Showers Reign Supreme

Thank goodness for trends. Otherwise people would still be living with green shag carpet, oversized furniture and wagon wheel coffee tables. At least that’s the philosophy of Ione Victoria, owner/designer, Paradise Interior Design in Santa Cruz, CA.

Victoria notes that, over the last few decades, design trends have gone from darker, earthy looks to whitewashed. “Now we’re living in a design era where we’ve found the medium. We’re into soft colors, low maintenance with less clutter, a little bit of bling in our metals and a small amount of sheen. It’s much more versatile. It’s peaceful and soothing,” she reports.

Bath designers across the country expressed some of the same sentiments when KBDN asked them about current trends they see in master bath remodeling.

“Spaces are becoming more simplified,” says Sarah Michalowski, CKD, of Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, in Minneapolis, MN. “People want a really clean look and they’re putting things away. Plug-ins inside medicine cabinets for electric toothbrushes, curling irons and hair dryers are becoming more popular.”

Fellow Minnesotan Laura Orfield-Skrivseth, AKBD, co-owner and designer/project manager, Orfield Design & Construction in Minnetonka, MN, finds that homeowners are interested in personalizing their spaces. “They don’t necessarily worry about fitting into a certain style, allowing ‘eclectic’ and ‘transitional’ to represent their personal tastes,” she says.


SHOWERS dominate

Much of the advice homeowners seek focuses heavily on the shower. Walk-in showers with glass block, frameless glass or even without doors are common. Handheld and rainhead showerheads, heated shower seating and flooring, integrated ledges and niches, and beautiful tile ranging from natural stone and limestone to recycled glass are all popular.

“Homeowners on all levels of economy and scale are placing more emphasis on the shower. It’s something they use every day,” reports Michael Finley, owner, Rocky Mountain Bathrooms in Littleton, CO. “A lot of times, we’ll completely remove bathtubs and enlarge showers in the master bath. In our projects, the shower is the dominant focus.”

Michalowski finds much of the same in her market, especially when homeowners are tight for space. “People are tending to stay in their current homes rather than build larger ones,” she says. “They’re working with the space they have. And if it’s a smaller space, they’ll forego the bathtub for a larger shower.”

For many of Victoria’s clients, it’s all about opening up the room with beautiful, oftentimes doorless, walk-in showers in spaces inspired by nature with lots of windows and skylights. “A lot of people don’t want any doors [on their showers] if they can get away with it,” she says. “Depending on the size of the space, it really isn’t necessary. With handheld and rainhead showerheads, you don’t have to worry as much about overspray. And by incorporating radiant heat floors, warmth is not an issue, either. Plus, you can have a beautiful, continuous floor.”



Victoria indicates that she sees design trends influenced by location (climate), technology (what’s new and improved), politics (green products), economics (what’s cost effective) and current fashion (which reflects human emotions).

She notes that, in her market, homeowners are in their bathrooms only as long as necessary. “We have an outdoor mentality,” she says. “We’re very organic here. Homeowners love natural stone. If a client wants color, it’s usually more of an accent rather than a mainstay. For a bit of glitz, I’ll use recycled glass mosaic. It’s so easy with the materials available today to create something beautiful.”

Victoria relates that, with so many influences, it’s exciting to see how design makes spaces more interesting and easier to live in.

Finley finds that many of his clients are toning things down to keep costs in check. “We’ve seen a trend from major remodels to more of a focus on value,” he says.

Although homeowners may be taking a step back, Finley says they still expect beautiful spaces. To achieve the desired effect, he gets creative. In one particular remodel, he created custom storage with a standard linen closet. “We built the cabinet into the wall,” he says. “It was a nice cost savings for the homeowner without having to do custom-built cabinets.”

Finley also offers different levels of glass options. “Full-framed glass is less expensive than frameless,” he says. “But we also offer a hybrid option where we can polish a corner of a framed-glass shower to get rid of the frame to open up the space.”

Orfield-Skrivseth finds that the economy has curbed her clients a bit, too. “I have found my clientele to be much more frugal in mindset.

“But that doesn’t mean ‘cheap’,” she insists. “They are taking a lot more time to plan before jumping into a project. They are considering respect for the earth’s renewable materials and the green movement. They are deciding that it’s best to do it right once, taking into consideration not just the [bathroom] space, but how it relates to the rest of the structure and rooms as a whole.”

In that regard, Orfield-Skrivseth finds her clients are demanding knowledgeable and creative designers/remodelers as they become readily educated by the consequences of artistic choices. “Considering these [influences], they are more open to reusing salvageable materials or re-purposing them,” she says. “They accept compromises on personal wish lists for the good of the whole project (budget driven and/or best practices usually).” added amenities

As far as trending products within the master bath, Michalowski and Orfield-Skrivseth find that steam showers are popular. Offers Michalowski: “While some homeowners may be tightening their budgets in some areas, many still want a steam shower for its added health and wellness benefits.”

“My clients consider this space their relaxing spa area instead of driving to a gym for these amenities,” Orfield-Skrivseth adds.

Michalowski is also seeing more media move into the master bath. “A lot of my clients want a TV in the space, regardless of whether or not they can see it,” she relates. “It’s more about hearing the news in the background as they’re getting ready in the morning.”

Other trending products include those related to aging in place. Larger showers and built-in seating can provide immediate benefits for those in need or can fulfill perceived needs in the future.

“We’re doing fewer showers with curbs,” says Michalowski. “It adds to the clean lines and improves safety.”

Orfield-Skrivseth also sees Universal Design products and features becoming more popular. Good lighting – general and task as well as controllable – single-hole faucets and lever handles that are designed for users of any age are all popular right now.

“Many people are combining their family households,” she says. “Children are moving in with parents and grandparents are moving in with children. This is causing them to design for both short- and long-term use. Creating attractive flexibility for users of all ages and mobility may involve non-slip materials, diverse lighting solutions, wider entrances, low-maintenance materials, structural backing for future grab bars, cabinetry of varying heights and a lot of storage – all inside the bathroom! The linen-in-the-hallway concept is being replaced by incorporating full storage inside the bathroom. It is ready when needed. It’s an important detail for multi-gendered households so family members don’t have to ‘streak’ down the hall to get a forgotten towel or washcloth.”

Many of Victoria’s clients desire the spa look with open spaces. “For us, it’s about freedom of movement,” she says. “It’s about air. It’s about daylight. Any design that accomplishes that is always welcomed, and always enjoyed!” KBDN