Urban wilderness

Hotel Vitale, San Francisco

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With its sweeping views across the Embarcadero, the new Hotel Vitale is a big-city sensation. The best spot to soak up the sights is in one of the two idyllic tubs on the eighth-floor spa terrace, surrounded by a forest of bamboo trees in containers.

Design: Clark Manus, Heller-Manus Architects, San Francisco ( www.hellermanus.com or 415/247-1100); Colum McCartan, McCartan, San Francisco ( www.mccartan.com or 415/956-9091)

Landscape Design: Marta Fry Landscape Associates ( www.mflastudio.com or 415/543-8202 ext. 202)

Info: Hotel Vitale (199 rooms from $269; www.hotelvitale.com or 888/890-8688)

Take the look home

Bring the bath outside

Architect Clark Manus found that by adding redwood decking as a surround, he could use a deep tub - originally designed for residential use - outdoors. Water overflows the edge and is recycled, making the standard-size bath feel like an infinity pool. "Not only is bathing outdoors very serene, it's the ultimate in luxury," says Manus.

Grow plant screens for privacy

Narrow metal-finished fiberglass boxes planted with bamboo trace the perimeter of the deck. The tall plants provide privacy as well as an element of nature. The rustle of the wind blowing through the bamboo makes a lovely sound that helps mask traffic noise from the streets below. "It's a nature experience in an urban setting," says Manus.

Keep small spaces simple for a luxe mood

There are just a few elements - a tub, a redwood deck, and a bamboo screen. By keeping the area spare, it becomes tranquil and luxurious, creating a Westernized version of the Japanese bathing ritual. Here, everything is functional - not merely decorative - right down to the bamboo, giving a small space maximum impact.

Sources

Bathtub: Sok from Kohler ($7,119; www.kohler.com or 800/456-4537)

Faucet: Pinnacle Collection from Watermark Designs ($1,073 with hand shower; www.watermark-designs.com or 800/842-7277)

Robe: Monogrammed Hotel Vitale robe ($90; www.hotelvitale.com or 415/278-3700)

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