Strictly Personal

While opinions about current trends and hot products for the bath may vary, bath designers agree that today’s customers are looking for products and design elements that will add a distinctive touch to the room’s overall look. To achieve this goal, designers are working with materials, finishes and accessories in entirely new combinations.

Providing a custom look has become more challenging as trends continue to move away from ornate applications to sleeker, simple lines. “The look is transitional,” comments Jason Smith, president, Prestige Renovations, in Elk Grove Village, IL. “Everything has clean lines.”

By no means does this trend toward clean and simple translate to boring, however. With today’s product choices, clients can still achieve the “wow” factor they are looking for, complete with custom details that make rooms stand out.

This trend continues to be influenced by today’s luxury spas. Dark woods, neutral stone and tile, metal and glass all figure into Zen-inspired design.

An added bonus to this type of design – and a critical reason for its popularity, according to many designers – is ease of upkeep. “People just don’t want to have to maintain anything,” comments Smith.

One way to customize a bathroom is with tile and stone. Some rooms offer a cohesive look throughout, while others get their personality from a mix-and-match style.

“Tile is something you can completely customize,” observes Shannon McPherson, lead designer/store manager, Wooden Thumb Inc., in West Allis, WI. “Tile can be highly detailed, and you can add color there, as well.”

Stone remains a popular choice for showers, walls and floors, with marble experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

Matthew Quinn, co-owner, Design Galleria Kitchen & Bath Studio, in Atlanta, GA, notes, “We’re doing a lot of slabs of marble as the floor, especially in the shower. It’s very European.”

“I think travertine has become the new marble,” reports Smith. “It offers a matte finish, and you can create such a tight grout line that it’s almost invisible. And that lends itself to the spa look that so many people desire.”

Large tiles are also the way to go to reflect the spa setting, according to designers.

“We use a lot of large-scale tile, such as 24"x24", which means there are less grout lines and it’s a lot easier to maintain,” says Smith.

Nicholas Salleroli, president/owner, Rivers, Inc., in Livingston, NJ, confirms that his firm is seeing a demand for larger tile. “We’re seeing 24"x24" and 30"x30",” he comments. “I’ve even seen 36"x36" available.”

Glass tile remains a popular choice, though several designers note they are using glass more as accents than for entire walls.

“We’re still doing a lot with glass tile, especially incorporating it into a custom border,” reports Smith. “Because people don’t want to go too funky or traditional, they are using these materials in splashes rather than on whole walls.”

“Glass tiles lend themselves toward that cleaner look,” offers Peggy Fuller, ASID, president/owner, By Design Interiors, Inc., in Houston, TX. “We’re using glass mosaic tiles as inserts, shower surrounds and around mirrors.”

Fuller adds that she’s still doing entire walls of glass. She likes the look, noting the number of variations available. “Some are iridescent or opalescent, some are frosty, some are regular in size while others are a bit off,” she continues. “There are even some that have a metal look or incorporate metal in them.”

People are also mixing types of tile to make a distinctive statement.

“We’re seeing a combination of tile – natural stone, glass and different shapes, too – whether it’s a mosaic or liners or listellos,” states McPherson. “Today’s tile work is something with more interest than the basic square pattern.”

“I use a lot of smaller-sized, mosaic tiles for accent areas in combination with larger tiles, whether it’s in the shower, on the floor, around the tub or on the tub deck,” says Brian Burmeister, sales/designer, Archway Kitchen & Bath, in St. Louis, MO. “Mosaics can be glass or a natural stone, and we do some unique shapes, such as octagons.”

“People are using tiles with distressed finishes, such as crackle, to give the appearance that they’ve been there a while," comments Peter Salerno, CMKBD, owner, Peter Salerno, Inc. in Wyckoff, NJ. This is in keeping with trends in vanities, where he notes distressed materials make the room warm and inviting.

Shower Power

Walk-in and large showers with multiple body jets and showerheads are the main request of homeowners when remodeling, and many will sacrifice closet space, tubs and even bedrooms to accommodate them.

Inside the shower, built-in seats – sometimes heated – are incorporated, as are heated floors and recessed niches for storage. “We’re doing multiple niches in showers. You frame them out and tile the interior so everything blends,” says Smith.

To close off the large shower, frameless floor-to-ceiling glass doors are the top choice. The thick glass doors show off the tile work and the overall design of the shower, helping it blend with the rest of the room’s design.

Though many designers note that large showers often replace tubs, still others say the tub remains an important part of the bath’s overall design. Families with children still need a tub, and in the master bath, air bubble tubs and soaking tubs are a significant part of the spa package.

In addition to air bubble systems, heated back rests, chromatherapy and aromatherapy are incorporated for the ultimate sensory experience.

“People also want a deeper and taller tub,” comments Sarah Frederick, design consultant, The Jae Company, in Columbus, OH.

“Consumers want tubs you can soak in instead of the ones where one-third or more of your body is sticking up out of the water,” concurs Rick Nassetta, president, Roomscapes, Inc., in Laguna Niguel, CA. “That’s just not relaxing or serviceable at all.”

Vanity Choices

When it comes to bathroom vanities, medium to dark wood tones are still dominating in both traditional and more modern designs. Furniture looks remain popular, with floating vanities for contemporary spaces gaining momentum.

