August 25, 2017
The Chinese Zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle, and each year in that cycle is related to a different animal. The Year of the Monkey, which took place last year, is said to be a particularly fortunate year in which to be born. Designers Shelley Cahan of San Francisco-based Shelley & Co. Interior Design and Dina Bandman of San Francisco-based Dina Bandman Interiors were charged with creating a standout powder room in a historic showhouse, and this Chinese Zodiac was their muse.
“Designing a memorable space that would capture the attention of attendees and leave a lasting impression was of utmost importance,” said the two designers, explaining that the bathroom was designed for the 2016 San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase.
The Illusion of Space
The showcase took place at the exquisite Villa de Martini, a 6,100-sq.-ft. home built in 1929 with panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. The room the design team was given was on the lower mezzanine level of the three-story home.
“It was a unique floor that we believe was once servants quarters or perhaps used for visiting guests or in-laws,” said Cahan. “As it was not part of the main entertaining or living area of the home, the architectural details throughout the rooms on this floor were lacking.”
Originally, this powder room was dark and closed off. To bring in more light and sophistication, the designers demolished the room down to the studs and started over with a blank slate. A more modern layout, which was designed using AutoCAD, created enough open space for a vanity, toilet, shower and a small linen cabinet.
“Because this was a smaller bathroom, there was very little margin for error and everything needed to be accurately proportioned and measured to fit,” said Bandman. “Being able to plot everything into AutoCAD helped us determine the precise dimensions of each element before it was ordered and installed.”
Features they chose to make the space appear larger include a floating wall-hung sink instead of a sink cabinet or full vanity. The niche next to the shower holds a low cabinet instead of a traditional linen closet, and the wall behind the sink is covered with mirrored tile to reflect the natural light from the window.
Turning a Zodiac into a Room
Both designers felt referring to this Chinese Zodiac, which often is associated with wealth, would be appropriate in a luxurious home design. Elements from the Year of the Monkey include white, gold and blue colors and chrysanthemum and allium flowers.
The most obvious allusion to this Zodiac is the de Gournay wallcovering. This playful pattern features monkeys and white and gold orbs on a blue background and is completely custom; each monkey is individually hand painted and each has a different facial expression. The wallpaper is also lacquered with an extra shiny coat to add extra impact.
“Finally, when creating an opulent bathroom, nothing is more so than 24-carat gold,” said Bandman, referring to the gold in the gold orbs. “We knew this gold detailing was an extra enhancement de Gournay offered, and we wanted this bathroom to have that extra punch.”
The lightheartedness of the wallpaper lent itself to other whimsical additions in the room, including an Art Deco marble floor, a hand-painted geometric ceiling, a Lucian Freud painting above the toilet and one fun addition in the shower.
“Because it was a showcase room, we installed a totally impractical but amazing light fixture in the shower to represent the water that could be coming down from the showerhead,” said Cahan.
Juxtaposing Modern with Eclectic
The elaborate wallcoverings are a more traditional backdrop in the room, so the design team had to incorporate the right contemporary elements to balance the space. To contrast the fun light fixture, the shower includes simpler, glamorous elements like white marble with golden veins. A floating vanity also provides a clean-lined look against a backdrop of mirrored tile and pairs with tilted sconces to add dimension to the room.
“The homeowner was a fan of clean, modern design,” said Bandman. “We wanted to appeal to the owners’ desire but also create a nice transition from the more traditional and formal wallcovering, so we chose a vanity design that was simple but more aesthetically modern.”
Some of the most modern elements are not obvious. Both the toilet and showerhead are low-flow to comply with California’s water regulations. A high-efficiency toilet features a low-profile silhouette but is also estimated to save up to 16,500 gallons of water per year. Energy-saving dimmers were also installed to conserve electricity.
“The Chinese traditional belief is that the Year of the Monkey brings love, luck and money,” said Cahan. “We wanted our bathroom to provide the experience of being surrounded by those elements.”
Designer: Shelley Cahan, Shelley and Co. Interior Design & Dina Bandman, Dina Bandman Interiors
Photographers: Peter Medelik & Julia Sperling
Floor Tile: Artistic Tile
Mirrored Tile: Artistic Tile
Sconces: Urban Electric
Shower Tile: Artistic Tile
Wallcoverings: de Gournay