Bathrooms: Clean, Bright, & Rich

Last fall the American Institute of Architects conducted a survey of its members to determine in part the current level of demand for various types of residential design work. Surprisingly, the highest level of design activity did not involve vacation homes or, for that matter, any other type of new-home construction. Rather it was high-end remodeling, particularly bathrooms and kitchens, that topped the list. AIA members notched a 32 percent increase in bathroom design activity vs. the same quarter one year prior. And this is just one measure, among many, of the strength of the bathroom remodeling market.

In an effort to uncover some of the keys to this strength, Cygnus Business Media and Qualified Remodeler teamed up with to survey some of the thousands of consumers that use their site each day to connect with remodelers. In the end, more than 600 consumers told us about their recently completed bathroom remodeling projects — their top requested features, items they forgot to consider and how they chose their remodeling professional — all to get a picture of the latest trends. And in many ways, that picture is encapsulated in the images of the master bathroom remodel shown alongside the results of this research.

Constructing Consumers’ Dreams
Designed and built by Landis Construction, Washington, D.C., for a family living in a 100-plus-year-old townhouse, this new master bathroom delivered a small, spa-like retreat with clean lines and luxury finishes. Occupying a space that was formerly a spare bedroom, the finished bathroom combines contemporary, sleek design with rich, but traditional materials, like glass-mosaic and Thassos tiles. Not coincidentally, the top styles cited in our consumer survey were Traditional, 43 percent; Contemporary, 32 percent; and Transitional (a combination of Traditional and Contemporary), 12 percent.

The survey respondents also put a great deal of emphasis on large shower areas. They wanted these areas to be separate from any bathtub or jetted bath. They stated a preference for clear glass doors. They wanted multiple shower heads as a way to create different spa-like experiences — heads that simulate rainfall and sprays from many directions.

High on the respondents’ list of highly “distinctive features” found in their newly remodeled bathrooms were rich countertops and vanities. More than 20 percent said they used marble. Another 19 percent preferred the ever-popular granite, while engineered stone was also highly specified by 13 percent of consumers.

The consumers also stated a strong preference for his-and-her sinks and grooming stations as “top distinctive features.” Not surprisingly, multiple types of lighting, lighting design and fixtures figured prominently in their responses. Again, this Landis Construction bathroom reflects many, if not all, of the preferences expressed in the consumer survey results.

In presenting this $50,000 bathroom project for a Qualified Remodeler Master Design Award in 2005, the Landis team’s application correctly pointed out the central focus of the bathroom — a double-bowl vanity positioned in a semi-circle on an elegant chrome pedestal.

“The truly innovative bathroom design is a serious, yet fun study of lines and curves,” the Master Design Award application stated. “The Italian double-bowl vanity console is mirrored by a half-circle of glass tile underneath it.”

Forgotten in this bathroom and apparently sought after by many others was radiant heat. When asked to list the items they wished they had remembered to install, 22 percent cited floor warming systems. This was followed by furniture, armoires and other unusual storage spaces (13 percent); whirlpools and jetted baths, (12 percent); and towel warmers (9.5 percent), among several others.

The Remodeling Experience Our survey of consumers regarding their bathrooms also touched on the process of remodeling, in particular, “top problems” encountered during the project. Cited by nearly 40 percent of the consumers surveyed, “unanticipated delays” was, by far, the No. 1 source of “trouble” during the job. “Conflicts with the designer/remodeler” and “Additional costs” also figured prominently in this regard, as each was cited by more than a fifth of the respondents.

When asked how they chose their bathroom designer remodeler, the No. 1 response was “referral/word of mouth” (28 percent), followed by “price” (23 percent), “ability to coordinate entire job” (13 percent) and “willingness to work within our budget” (9 percent), among several others.

By providing a place to retreat, relax, regroup and recharge, the lure of these spa-like bathrooms will likely keep this sector of remodeling very hot for the foreseeable future.