While in some upscale markets, a 600-sq.-ft. master bath suite might be spilling over with such cozy amenities as a steam shower, a fireplace and a massage table, manufacturers are also punctuating the mid-level market with warmer color palettes, Old World finishes and other options for the average consumer who has a desire to create the same inspirational, holistic environment in a smaller space.
"Earth tones continue to be very popular," adds Rohl, who also cites antiqued finishes. "It's a warmer hue. It feels like a spa should feel. Like a Roman bath. The term we always use is 'authentic-looking.' That's what people are seeking."
"We completely updated our hardware colors a few years ago," adds Williams. "We threw out all the 'lollipop' colors like raspberry and blueberry, and we introduced a true, brushed nickel, wrought iron [and] burnished copper. When you mix those [finishes] with the warm, inviting colors that are in the tiles and paints, [you get] a real Mediterranean look – [one that's] rich and elegant without being ostentatious. [And it's] very current."
"As a replacement showerhead company," says Rachel Schneider, marketing director for showers and water treatments at Waterpik in Ft. Collins, CO, "we are a follower, but we need to make sure that we're following with the correct finishes. With brushed nickel, for instance, some are very yellow, some are very brown, but as long as it has a nice, warm, yellow tone to it, it will blend well with the sandstones and the natural colors that you're seeing extend from the bedroom into the bath."
SURROUNDED IN STYLE
Just like hardware, tub and shower surrounds are in the midst of a heat wave, with natural stone blending well with all of the popular transitional styles, from the blossoming Mediterranean (or Roman bath) look to the minimalist, Industrial looks still emerging in urban areas.
Many manufacturers surveyed by KBDN are also seeing larger ceramic tiles in mauves and sandstones, and even amber-hued glass tiles are emerging as hot picks, both of which complement the clean but cozy transitional feel that's proving to be the dominant look of the early millennium. "We're seeing a lot of earth tones in tile – [and] tiles that have a variety of natural colors that you could find outside, as if you were in a hardscape environment instead of inside in your bath," observes Williams. "Everything's getting a more natural, earthy look to it."
"There's a real interest in colors beyond basic white [at the mid-level market]," adds John Heckenlaible, executive director of marketing for Mesa, AZ-based Re-Bath, LLC, which specializes in tub-to-shower conversions.
"Our acrylic molds can be designed to look like travertine, granite or warm-hued tiles with unique and interesting patterns."
"Natural stone has exploded," agrees John Veras, president of Duschqueen in Wyckoff, NJ. "I think that's due to the availability. It's coming in from everywhere now. Our major market is the New York City area, and we're seeing natural stone even in secondary baths. Where we see tile being installed, it's [being paired] with some beautifully hand-painted border tiles or unique moldings. It's not just [taking] 6"x6" white tile and throwing it on the wall. It's a work of art when it's done."
"I think the more natural, the better, is the inclination of most consumers," adds Rohl. "Whenever possible, they try to get something as authentic as possible. It all goes back to this whole personalization concept, to show that they have broken out from the mainstream."
HEART OF GLASS
With so much design effort being put into upscale master bath surrounds, consumers are increasingly unwilling to obscure that beauty, foregoing the milky or frosted glass enclosure in favor of clear glass. By doing this, the artwork and unique fixtures of the tub or shower are allowed to emerge as a focal point in the room, like a gorgeous, Fabergé egg under museum glass.
"We're seeing a variety of glass types in enclosures – new patterns that have a floral look, and some that have a leafy pattern. [However], in our luxury glass segment, clear is our most prevalent glass," states Williams. "People want to show off their hardware and tile work, and the configuration of the unit."
"There are so many more patterned glasses available," notes Veras. "Consumers are willing to introduce a subtle pattern into the glass, but not so much that you lose that clarity, not so much that you segregate the shower from the rest of the bath."