Renovating a bathroom is somewhat like surgery. First, you must do no harm. Working around existing plumbing, wiring, and venting, architect Alex Harrow skillfully inserted a new, more vigorous heart into this master bath: a custom solid granite tub weighing 2,500 pounds—empty.

To hold the heft, floors were gutted to their 19th-century support system of columns and terra-cotta arches, and a reinforced concrete slab was poured. A crane slotted the bathing behemoth through the window and into the waiting arms of seven men, who guided it to its resting place over the drain. “We had to jump through hoops to make it work,” says Harrow, “but we wanted the focus to be this sculptural piece, with the room as just a backdrop.” The pale limestone floors and walls recede to showcase the tub's hammered granite exterior and polished black interior. The bathtub is both beautiful and functional. Harrow spent weeks researching tub design until he was sure that soaking in this one would be relaxing and comfortable. “The angles of the inside slope and the thickness of the sides had to work,” he says. “It was a risk, but the clients tell me it's comfortable.”

A glass wall separates the shower and reflects natural light; shoji screens between the bath and bedroom withdraw into the walls to give the bather room to breathe. The overall effect is dramatic yet understated—and a fitting complement to the clients' collection of Asian art and antiques.

architect: Warren Freyer and Alexander Harrow, Freyer Collaborative Architects, New York City
general contractor: Bob Schmidt, US Interiors, New York Cit
stonemason: Stone Forest, Santa Fe, N.M.
resources: lighting: Artimede, Bega; plumbing fittings: Duravit, Hastings Tile & Bath; plumbing fixtures: Hansgrohe, Kroin, Robern