October 7, 2009

No, this master bath in Port St. Lucie, FL, is not part of a LEED-certified house, nor does it necessarily feature all of the latest in green products. But its blend of eco-conscious style, spa-like comfort and aging-in-place convenience elegantly demonstrates what can be achieved with a little client education. According to designer Susan Cozzi, of Susan Cozzi Design Studio Inc, who has been incorporating sustainable features into her projects for more than a decade, persuading her client, a then 58-year-old Boomer, to go green required some guidance and deft inculcation. Being educated, “with a masters in food and agricultural science,” the client “understood the value” of opting for eco-friendly products, Cozzi noted. In the end, however, “the impetus for him was that he saw the
upgrade of his home as producing long-term energy savings, because he plans on remaining there for his remaining years.”

The bath was but one stage in a three-year, multi-phase project that renovated the interior and exterior of the client’s 2,500-sq.-ft. home, as well as its landscaping. Because the house was built in 1985, Cozzi kept the look contemporary and, where the client was amenable, specified a variety of green alternatives, such as low-VOC paints, concrete flooring, furniture made of reclaimed wood and paper carpeting. To make her case, all were presented to the client as “design features that were healthful for living in the space,” said Cozzi. Some suggestions, however, did not make the cut. “As far-reaching as he was willing to go, I wasn’t able to convince him on the solar panels when we did the roof,” she said. Instead, they settled on metal roofing, which “is a great energy saver in Florida, as well as a green product.” For the garden, Cozzi collaborated closely with a Japanese landscape architect to create a series of outdoor vignettes that would translate into “postcard snapshots” when viewed from the home’s windows, including those in the master suite.

The Japanese-themed garden responds to the client’s request for a “European-Asian-modern” aesthetic, which, though somewhat cryptic in
its description, Cozzi successfully infused into the home’s interiors. In the master suite, the convergence of influences has been interpreted
as a minimalist composition of natural materials, soft-white finishes, black accents and free-flowing space. To save on cost, Cozzi made few
changes to the placement of the plumbing fixtures, but removed several doors to create openness in the 155 1/2-sq.-ft. master bath, as well as
the adjoining bedroom. “The existing suite was a rabbit warren,” she said, with two doors in the master bedroom, three doors for the walk-in
closet and still three more to compartmentalize the different areas of the bathroom and separate it from the rest of the suite. Many of these were eliminated, but Cozzi did add a pocket door to closet off the toilet room.

Newly doorless, a decorative wall serves as the sole divider between the bedroom and the bath. Paneled on the bathroom side and painted a
warm white, it features a sculpted ripple pattern that is grazed with light for subtle drama. According to Cozzi, the paneling is eco-friendly, consisting of 100-percent-recycled wood fiber, and can contribute to LEED certification. For continuity, she asked that the manufacturer apply to it the same low-VOC paint used on the other walls.

Offsetting the walls with its honeyed tones and discreet graining, the floor is paved with rapidly renewable bamboo, which was chosen not only for its “greenness,” but also for its ability to withstand Florida’s humid climate. As Cozzi noted, the client “uses air-conditioning about two months out of the year and opens his windows 98 percent of the time, so it’s very humid in the house.” Next to the windows, a large freestanding tub sports a matching bamboo deck—a custom order—to better integrate it into the overall design.

Other earth-friendly elements in the space include a low-flow toilet, recycled vinyl floor mats and halogen lighting that is zoned for flexibility and controlled by a simple system of three dimmers. The new halogen fixtures are part of a larger overhaul of the home’s existing lighting, which was “very bare-boned,” said Cozzi. “When I proposed the lighting plan, the client was afraid that his electric bill would increase, but that has not been
the case at all.” For additional savings, she has already informed her client that, if so desired, some of the sources can be replaced with LEDs. As to fluorescent lamps, which are also an energy-efficient option, Cozzi refuses to use them because of their mercury content.

Although Cozzi admits to being unclear about the sustainability of the vanity cabinetry, its installation and design were conceived to allow the client to age more comfortably in his home. And while the client does live alone, a double unit was selected to preserve resale value. “One of the truisms of resale is that master baths require double vanities,” Cozzi said. “I told him, ‘Down the road, let’s not close off your children’s profits.'” Currently, the vanity contains an opening to accommodate a wheelchair, but if greater access is needed in the future, the entire unit, which is attached to the wall, can be easily taken out, as can a basin of black river rock located beneath it on the floor. According to Cozzi, “The floor under the basin is completely finished.” And for visual interest, light fixtures, mounted under the vanity, can be switched on to illuminate the rocks.

River rock also appears in twin vertical bands that delineate the shower area and lines the shower floor for comfort underfoot during bathing. The shower is equipped with a ceiling-mounted rain showerhead and handshower, and its lip was lowered to less than the standard 3- to 4-in. height in
another nod to ensure aging-in-place convenience. Similarly, the doorway to the toilet room was widened from 26 in. to 36 in.

As to be expected, “Other aspects of the house were designed with aging-in-place in mind as well,” Cozzi said. The other two bathrooms, for example, also have easily detachable vanities and the bedroom has been configured to accommodate a wheelchair on one side. Naturally, as
is the case with its green elements, this home may not be equipped with all of the accessible features one might see in, say, a show house. However, with more Baby Boomers entering their 60s and beyond, and given the continued push for eco-sensitive design, that it incorporates
both trends attractively and effortlessly seems to speak directly to the shape of things to come.

Designer: Susan Cozzi—Susan Cozzi Design Studio Inc, Boca Raton, FL; www.scdsinc.spaces.live.com
Manufacturers: Vanity and countertop: Lacava; Tub, toilet and bidet: Lacava (with Grohe flushing system); Shower fittings: Dornbracht; Wall paneling: Interlam; Lighting: Kreon USA, Moooi (pendant); Bath accessories: Dornbracht
Photography: © Michiko Kurisu

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