican tiles and very dark wood. It wasn't an inviting area. It was reaching out to me [for help]!"

"That night," she adds, "I went home andtalk about ideas flowing. I was just sketching and sketching, and it just came together."

The transformation
Carroll's resulting master suite design required her to literally start from scratch. The entire space was gutted, removing the dreaded flowered wallpaper, carpeting and mirrored doors. The square footage for the new space remained at 150 sq. ft, however.

To get the atmosphere she was looking for, Carroll used products that reflected an earthy quality. Kohler's line of fixtures in a new color, Sand Bar (a natural grayish light color) included a large basin sink. These coordinated with natural stone flooring with rust and green tones, along with a natural limestone countertop and sage green walls.

In the master bath area, branched quartzite material formed by silica compressing over the years was utilized. "Branches" or dendrites are formed by capillaries in between layers that allow water carrying minerals and elements to penetrate.

In the shower, bali stone a/k/a river rock got its smooth edges from natural tumbling by rushing water, sand and sediment. Overall, the natural materials made for a Zen-like, soothing space with a subtle Asian influence. 

The striking wall treatment was created by faux finish artist Annie Miller. Among the techniques she used was "plaster embossing," applying plaster to walls and actually writing in the wet plaster. The walls are then painted and glazed, with the glaze highlighting the embossing. 

"It's a really cool texture," says Carroll. "It's not in-your-face [faux]. It's a very subtle accent."

On the vanity walls in the bath area, another technique involves painting different patterns with a darker paint and then softly glazing over the entire wall to soften the effect, thus giving the feeling of ghosts occupying the space.

Custom designed mirrors by Rudy Hodgers of Luna Negra formed another focal point. Lighting behind the mirrors made for a floating effect, Carroll explains. The mirrors were strategically cut and set into a steel frame with an oxidized patina. The frame was then bolted into the wall, allowing for an inch-and-a-half gap for incandescent rope lighting to hide behind it. Bob Shrager of Artistic Glass & Mirrors provided the vanity mirrors and shower doors. 

The vanities in the bath used bleached lacewood veneer, produced by Jacaranda. Architectural-quality veneer was followed by layers of paper, foil and paper again, resulting in a more durable, flexible surface than ordinary wood veneer, lending itself to design elements such as curved corners.

"I had interesting metal shelves in the center, where there was quite a large storage unit," notes Carroll. This provided room for a large selection of makeup and towels. "It was wood painted with a metallic finish to break up the long distance of the basin," she adds.

In the master dressing room area, a 16-drawer dresser, increased hanging space and new shoe storage made for a beautiful and functional dressing space. 

Building on a budget
The original bathroom had a separate tub and shower area; Carroll totally ripped these out but kept the configuration. She put in new showerheads, as well as the aforementioned stone walls, a new tub and stone around the tub. Price considerations prevented extra bells and whistles such as a whirlpool bath or super-shower.

"It was a show house, so I had to pay for everything myself," she explains. So, price played a considerable role in design. "The fact that it wasn't a paying job" was the project's biggest challenge, 
Carroll admits. 

"To be able to get the subcontractors on that" in the midst of a busy schedule, working for cost, within the time constraints of the show house project, also took some doing. "I had to do a song and dance for that," quips Carroll. "But, I have great subs, and I've worked with them for a long time, so they stepped up to the plate."

Scrambling to get the room ready for the show house photo shoot was another challenge. But, in the end, the project clearly achieved its innovative, Zen-influenced aims. The conversion of the old and dated bathroom into a cutting edge contemporary master suite garnered Lori Carroll, ASID, IIDA, Lori Carroll and Associates, Tucson, AZ, the Highly Commended Award from ASID/Trends Publishing International for October 2001. This was the fourth and final deadline in this international awards program; Carroll's design will go on to compete for the overall national award.