Splish Splash

The stress people were once able to leave at their front doors is now invading their home lives, and as that stress increases, people crave a space that lets them escape and shut out the world. That space is, of course, the bath.

Not surprisingly, then, kitchen and bath dealers and designers are continuing to find their clients, and consumers in general, are spending more money to obtain the luxury, comfort and pampering they believe they deserve in the bath.

Dealers and designers are still noting several overall trends, including powder rooms as design statements, master baths as amenity-packed spas, and more functions such as morning bars, exercise areas and massage niches going into master baths.

Additionally, completely separate “his and her” areas are stronger than ever, as space allows; if not, then separate vanities, or at least a double-sink vanity, is preferable to one sink.

Stylistically, while traditional still plays to a large portion of the U.S., contemporary, clean lines have made headway as consumers want to cut the clutter in their baths.

“Contemporary trends are definitely continuing to influence bath design. Spa styles and Asian influences infuse the contemporary design with a sense of nature and comfort,” offers Lynn Monson, CKD, CBD, ASID, owner of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen and Monson Interior Design, Inc. in St. Louis Park, MN.

TIMELESS, NOT TRENDY

However, Rosemary Merrill, designer with Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN, is quick to note that she doesn’t “care much for the word ‘trends.’ It implies not doing timeless design or keeping with the architectural style of the home.”

Monson concurs, adding that designing a bath is based more on the functional needs and tastes of clients, plus the overall look and architecture of their homes.

“There’s no one ‘look.’ The design, especially in master baths, is driven by the architectural style of home,” adds James R. Dase, CMKBD and senior designer with Abruzzo Kitchens in Schaumburg, IL.

Baths are also becoming increasingly customized expressions of their owners, says artist J. Amber Conger, owner of Refinerii in Nampa, ID. She’s an artist who makes sculptures and custom pieces such as pedestal sinks out of salvaged steel.

That said, all of these dealers and designers also see some more specific product trends in the bath emerging and evolving. They include spa-like showers, eco-friendly and natural materials and high-tech amenities that increase comfort and function.

GREENER PASTURES

The ‘green’ movement is strong in baths, say dealers and designers. In fact, Monson believes it reinforces the trend toward natural materials.
A strong believer in sustainability and recycling, Conger is also happy to note that many homes – and baths – in her region just outside of Boise, ID are featuring “lots of reclaimed wood; natural stone – slate – floors and countertops; a lot more metals, stainless steel; water-saving toilets; and ‘low-VOC’ paints.”

“Luxury clients want the natural materials regardless of cost – the granite, limestone, marble, river stone, etc.,” agrees Monson. “Glass is also a strong material. It can visually open up the room to look larger.”

Merrill, too, is seeing “tile, glass and mosaics…[plus] frameless glass doors on the showers.”

“The idea with clear glass is to de-emphasize the shower enclosure itself and focus on the materials in the shower, such as marble, granite or decorative tile,” explains Tom Whitaker, founder and president of Norwalk, CT-based Mr. ShowerDoor, Inc., a manufacturer and retail store for consumers and designers that sells shower enclosures, shower hardware and ShowerGuard permanently protected glass by Guardian.
In powder rooms, Conger believes that glass and other natural materials are being combined to form strong design statements. “There’s a dramatic mixing and matching of steel, glass and stone going on for a much more eclectic look,” she observes.

In master baths, the same concept applies, only the design statement is less about a unique visual punch than it is about creating a style that’s soothing, and inserting as much comfort and relaxation as possible.

To that end, Conger, Whitaker and their fellow designers are seeing more steam baths and showers being installed.

HIGH TECH, HIGH COMFORT

Simultaneously, as environmental awareness takes hold in the bath, the desire for pampering stays steady. “In the bath, the focus is on comfort and convenience, and the more luxurious, the better,” notes Bev Adams, CMKBD and president of Interior Intuitions in Denver, CO.

This focus is manifesting itself as high-tech creature comforts. For instance, Merrill is seeing “heated floor tile, towel warmers and various lighting options for effect.”

Dase cites warming drawers to warm towels, fog-proof mirrors and floor tile warmers as hot features.

“People are also looking for better ventilation systems that absorb moisture, prevent mold and make less noise,” notes Whitaker.

“We’re showing a television screen built into the vanity mirror in our showroom, but it’s definitely a luxury item,” shares Monson.

“The master bath/bedroom suite is for retreating from the wired world. Audio/visual is for entertainment and relaxation purposes.

Coffee/beverage centers support these areas with items such as microwaves, refrigerator drawers, ice makers, wine storage and built-in coffee makers. [They] may also contain plasma televisions,” states Dase.

“[What luxuries clients request] depend on the behavior of the clients and the room itself. However, there are now massage rooms that are being designed with piped-in music and warming drawers for towels that can take the master bath/home spa to a higher level,” emphasizes Adams.

SHOWERS OF PRAISE

Falling under the umbrella of high tech meets high comfort is the continuing trend toward large, spa-like showers with multiple heads and sprays, and steam showers that feature amenities such as audio/visual systems, programmable showering options and flexible lighting options.

“We see more showers now than any kind of tub. In fact, we are removing more whirlpool tubs than we’re installing. This seems to be because our clients lead busy lives and don’t have the time to soak in the tub,” says Monson.

Instead, by adding so many bells and whistles to their showers, consumers are taking advantage of what Dase calls ”vertical hydrotherapy.” This is also more eco-friendly, in Dase’s opinion, because showers with multiple body sprays re-circulate water rather than wasting it.

When tubs are installed in baths today, they are soaking tubs, or air-jet tubs with aromatherapy, Monson adds.

Showers are also more likely to be curbless and open, not only because of the aesthetics and personal preference factor, but also because designers’ increasing application of Universal Design principles.

Mollyanne Sherman, CKD, CBD, CID of MAC Design in Newark, CA concurs with this. “There’s more movement toward fully accessible showers with grab bars that are integrated into the design. They [can be] mounted behind the wall to the framing, with surfacing material enclosing [the whole shower] for a completely integrated look,” she says.

“People are interested in having such safety features, especially when the features are seamlessly integrated,” Sherman adds.

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