Warm and gentle aren't usually the first words that come to mind when talking about contemporary architecture. But those are exactly the descriptors New York City-based architects Katherine Chia, AIA, and Arjun Desai hope to hear when people see their work. This Manhattan loft (a RADA winner for interiors)—and especially its bathrooms—is a prime example of how the firm tames the contradictions. “Most bathrooms are hermetically sealed,” Chia explains, “but we like to create bathroom zones with a breathable skin and bring in organic materials like wood.”

All three bathrooms lack exterior walls, so bringing natural light into the interior spaces was especially important. Chia and Desai enclosed the guest and children's baths using vertical wood slats with a prominent grain. “It's a material that still has an architectural presence,” Chia says, “but the scale and texture of the wood grain brings additional warmth to the space.” In most places, the fixed planks are offset to block sight lines, yet filter light. The slats pivot in a few select spots, however, so the homeowners can manually control light distribution and ventilation.

Glass encloses the outer corner of the master bath, which is tucked up against one of the loft's interior walls, to maximize borrowed light without exposing bathers. The acid-etched glass is layered shingle-style, adding texture to the sleek space. “It's a more gentle surface than if it was one sheet of glass,” Chia says of the spec, “and when light hits it, the glass plays with the light and diffuses it into different colors and textures.”

architect: Desai/Chia Architecture, New York City

general contractor: David Giovannitti, Giovannitti Inc., Yonkers, N.Y.

resources: plumbing fittings and fixtures: AF Supply Corp., Dornbracht Americas, Duravit USA, Vola A/S; translucent walls: PK–30 System by Philip Kerzner