The Spa Treatment

We all know that clients like to be pampered, so what better way to meet their needs than to re-create the spa experience in their master bath?

These are the sentiments of Christopher J. Grubb, president of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills, CA, and Orlando, FL, who notes that clients no longer want, but in fact need a space that will rejuvenate or relax them in equal measure.

He explains: “Product trends are based on allowing the client versatility in their master bathroom experience. Therefore, the design requests we have received seem to be based on a spa experience our clients have had and want to emulate. Perhaps psychologically, it was a relaxing experience and they want to translate that experience into their personal space.”

Deirdre Eagles, Allied Member ASID, of Deirdre Eagles Interior Design in Laguna Niguel, CA, agrees: “The master bath is becoming an oasis of personal care as well as a retreat from the stresses of daily life. More than ever, people are investing in this important part of their home to make it a space that reflects their own preferences and needs.”

Donna Lucyk, senior designer for Morris Plains, NJ-based Wolf Singer Design Studio, concurs: “People are thinking of their bathrooms more and more as their own personal retreat. In a world that is increasingly demanding, it is more important than ever that we each have quality personal time. The bathroom is where the day both starts and ends. And, what better place is there for people to find their center? The new master baths are nothing like anything before them.”

However, she adds, that does not mean that master baths will stick to conservative or traditional design themes. In fact, she says, designers should expect to see some demand for unconventional layouts.

“The unexpected is the new norm. For example, the faucet may be completely hidden from view behind glass, and the sink will be a very flat, clear block. Meeting the criteria for the unexpected, beautiful and functional is definitely something we have been doing,” she offers.

Carolyn Deardorff, M.A., CKD, IIDA, CAPS, of Brighton, CO-based Design Adventures notes that she is seeing large soaker tubs as the focal point of the room, with “serenity being the theme.” These are often complemented by mood lighting, as well as natural stone countertops and travertine flooring and tub surrounds.

Eagles notes that the spa theme is mainly seen in the shower area, with walk-in showers with multiple shower heads, body sprays and steam capabilities.

Lucyk has seen a low-sheen trend make its way into the master bath on hard surfaces, and she expects this trend to continue.
“You’re going to see more ‘matte’ finishes or ‘leather’ looks on many surfaces,” she predicts.

Deardorff adds: “Overall, clients want more gadgets in the master bath. It’s the retreat from the kids and the crazy mornings.

The bath suite will continue to grow and include more and more gadgets to simplify life and incorporate a sense of pampering.”

Material Mosaics

According to Joan M. Eisenberg, CMKBD, ASID of JME Consulting in Baltimore, MD, natural materials, such as stone and, in some cases, engineered stone, are making waves in the bath.

“Builders are using cultured marble,” she says, “and tile, porcelain, ceramic and marble are still ‘musts’ for the floor. To that end, I recommend honed, tumbled or other textures for flooring.”  

Grubb agrees, noting that natural stone is the most requested product for floors and countertops in master baths.

He continues: “Tactile surfaces are extremely popular, including glass mosaics and chiseled stones. That said, the trend would be more toward how innovative the materials have become and how we as designers can be creative in combining the various elements.”

Eisenberg adds: “Overall, a brushed and antiqued look is the most popular, while polished seems to be taking a back seat. As far as matching [these to] cabinet finishes, I wouldn’t say they ‘match,’ but they coordinate very well with most cabinet styles, and look wonderful with earth-colored stone and tile.”

Grubb, meanwhile, sees most tub surrounds being done in either wood or glass. “And,” he adds, “we always try and incorporate something unexpected in a material where we can create a conversation point.”

Eisenberg notes: “Glass tile as accents in tub and shower surrounds is the hottest design trend in my area.”

She continues: “Although glass tile comes in almost any color imaginable, I am seeing greens and blues used most frequently. In fact, I am seeing more eclectic styles: traditional with a contemporary twist or contemporary with a traditional flavor. I am also seeing an Asian influence creeping in.”

Lucyk adds that she is seeing neutrals and monochromatic shades remaining popular, while the color chocolate is increasingly being incorporated as an accent color against the pale neutrals.

Green Growth

Although clients certainly want the spa experience, they are also more aware than ever with regard to wasteful uses of water and other materials. Perhaps more challenging for designers is consumers’ growing knowledge of design and product alternatives.

Deardorff explains: “All of my clients are more conscious of making environmentally friendly choices. For instance, we are seeing a lot of in-floor heating, Energy Star rated light fixtures, showerheads that mix air with water to conserve water and dual flush toilets.”

Lucyk adds: “Eco-conscious green products and techniques are very popular. It used to be that to be eco friendly was only for the elite. However, research and technology have come to the rescue and it’s possible for everyone to be a part of the movement, not just the elite.”

To that end, she says her firm carries solid surfaces that are made entirely from recycled materials, and fixtures that are designed to use lower volumes of water and still function to peak satisfaction.

Grubb adds: “Glass tiles are also an option because they are recyclable. Within the next few years, it will become much more of a request, especially as more and more product becomes available.”

