Great Room-inspired baths reach new heights of opulence, with power-driven function and custom amenities combining to create the perfect haven.
By Daina Manning
Today's master baths are metamorphosing into arena-sized fantasy suites that promise to magically cure all ills, restore serenity, and provide users with every convenience and hedonistic pleasure imaginable, according to bath dealers and designers.
"Bathrooms are becoming more significant spaces," declares Carlos Mindreau, architect for Metropolitan Design & Building Co., in St. Louis, MO. "It's where we can find peace and solitude in the last frontier where it's allowable."
Today's high-end clients want all their idiosyncrasies reflected in the functionality of their master bath, believes Tom Trzcinski, CMKBD, Kitchen & Bath Concepts, in Pittsburgh, PA: "[When remodeling, they want to make] sure they can use these rooms exactly the way they want. Guys who watch MSNBC in the morning want to see [the TV] from the shower and want waterproof speakers so they can [monitor] the stock market."
Others look to the shower for creative inspiration. Trzcinski remembers a client who once got some brilliant ideas for his business while the falls of Ocho Rios, Jamaica cascaded over him and then wanted his home shower to replicate that ambience. Recalls Trzcinski, "We made it so he could sit there and have a waterfall coming down on his shoulders, because that's the way he wanted it."
Many bathrooms are becoming exponentially larger especially among aging Baby Boomers who have extra room as the children grow up and leave the nest. In fact, bathrooms are increasingly taking their cues from the Great Room concept, wherein the kitchen, dining room, family entertainment room and computer station combine as one enormous open space where a family can gather.
For the bath version, the master bathroom, closet, master bedroom and perhaps an exercise area are similarly linked but it's not about family togetherness in this area.
"It enables the adults to make a stand for their own lifestyle," believes Gary White, CMKBD, CID, president of Kitchen & Bath Design, in Newport Beach, CA. "They can listen to the music they want, watch the TV they want. It's like their own apartment. When the kids come home, they can blare their headbanger music to their hearts' delight and the adults can retreat to their 'apartment' and be self-sufficient."
White adds that this new development is "good news for kitchen and bath designers. It's more materials to sell." He recalls one project where the bathroom was more expensive than the kitchen, and entailed more cabinetry.
"We just sold a $107,000 closet system the other day," adds Trzcinski. "It had everything that you could possibly want, integrated armoires, built in shoe polish systems."
Similarly, Gail Drury, CKD, CBD, Drury Design, in Glen Ellyn, IL, cites a recent project where "originally, there were a lot of walls, it was very busy. We completely opened everything up took all the walls and closets out, put in some skylights." The lower level became a combination dressing area and "movie star" closet that included built-in cabinetry with storage for shoes and sweaters. A big island made of back-to-back dressers offered a continuous top: a perfect spot to open up one's luggage and pack, Drury notes.
The mini-kitchen is also emerging as a central component of the "great bathroom." Trzcinski has installed cappuccino makers and juice bars, while Drury's recent mega-bath included a little refrigerator and sink, tucked away in a vanity-style cabinet. A make-up area, sauna and dressing room completed that dream-come-true space, along with a master bath with super shower, whirlpool and flat screen TV.
"I'm doing TVs in almost every bathroom," says Drury. "It's a retreat. We're putting chairs in master baths now, so people can sit down and talk, read a book." Sound systems, microwaves, fireplaces, exercise equipment and even home office space can be included in this new grown-up wonderland.