Karen Bengel’s client didn’t just want his primary bathroom equipped as a spa. He wanted a separate, dedicated spa in his new Arlington condominium. After purchasing and combining two adjacent units in the building, he already had two bathrooms in his home. So the spa—configured from what would have been a kitchen in one of the units—developed “as a refuge, a place to really relax and just shed the tensions of life,” says Bengel.
The space, fully open to an exterior wall of windows, was a bit unconventional for a spa. But an automated system of shades provides ample privacy when needed. Bengel proposed a material palette that celebrates nature. “The walls are black slate and the floors are silver travertine. The travertine is just simply gorgeous,” Bengel says. To add contrast to the stone surfaces, she employed wood accents on the custom-designed, stained-beech vanity and on the base of the BainUltra tub, which accommodates two.
In the true spirit of a spa, the tub is equipped with air jets and heated backrests; the floors are also heated. The walls of slate wrap around the tub and enclose a separate shower area. Organic shapes play off one another, from the curves of the tub to the semi-recessed sink that is cradled by the wooden vanity.
Bengel also designed a thorough lighting plan for the space. Above the tub, a line of recessed lights accentuates the texture of the slate below. Three ceiling-mounted fixtures provide ambient light, while a pendant with a frosted-glass shade floats over the vanity. Each set of fixtures is controlled by an individual dimmer, providing infinite mood combinations. The medicine cabinet door, when open, has a mirror inside for ease of use in front of the vanity.
To Bengel, the quality of the stone surfaces, supplied by Architectural Ceramics, sets this spa apart. The honed silver travertine floors are quarried in former mineral springs in Italy; the stone has only been on the market for a few years. And the black slate on the walls, quarried in India, is installed in a broken joint pattern. “The beauty of those stones is compelling to me,” she says. “I think often people see themselves in a war with nature on many levels and people try to fight nature in many ways. But I think part of the idea of a spa is reconnecting with nature.”
DESIGN Karen Bengel, ASID, Design Milieu, Washington, DC;
RESOURCES: Floor: Honed silver travertine, Architectural Ceramics. Wall: Black slate, Architectural Ceramics. Bath: Bain-Ultra. Sink: La-Cava. Tub Fixtures: Lefroy Brooks. Pendant: Steng Light. Painting: Alicia Arguelles.
The custom vanity in stained beech cradles the sculptural sink.