Wood panelling isn’t something you would typically associate with the bathroom but having recently re-watched Tom Ford’s Oscar-nominated film A Single Man, we are suddenly loving all things wooden and modernist thanks to one of the film’s key locations - architect John Lautner’s Schaffer House. Designed in 1949 and tucked in the Verdugo Hills of California, it’s like a modern log cabin – midcentury modern that is. Lautner built the entire house of local American redwood, from the interior floors, walls and ceiling panels to the beams that flank huge skylights and pivoting glass doors. The aesthetic was surely influenced by his apprenticeship under Frank Lloyd Wright and it’s the kind of woodsy retro craftsmanship that seems to be everywhere right now. Thinking about it in context of the bathroom, water resistant teak wood is the ideal material for incorporating this style in a modern way.
Take interior designer Michael DePerno who perfectly channeled the look in his renovation of a midcentury home in Santa Rosa, California. Built in 1964, the hillside dwelling boasts a cedar wood exterior and, like the Schaffer House, huge sliding glass doors to bring in the outdoors. DePerno stayed true to these roots while updating the bathroom by fabricating a teak wood surround for the enameled-steel soaking tub. Walls are lined with ceramic tiles in a warm, organic hue that picks up the landscape and fittings boast an oxidized finish for added vintage appeal.
Unlike the 1970’s basement of my childhood home, wood panelling needn’t always carry a retro vibe. Leading architects Roman + Williams demonstrated this with their sleek and contemporary installation throughout New York’s trendiest hotel, The Standard Highline. Closer to home, Italian architects Rita Torchi and Aldo Vandini just completed a wood and glass structure nestled in the hills of Bologna for a couple of ex-Londoners. The shower is made entirely of teak wood panelling with a sliding glass door that opens onto a plunge pool. In a 21st century touch, the showerhead actually doubles as a light fixture. It doesn’t get more modern than that!
Photograph © Jason Schmidt, Laura Resen, Max Zambelli