October 31, 2018

Tsao & McKown Perfects Indoor-Outdoor Living for a New York Master Suite

In Japan, the ritual of bathing is less about hygiene per se than it is about relaxation, with nature ideally playing a starring role—as it does at an Asian-influenced master suite in Pound Ridge, New York. Interior Design Hall of Fame members Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown describe their concept as “outside in and inside out,” which accounts for the 12-foot-wide picture window in place of a mirror above the bathroom vanity.

Forest views replace the expected mirror above the 22-foot-long custom fumed-oak credenza. Photography by Simon Upton.

While some would have balked at that untraditional move, these particular homeowners—Philippines-born fashion designer Josie Natori and her Japanese-American financier husband, Ken—were an easy sway. Tsao & McKown Architects has designed two apartments for the couple over the past 20 years as well as office space, a showroom, and boutiques for Josie. “They’re more friends than clients,” Tsao admits. “We sometimes finish each other’s sentences.”

Custom seating furnishes the study, where three of four walls are glass. Photography by Simon Upton.

The couple’s master suite is a 900-square-foot open-plan volume that encompasses lounge and sleeping zones as well as a washing-up space that, courtesy of a height-adjustable daybed, doubles as a massage area. The aforementioned vanity is actually a 22-foot-long credenza concealing generous storage. Both it and the pair of sinks above are crafted of oak, which—like the house’s Douglas fir posts and beams—is specially fumed for waterproofing and to create a dark, teaklike hue. Flanking either end of the picture window are vertical slivers of mirror that dissolve spatial boundaries and serve reflection needs; however, “this is not a place where you’re rushing to put on your makeup,” Tsao notes.

An elm farm stool in the shower dates from China’s Qing Dynasty. Photography by Simon Upton.

Adjacent floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide open to access a Japanese-style ofuro soaking tub outside, where one can survey views of an old-growth forest that morphs into a canvas of gold and red, with hints of evergreen, come fall. The shower however, is inside (albeit enclosed in full-height glass). Between the insects, the neighbors, and the weather, “the idea of an outdoor shower is often more appealing than the reality,” Tsao says with a laugh.

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