Sublime Architectural Interiors bathroom

Dramatic in black

Dark smooth surfaces seduce the senses, while touches from Morocco, Indonesia and Spain add spice to this luxury penthouse apartment bathroom.

Photo courtesy Sublime Architectural Interiors


Philip O’Brien

In this award-winning bathroom light and bright is out and dark and moody is in. After years of dazzling whiteness, bathroom finishes are now drawing on a richer, warmer palette. It’s part of an emerging aesthetic reflecting the bathroom as a place of relaxation.

And that’s exactly what the clients of Kim Duffin, design director of Sublime Architectural Interiors, had in mind for their penthouse apartment in Brisbane’s CBD. They wanted the bathroom to offer a respite from their busy lives. And, being widely travelled, they also wanted the design to include Moroccan-themed elements and finishes.

The result is a dramatic ensuite bathroom which recently won the 2018 HIA Australian Bathroom of the Year award.

‘The bathroom is becoming one of the spaces that people are prepared to invest in,’ Kim says.

‘It’s no longer a single room tucked away. It’s your own private space, a tranquil sanctuary.’

Sublime Architectural Interiors was responsible for the redesign of this entire apartment. The three-bedroom penthouse suite is located on the 38th floor of a Brisbane apartment block, near the Story Bridge, and just five minutes’ walk from the city centre. The living spaces and master bedroom open onto an east-facing balcony offering full views of two reaches of the Brisbane River.

His clients wanted to renovate their entire 12-year-old apartment with the option of moving walls to create larger spaces where required. But the ensuite bathroom was a critical area: the existing space was a collection of small rooms that had little flow between them.

Sublime Architectural Interiors bathroom
Kim favoured the darker tones and finishes which he has observed at European trade shows
Photo courtesy Sublime Architectural Interiors
Sublime Architectural Interiors bathroom
Suspended vanity gives the illusion of more space
Photo courtesy Sublime Architectural Interiors

As one of Australia’s leading designers of luxurious kitchens and bathrooms, HIA member Kim met the challenge head-on. Using a consultative 3D design service, Kim enabled his clients to realise the spaces they had always dreamed of, meeting with them nearly every week for 12 months to create an integrated design solution.

The project presented a number of challenges. Not the least was the 38th-floor location. Consideration was given to the selection of materials, fixtures and fittings that would fit into the building’s maintenance lifts.

‘There’s no point recommending something you can’t fit in,’ he says. ‘It’s not just a project challenge but a design challenge.’

Another challenge was the existing drainage which could not be moved or relocated.

‘The entire master suite needed to be planned and designed around the fixed locations of these services,’ he says.

In fact, one of the most imaginative aspects of the bathroom design was in response to this problem.

‘The position of existing floor wastes suggested the design of a stepped, curved shower wall which also allowed for two shower heads to be positioned around a radius,’ he says.

‘In this way the design incorporated curves into the space to complement the fixtures and to transition between them.’

For a colour scheme, he favoured the darker tones and finishes which he has observed at European trade shows.

‘Opening the bedroom to a lot more natural light allows us to use those darker finishes,’ he says.

‘Natural light is now coming in to the space from the front of the building where previously it didn’t.’

‘It’s an inviting and sophisticated sanctuary to unwind [in] at the end of a long day’

The wall and floor tiles were custom-made and imported from Spain. The wall cladding consists of seamless large format Neolith Iron Grey porcelain tile panels, 3.2metres high by 1.5metres wide. With only five joins and mitred to all corner junctions, they are low-maintenance and make the room seem larger.

The metallic tones in the tiles also highlight the metal, stone and timber used in the bathroom fixtures. Complementing the wall tiles are platinum-toned travertine tiles on the bathroom floors, filed, honed and sealed for easy maintenance.

The bath and basins were hand-made in Indonesia by Australian company Apaiser. Each is crafted in graphite stone composite, the bath an Eclipse 1500mm freestanding tub while the basins are 600mm Eclipse.

The handcrafted and plated tapware and accessories were custom-made in Living Rustic Bronze by Melbourne company Sussex Tapware. The aged bronze brings out the warm copper tones in the wall panels and floor tiles while the shower heads were made to Kim’s own design. Many of the fittings were oil-rubbed bronze: the Monsoon shower columns, bath filler, wall basin sets and accessories including double rails, robe hooks and toilet roll holders.

Softening the hard surfaces of the bathroom is the lightly stained silky oak timber used in the bath plinth and the vanity benchtops with sawmill marks still evident. The vanity is suspended off the floor, providing an illusion of more space.

Kim and Sublime Architectural Interiors responded to the client request for more storage by reconfiguring space from an adjoining room for the ensuite. Mirror doors were positioned at the end of the space to create an illusion of increased depth, for dressing and to magnify the light. Handles were omitted to maintain a minimalist look.

Sublime Architectural Interiors bathroom
The screens provide a discreet buffer between sleeping, bathing & entry areas
Photo courtesy Sublime Architectural Interiors
Sublime Architectural Interiors bathroom
The bath & basins were hand-made in Indonesia
Photo courtesy Sublime Architectural Interiors

And for the custom-designed privacy screens, he introduced the Moroccan influence the clients had sought. Powder-coated and bronze laser-cut, these screens provide a disceet buffer between sleeping, bathing and entry areas.

With the apartment located on the top floor of the building, they were able to raise the height of the ceiling in both the bathroom and wardrobe. This enabled a coffered ceiling above the shower area to conceal mechanical ventilation and LED lighting.

Kim Duffin says that 60 per cent of his company’s work is now in apartments.

‘I think that a growing trend will be for people to stay in their existing spaces and renovate particularly as costs of new dwellings rise and land shortages increase prices. In Brisbane, particularly, we’re starting to see a lot of owners wanting to improve their existing properties to compete with the newer ones coming onto the market.’

Not surprisingly, the clients of his award-winning design were delighted with their finished apartment.

‘And we were blown away, too,’ Kim says. ‘Given the many challenges we confronted, the result was very impressive.

‘The bathroom we’ve created is now a warm, moody space with a day spa feel about it. It’s an inviting and sophisticated sanctuary in which to unwind at the end of a long day.’

Sublime Architectural Interiors has been a member of HIA for 14 years. In that time they have won seven national awards, with the previous six awards being for kitchens.

At a glance

Duration of bathroom build: Eight weeks
Cost: $186,000
Size: 19-square metres
Tubs and basins: Eclipse in Graphite Stone Composite from Apaiser Indonesia
Wall tiles: Neolith Iron Grey large format porcelain from CDK Stone
Floor tiles: Platinum Travertine
Bath plinth and benchtops: Live Edge Silky Oak
Tapware and fittings: Sussex Taps Voda in Living Rustic Bronze

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