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Once, it may have been a purely functional room, but the modern powder room has come into its own

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Sometimes it's the hidden items that spring the most surprises – think jewel box or the crystals inside a rock, for example.

It is just this touch of the unexpected that is helping to define the modern powder room. As architect Richard Landry illustrates on these pages, powder rooms can be jewel boxes in their own right.

"Powder rooms provide an ideal chance to do something a little differently," Landry says. "This is the only room guests are in by themselves, and it is an opportunity to make them feel special. The powder room is not just a functional space – it can be so much more."

In keeping with this philosophy, Landry says an increasing number of homeowners are opting for separate his-and-hers powder rooms, each decorated to reflect the appropriate gender. And increasingly, powder rooms are equipped with separate toilet rooms, which means the main space is more akin to a private dressing room, complete with special lighting, mirrors and a make-up counter.

Landry says although he treats each powder room as a destination in its own right, the adventurous design approach is not at the expense of the rest of the house.

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"The powder room should still feel as though it is part of the home – there needs to be a visual continuity in terms of the look, the materials or the colour," he says.

For example, the bathroom on the preceding page was designed to complement a contemporary house.

"I wanted to introduce that sense of the unexpected," says Landry. "With its gold-leaf ceiling and mahogany walls, this room is literally like a jewel box. The counter was designed so it appears to float – none of the sides touch the wall. Similarly, the mirror, which slips behind the vanity, is positioned away from the wall. The lighting emphasizes this effect."

For the powder room in his own home, Landry formed the pièce de résistance from a large granite boulder, which was left over from the landscaping at the Getty Museum. This was sliced, carved and polished to form the vanity basin. An antique pump plumbed with lukewarm water provides a quirky faucet in keeping with the rustic charm.

A more formal approach may be required for other projects. The women's powder room at right was designed to complement a highly detailed, Neoclassical house. The glittering look is enhanced by a large chandelier and matching sconces mounted on mirrored walls. Similarly, the decorative, gold-leaf mirror above the vanity is mounted on a mirrored wall.

A vaulted ceiling, egg-and-dart mouldings and a terrazzo floor further enhance the look.

Credit List

Architect for all projects Richard Landry, AIA, Landry Design Group, Inc (Los Angeles)
Interior designer, powder room image 1 MJS Interiors
Interior designer, powder room image 2 Michael and Debra Zeiden
Interior designer, powder room image 3 Richard Landry and Robert Carrola
Interior designer, powder room images 4 and 5 Everage Interior Design
Interior designer, powder room image 6 Susan Cohen Associates
Interior designer, powder room image 7 Jennifer Bevan Interiors

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