Lucyk concludes: “People want their master bath to be a retreat, but they also want it to be as ‘green’ as possible. The people who come in our showroom are conscious of wasting our resources and are looking for options that are available to them, and asking for help to make a difference.”

Technology vs. Tradition

In order to achieve a more simplified experience, many designers are finding that – if done effectively – technology can work perfectly for these purposes.

Grubb explains: “Integrating technology and lifestyle equipment in the master bath is always a consideration. As a designer, you learn about your clients and their desires. You imagine being them and try to figure out how to add one piece they would not have expected.

“Plasma televisions are becoming a standard, whether sitting on the counter, wall mounted, within a medicine cabinet or built into the shower. Sound is another consideration, with speakers in steam showers and throughout the room,” he continues.

He adds that several of his projects feature a lighting system that is pre-set to create moods and various levels of lighting throughout the day.

Eagles adds: “We are seeing personalized controls on everything, including temperature, jets and chromatherapy. It is a virtual menu of showerheads and sprays, integrated music and lighting.”

“Refrigerators are also being incorporated for beverages, and in some cases, medications that need to be at a certain temperature,” Grubb mentions.

“I’m having more requests for ‘shower enhancements,’” Eisenberg says. “Many of my clients are taking out jetted tubs and installing larger, fancier showers.”

To that end, Grubb notes that typical requests for fixtures – size allowing – are for a minimum of two showerheads in the shower, and a hand-held and rain showerhead.

“I feel like we’re at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to integrated technology – everyone loves it, wants it and can’t get enough of it,” Lucyk concludes.

The Jetstream

Another way of creating the spa experience is by getting caught in the jetstream, literally, says Grubb.

He explains: “We’re seeing a lot of requests for whirlpool tubs, some with color therapy. Body jets again echo the spa experience and I’m seeing that the Kohler shower controls are beginning to be requested a bit by my clients.”

He continues: “With the whirlpool baths, the advancement of the actual placement of the jets is superb. Air baths including effervescent jets are popular, as well as chromatherapy, which is a light therapy with lighting washing over your body.

“Air jets, in addition to or instead of water jets, are growing in popularity. However, people like to use ‘additives’ with the water and this is frowned upon with recalculating water jets,” Eisenberg says.

Universal Appeal

Not surprisingly, the ubiquitous need for safety means a larger role for Universal Design.

Deardorff offers: “We’re seeing a lot of mixing of materials to add visual interest and minimize maintenance [and slipping] concerns. Plus, shower systems continue to offer multi-functional options for each user.”

Eisenberg adds: “People are definitely becoming more conscientious about universal access. I’m seeing larger showers – some featuring steam, and others with seats and safety bars.”

She continues: “Safety bars are not just for the old or disabled. They can prevent falls for everyone, including children. Grab ‘safety’ bars come in almost any finish and style, so there is no ‘medical’ or sanitary look.” 

Eisenberg adds that she’s even seen clients using grab bars as towel bars.

“Where it is feasible, I also suggest using a zero clearance threshold for the shower, and eliminating the shower door altogether,” she adds.

Eisenberg concludes: “Universal Design is just common-sense safe design. It does not affect the beauty of the project, and if I never see another step at a tub, I will know we have made progress!”

Furnished Fit

Of course, all of these elements need to create a perfect fit in order to be effective, and that means a focus on function and storage for everyday purposes, says Lucyk.

“Furniture-style pieces are very popular with the traditional crowd,’ she says. “They want the feel and comfort that beautiful furniture pieces bring to a room.”

Grubb notes: “All of our clients seem to want a vanity that does not look ‘store bought’ in any way. Vanities are now as large as possible, and we constantly search for additional space for built-ins or free-standing millwork that adds a feel of ‘furniture’ and warmth in the space.”

Specifically, he sees vanities with two sinks, usually undermounted, while “saving the top mount sinks for powder rooms.”

Deardorff agrees: “Vanities are often separated and left at differing heights to match stature. Storage is maximized vertically to get everything close to point of use.”

“People are asking for more unfitted furniture vanities, some with vessel bowls,” Eisenberg adds.

However, she does warn: “Even though people are definitely requesting these types of pieces, I think that furniture-style pieces generally have less storage, so we are scrambling to be creative in providing a place for everything the client needs to store.”

Grubb recalls a recent master bath his firm completed that reflects many of these types of elements, including a vanity with custom doors inspired by an antique piece of furniture that itself was custom made.

“There was storage recessed in the touch-latch medicine cabinets, and the green tiles/liners are actually crushed glass. The edge pieces and raised center pieces in the shower are carved and three-dimensional,” he describes.

In addition, the neutral palette bath features a steam shower, air bath with body jets, dual sinks and dual showerheads.
Eagles recalls her work on the master bath and bathtub area featured as part of the 2008 Philharmonic House of Design.

“The large his-and-hers master bath was organically inspired and designed as a calming sanctuary with its natural materials, unique etched stone and soothing colors of cocoa, cream and sea blue.

“I found that blending textures and styles, and using values of light and dark, added to the impact of the space and made a very large room seem a lot less imposing,” she concludes.

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