"When people get into these component bath systems, they're looking at frameless glass. There's very little metal or chrome around the doors and glass. They want a designer piece to show off the bath," adds Joe Serina, v.p./marketing for Luxury Bath Systems, Inc. in Glendale Heights, IL.
Serina points to the firm's frameless, pivoting glass doors designed for stand-up showers as an example, while Shelly Roberts, senior marketing manager at Lasco Bathware in Anaheim, CA mentions a frameless, textured bamboo glass as a luxury pick for the upscale, master bath.
Veras, however, is troubled by the surging popularity of the large, frameless shower doors. "It's been a growing concern for legitimate shower door manufacturers for a couple of years now," he explains. "What we have seen happening, is… everybody has gotten into it – local glass shops and the like. Everyone is seeing this huge profit center. We see what the possible liability can be for some of these doors that are improperly installed. They might be what the customer wants, but six months down the road, they could pull out of the wall and hurt someone."
In answer to this, his industry will be introducing a draft of voluntary manufacturer standards. "We're aggressively formulating them now," adds Veras, who is also president of the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association in Topeka, KS.
With the revival in decorative hardware, some manufacturers are looking with renewed interest at the framed enclosure. "Where you have the shower and the rest of the bath flowing together," points out Rohl, "it's important that if you start with, say, a Tuscan brass finish in the lavatory, that you continue that theme into the shower. Getting all of the finishes to match is the greatest challenge."
Williams is in favor of a more relaxed, eclectic look. "Warm, framing colors can finish out the whole bath suite by complementing other colors in the bath. For instance, you have a weathered pewter faucet on the lavatory and then, maybe a copper, leafy motif light fixture with a natural light hood. When you look at the organic finishes on the shower door and the complementary faucets [in] the shower, it really does come together [for] a beautiful look."
While smaller homes may still favor the space-saving tub/shower combo, the four-fixture suite concept is definitely gaining ground with the advent of the larger master bath in new and remodeled homes. And, it's leaving plenty of dock space for tub manufacturers, who are flooding the market with some innovative designs.
But even smaller baths can enjoy a scaled down sense of luxury, manufacturers note. For instance, in a one-bath unit or even in a small, powder room environment, Sign of the Crab offers miniature clawfoot tub/shower combos in a variety of shapes and designs, which is in line with the trend of creating big impact in smaller powder rooms. "With our small tubs, you can [also] make an under-the-stairs bath into a complete full bath," contends Larry Jacobs, manager with Strom Plumbing by Sign of the Crab in Rancho Cordova, CA.
"In newer homes," he further explains, "with up to four or five baths being installed, one room dedicated to the antique or traditional style bath can act as a haven for a consumer who loves his/her vertical spa with all the bells and whistles, but who just can't do without his or her deep, soaker tub."
"The reality is," says Veras, "people realize that you need at least one tub in the house, whether it's for resale or for the children, or even for the dog. There's always going to be that occasion in everyone's life when they need to take a bath."
"You're not seeing that [vertical spa] trend in the secondary bath," emphasizes Roberts. "Secondary baths are still relegated to a fairly small space, and tub/shower units are still what goes into them."
"[However], the shower is replacing the tub as the bathing vessel of choice," believes Williams. "There are a number of tub companies that are changing the look of their tubs [in response to this trend]. They have a place you can sit in, but they also have a place lower down where you can put just your feet in and get some hydrotherapy. Maybe the tub as we've known it all these years is morphing into some other type of thing to capture this whole spa-type feeling."