Better by Design: Zen Bathroom Makeover

An Asian aesthetic and a cedar ofuro tub envelopes a bathroom makeover
zen bathroom japanese asian hinoki ofuri soaking tub bathtub remodel tatami

Large porcelain tiles with a textural, woven structure finish evoke the look and feel of traditional Japanese Tatami mats in this bathroom design by Karl Utzman of Design Studio West.

An ofuro soaking tub, made of Hinoki cedar, basking in dappled sunlight isn’t the only clue that Karl Utzman of Design Studio West looked East for the inspiration of this bathroom redesign. Mahogany closet doors with shoji panel inserts, a floor made to look like traditional shou sugi ban (charred wood) and a hand-carved post utilizing a soseki (foundation stone) also point eastward.


“I needed a way to define and finish the tile on the shower side that also created interest on the massive back wall,” Karl explains. “The chiseled design of the hand-carved post, supposedly evocative of a tortoise shell, is occasionally seen on Japanese teahouse roofs. Raising the post on the stone podium, a type of construction developed in the seventh century, affords protection in the humid Japanese climate and is an excellent technique for this bathroom’s wet area.”

The Ann Sacks porcelain tile on the floor inside the shower and underneath the soaking tub was inspired by an ancient Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood through charring.

“Today, this process of shou sugi ban is an environmentally friendly way to preserve timber and, paradoxically, make it fire-resistant,” Karl says. “It worked perfectly to define the wet zone in the bathroom. I liked the idea of the dark tile to help set off the ofuru tub.”

The balance of texture, structure, light and materials translates to a soothing and inviting space—and the Zen-like atmosphere works beautifully for a client who collects Asian antiques, furnishings and artwork; practices Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) and works with local experts trained in Japanese landscape to help with her garden’s design.

zen bathroom asian japanese ofuru soaking tub cedar

A soaking tub of Hunoki (Japanese cypress) gives off a pleasant evergreen scent when in use. Seen from the tub, a hand-woven bamboo fence, created by Avram Dalton, simulates a type of fence seen in Otsu near Kyoto, Japan.

Categories: design inspiration, Home Design