“People are sticking with a traditional style, but they’re adding some funky options, such as a glaze and a distressed look,” comments Smith.

He notes that sable, which is a bit deeper and darker than espresso, is a popular glaze right now. “While espresso has a brown base, sable has more of a plum base, which gives a traditional cabinet a more distinctive look. It’s a mix of contemporary with traditional.”

Rich Perkins, v.p., NVS Kitchen & Bath, Inc., in Manassas, VA, is seeing walnut stains and deep burgundy colors in bath cabinetry of late.

“A lot of manufacturers are doing a cocoa finish that’s almost black, with an opaque stain,” he comments. Perkins adds that his firm encourages people to use vanities as the accent of color in the room, since they can be more easily changed out in a few years when trends change.

Nassetta notes the gravitation toward cherry, such as a cherry with a black glaze. “It gives the room more of that spa feeling that so many people are looking for,” he states.

Salerno sees an increased demand for cherry in the bath, especially with dark glazes that yield an eggplant-type hue. “It gives the vanity, and the room, a very elegant look,” he notes.

Cabinets not only have clean, simple lines, but legs to give them a furniture look. “You’re seeing a lot of things up on legs to give the room a sense of space,” comments Quinn.

That open, airy look is also highlighted through the use of floating vanities. “These are also used in dark finishes, as well as some exotic woods,” comments Burmeister.

And topping off these vanities are countertops in a range of interesting materials.

“We’re seeing the use of more unique materials, such as concrete,” notes McPherson. “It makes the space more personal, because you can get waves, curves, imperfect angles, more free-form shapes.”

“Natural stone is still popular, but quartz is really moving as a countertop material because of the maintenance issue and design movement,” Smith observes.

Vessel sinks are more of a mainstay in the powder room, but are also making a statement in the master bath.

Accompanying them are classic faucet finishes, including nickel and satin nickel as well as brushed and polished chrome.

Some believe demand for oil-rubbed bronze is fading. “We haven’t sold an oil-rubbed bronze finish in six months,” comments Smith.
“It has kind of come and gone,” agrees Perkins, who notes a rise in pewter finishes and satin nickel with a black glaze for faucets.

Quinn sees a growing interest in antique brass. “We’ve been in the polished nickel age for a few years, and we’re starting to see this type of brass work its way back,” he notes.

Finishing Touches

The easiest way to customize a master bath, designers note, is with amenities – the extras that individualize a space and provide additional profit.

“We’re seeing plasma screens on the wall by the tub, and sound systems incorporated into the space,” comments McPherson. Towel warmers and towel warming drawers are also being included.

Televisions are also taking their place behind the mirror, a popular request of many consumers. Quinn has taken that technology one step further, putting lighting behind the mirror for a customized makeup area. “When the lights are off, you just see mirror, but when you turn on the lights they come through the mirror, supplying the light you need,” he explains.

Lighting also helps set the room’s overall mood, and designers are incorporating light fixtures on dimmer switches, chandeliers and even fireplaces.

In keeping with the idea of heated tile floors, Quinn recently completed a job with a heated countertop. “If you think about it, the countertop is often the same or a similar material as the floor, and if you’re leaning up against it when you’re brushing your teeth, it’s freezing cold,” he explains.

Outfitting the Jewel Box

While master bathrooms may sport lots of amenities and high-end touches, they usually reflect a more streamlined, calming atmosphere. The same cannot be said for the powder room, where custom touches can be inspired by whimsical and unusual choices.

“In the powder room, you can be your craziest,” concurs Wanda Alexander, owner, Panache Interior Design, in Leesburg, VA. “Anything goes, simply because it’s not used a lot and it is usually a small space.”

“I always refer to the powder bath as the jewel box,” states Fuller. “You want it to express the extravagant, formal side of the homeowner.”

Fuller notes that the powder room is where she’s used mirrored furniture pieces, Venetian plaster faux painting and free hanging mirrors. “If you didn’t have to have a toilet in there, it wouldn’t even look like a bathroom,” she remarks.

Indeed, powder rooms have been transformed into a space that makes a statement, notes Burmeister. “Unique furniture-style vanities, with glass, bronze or stone vessel bowls, interesting wall-mount faucets and stylish toilets all leave the guest with the desire to strike up a conversation,” he says.

Furniture-type vanities are popular in the powder room, and often feature more of a distressed, vintage look. Contemporary also makes its mark here, with floating vanities opening up the space.

Vessel bowls are a mainstay of the powder room, and many designers add a distinct twist when using them.

“We use unconventional things for the sink, such as a cement urn or a bowl from an old bowl-and-pitcher set to reflect the look of an antique washbowl,” comments Fuller.

She has also incorporated alabaster bowls into bath designs, lighting them from under the vanity. “This is especially effective when the powder bath doesn’t have a window and the bowl stays lit all of the time,” she comments.

Lighting is a critical part of the powder room’s ambience, and options are endless. Chandeliers are especially popular here, sometimes with coordinating wall sconces. “Small chandeliers on the ceiling just give the room that nice little touch,” offers Alexander.

Quinn adds that designers should sometimes go beyond the small chandelier. “Do a large chandelier in a small space…and make it off center. The most important thing to do is to have fun with it,” he stresses. “After all, it’s all about theater in there.”