Walls of Smartglass encase stalks of bamboo; the walls turn opaque at the touch of a button, enclosing the spa-like bath.
The glass-enclosed bath embraces nature with a wall of river stone.
White marble surfaces accent the walnut veneer on the floating vanity.

Sexy Sanctuaries: Organic Vibe

A bath retreat in Georgetown brings the outdoors in

From its quaint Georgetown street, it’s impossible to tell that the crisp white row house harbors a glass-enclosed master bathroom inspired not by the traditional DC vernacular but by a resort in Bali. Unless of course you consider that the homeowners are Porsche racecar driver William Langhorne and his wife, Sumar Langhorne. “When we first got married,” William Langhorne recalls, “Sumar traveled with me, racing, and we were living out of hotels constantly. We saw some really nice indoor/outdoor bathrooms in Bali.”

After returning to Washington, the Langhornes hired architect Douglas Rixey to gut their 1960s-era home and add a fourth floor to house a completely open master-bedroom suite. “If we could have done the top floor with no walls at all, they would’ve done it,” says Rixey.

Now finished, the bathroom floats between the bedroom and closet spaces, enclosed by walls of glass. A sculptural soaking tub and open shower along a wall of river rock exist in plain view of the adjacent bedroom and stairwell. When the sliding doors are open, a bather in the soaking tub can watch TV and enjoy a fireplace installed on the bedroom wall. Should anyone desire privacy, the touch of a button instantly turns the bathroom walls opaque. Another touch and the chemical sandwiched between the layers of Smartglass turns the walls clear again.

The Langhornes searched methodically for materials that would reflect their clean, modern aesthetic but still convey an organic vibe. “We were constantly looking at who was pushing boundaries of design and  quality,” says William. They landed at Boffi in Georgetown, where they found a floating double vanity in walnut veneer, precision fixtures, a double sink with a hidden drain and the curvaceous Iceland tub. The vanity and mirror they chose both have doors that slide open laterally. “It’s such a nice feature,” says Julia Walter of Boffi Georgetown, “because you have these floating elements but still have space to store everything inside.”

River rock, skylights and bamboo stalks in the glass wall are all a nod to al fresco living. Says William Langhorne, “We wanted to give it a Zen, outdoor feel right in the middle of the city.”

ARCHITECTURE: DOUGLAS RIXEY, AIA, and VICTORIA RIXEY, AIA, LEEP AP, Rixey-Rixey Architects, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: MIKE SULLIVAN, De Marne & Day, Potomac, Maryland.