Baby Boomer Baths Focus on Comfort and Style
By John Filippelli
Combine that with the fact that Baby Boomers perhaps more than any other age demographic have sufficient disposable income to invest handsomely in their baths, and the result is bath suites that are rich in comfort and style.
"They want a sanctuary and are spending more money to get it," explains David Frym, owner of Northbay Kitchen and Bath in Petaluma, CA.
According to Linda Burkhardt, owner of Kitchens & Baths, Linda Burkhardt, in Montauk, NY, when it comes to Boomer style "There's a move from traditional 'shabby chic' to a more transitional look."
Frym agrees, citing heated flooring and steam units as popular choices among Boomers. "People want to spoil themselves in the bath. They want a little bit more high-tech in it."
As a result, according to Michael Mixa, president/owner of the Allentown, PA-based Kitchens by Wieland, the master bath is evolving in some surprising ways. "Before, people were retro-fitting what they had in the bath. Now, they are expanding the room and adding electronics and TV, as well as storage and exercise equipment. Basically, [the master suite] is turning into a multi-purpose room rather than just a bathroom."
To create a warm haven feeling, designers are finding natural materials and cleaner lines to be popular additions in the master bath.
Explains Tim Aden, CMKBD, of Sawhill Custom Kitchens and Design, Inc., in Minneapolis, MN, "As far as materials, it seems that people are looking for something new and different. We're seeing a lot of concrete, quartz and granite for countertops and sinks."
Mixa offers, "Boomers are going away from the solid surface [in lieu of natural materials]. We're putting in a lot of mud bases. I just think they like the touch and feel of it. They don't like the plastic feel anymore."
And, Aden notes that for Boomers, some old trends are coming back into vogue. "Oak in our industry has been out for years, but now people view it as different, especially quartersawn white oak. People like it because is has a very straight grain, and it can have a contemporary look to it," he notes.
Mixa agrees, noting that, "We're seeing more of the straight maple lines and oak and even alder, so it's used more for a flat door than a raised panel. Quartersawn is definitely coming back, and so is bird's eye."
"[The reason for this is] there is more of an open feel to the bathroom with furniture pieces being used or table-type units being used for the vanity as opposed to regular cabinetry," adds Aden.
According to Burkhardt, storage is a main consideration when designing a Baby Boomer bath.
"One of the things I'm seeing is people are giving up their spare bedroom to make the master suite more luxurious," Frym says.
For instance, he notes, clients are combining a spare bedroom with the bathroom to make a bigger walk-in closet and dressing area.
"Mostly, what I'm seeing is the elimination of the master bath, instead turning it into a combo bath/dressing area and eliminating the room closet to that bedroom. We're really seeing walls being taken down," Mixa concurs.
"They want their closets designed and it ends up being a dressing room," Mixa continues.
Says Frym: "Boomers are even thinking about a center snack area in the bath and installing their own linen area. They want their master suite dressed up. They're asking for more space for themselves, and we're seeing lots of his-and-hers spaces in the bathroom. They want comfort, but they want it to look sharp, too."
Mixa adds, "We'll do a bar refrigerator [if they want it] as well. Food and beverage are starting to enter into the design of the master bath."
Frym further notes that his firm is doing a lot of secondary storage areas in the bath, such as those for make-up.
"There are a lot of his-and-hers applications in the master bath, Mixa notes. "The idea is so you can close the door [between the two areas] and not bother the other person."
With the growing interest in bath remodel projects comes new and interesting product applications, according to Aden. "We've been seeing a move toward larger showers in the baths, even requesting that it doesn't have a door on it so it's easier to clean," he says.
He adds, "People still like whirlpools if they have the room for them, but since most of our projects are remodels, and we're working with smaller spaces, people would rather have the shower."
According to Frym, the same holds true for his firm. "We've been doing a lot of heavy glass applications. It's almost a standard that a master bath will have frameless, heavy glass shower doors that have been designed in a kiln," he states.
Adds Mixa: "With the designs being so wide open, we find ourselves doing a lot of glass, such as the 3/8" glass showers. I think we're going to get into some of the sand-blasting where you're seeing leaves and flowers on the glass to make it look sharp."
Frym also points out that the glass applications are featuring different textures, such as floating glass countertops.
While limestone and travertine remain hot, Frym notes that stainless steel in the bath is gaining in popularity, as well.
And with this, Mixa notes, other high-tech elements are being added to create a modern look. "The designs are really getting into high-tech lighting," he says.
Frym agrees: "We're putting in incandescent recess lighting and low-voltage lighting. And in air tubs, we're putting in chromatherapy, which is full-spectrum lighting with all different colors in it."
Frym sees fashion playing a key role: "When it comes to the faucetry and shower system, that is picked by aesthetics."
But, according to Burkhardt, function matters too. "I consciously look for user-friendly aspects in all the products I choose," she offers.
Regardless of the style or the convenience a space may afford, Mixa concludes that above all, Baby Boomers really just want to feel at ease in their bathroom "Overall, Boomers want comfort," Mixa believes. "The space is [the one place in the home that they can escape to], and they want it to look and feel good. Basically, they just want to come home after a long day and be able to enjoy their bath."