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28 May 2021
Hero Landscpe

Words Shelley Robinson Photos Rachel McKenna

Inspired by Polish salt mines, an award-winning Wānaka bathroom was created to have a “cave-like” feeling, but it also pays homage to the raw beauty of its surroundings.

An image of Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine popped into designer Hannah Withy’s mind. She had just been given a brief by her client to create a “cave-like” bathroom in a five-bedroom architecturally designed home by Lake Wānaka. With a cathedral-like apex in the small bathroom, it reminded Hannah of the mines she had visited in the southern Polish town of Wieliczka.

“These mines have been blasted in the middle and have an underground chapel with this amazing chandelier and grand staircase. So that’s the first thing I thought of – why can’t we have a cave with a chandelier in it?” It was the perfect space to work in, says Hannah. Had the ceiling been flat, the story would have been far less grand. It is no surprise then that this bathroom has won three 2020 National Kitchen & Bathroom Association Excellence in Design Awards for the first-time entrant from HM Design. Hannah created a cave-like experience within the bathroom through the beautiful combination of textures – with the sink the star of the show. “I love the fact that stone is unique – none of them are made the same. That organic shape and beautiful texture – that you don’t expect to see in bathrooms these days. Usually, it’s porcelain and standard shapes.” And as light would bounce on a cave wall to show its gritty textures, Hannah has cleverly incorporated the use of a backlit mirror to do the same in the bathroom.

Under its glow, the wall material, like a thin sliver of slate, dances with its own shadows. It is a bathroom that interplays intimacy with a raw earthiness. The ruggedness of the mountains, where the bathroom gazes towards, is reflected in the interior. The darker colours create a place where, after a busy day skiing at Treble Cone, the owners can soak their bones while looking back at the hills from which they have come. Not a bad way to end the day.

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