Nature Preserve

Nature Preserve

Larger baths with nature-inspired themes feed the sense of comfort consumers crave.

By John Filippelli


As clients' desire for more luxurious comforts increases, so does the size of bath remodel projects.

"Remodels are definitely getting larger," says Connie Schey, CKD, of Insignia Kitchen and Bath, based in Barrington, IL.

"They want the master suite," notes Shylo Preston, kitchen and bath designer for Dallas, TX-based The Great Indoors.

Bill Wrape, designer for Distinctive Kitchens and Baths in Little Rock, AR, sees the notion of the master suite being taken even further. "People are turning their bathroom and closet into a combination bath and dressing room situation. [Because of this], the baths are bigger than they were five years ago, with more space and a more open layout," he describes.

But designers agree that despite the size of the bath, client motivation is the same: They want spaces that feed the sense of comfort and well being that they crave.

Additionally, Preston sees bath designs "beginning to take on a global design feel. For instance, designs that once would have been considered contemporary are now melding into traditional designs. We are starting to see traditional designs with natural stones and marbles maybe even with a vessel bowl that wouldn't have been considered in the past."

"There seems to be a greater move toward contemporary clean lines than a year ago," adds Wrape.
According to Rhonda Knoche, CKD, CBD, designer/consultant for Portland, OR-based Neil Kelly Designers/Remodelers, it's not only contemporary and traditional design themes that are melding together, either.

"We've been seeing a lot more of a furniture application, similar to what we would see in other cabinetry, such as in the kitchen. When there's less cabinetry, we tend to see a console style, with legs, which is often supplemented with a free-standing piece."

Wrape agrees: "People seem to be interested in the contemporary furniture, free-standing look, or a 'floating' look where [the cabinetry] is attached to the wall."

According to Knoche, the details are key. "Today, there's more individuality as far as finding a unique mirror or light fixture as opposed to a standard light fixture."

But, if aesthetics are driving design, then function is the fuel that makes it go, according to Kevin Briggs, CKD, CR of Columbus, OH-based Ellis Kitchen and Bath Studio. "As far as function goes, they are looking for environmentally sound [products] and environmental savings wherever possible. They are looking for ease of maintenance and durability," he says.

Ray Brown, residential designer and president/owner of Austin, TX-based Ray Brown Associates, cites a 170-sq.-ft. master bath (and part of an environmentally sensitive luxury home) he recently completed as an example of this. "[For our project], we chose simple, high-end materials in colors and textures that would match the surrounding natural environment," he explains.

Lynnda Colby, interior designer, and president of Colby Design, based in Austin, TX, worked on the project with Brown. "We wanted to emphasize the natural surroundings of the home and couple them with cutting-edge fixtures. Therefore, function and beauty are brought together to create the ultimate bathing experience," she says.

Material Matters
As clients search for their perfect bath retreat, they are increasingly looking at natural materials to enhance that environment, says Knoche. "The most common request we get is for natural stone whether it's tile or countertop material," she offers.

Preston agrees: "Natural stone continues to be really hot especially travertine."

She adds that the reason for this is consumers don't want to be bothered with the maintenance concerns of the past but may not be ready for a contemporary design yet. Therefore, she suggests that materials such as travertine offer a happy medium.

"We're not seeing as much marble because it tends to be polished and have slick surfaces which make it dangerous," she adds.

Wrape disagrees: "Marble is still very popular. We probably do as much marble as anything."

"Tumbled stone and marble do require a little more maintenance," says Briggs.

Knoche interjects, "Tumbled stone with a less glossy polished appearance is very popular among consumers right now."

Schey adds that, "People are starting to go back to tile rather than marble or stone because of staining concerns."

"Tile really plays a big part from one design to the next (see related story, Page 44). Contemporary tiles can be sleek and simple, whereas in tradition styles, you get into the jet rails or special borders and corners to enhance the design," Briggs concludes.

Shower Power
When it comes to creating the ultimate master bathroom, the importance of the shower cannot be underestimated, according to Knoche, who states, "The new upscale luxury item is definitely the 'power shower.'"

Briggs agrees: "I think the biggest trend is having larger, walk-in showers. We're even seeing showers without doors attached to them so that clients can walk in."

Schey sees a simple reason for this trend. "People are putting more money into their showers than their tubs [because] with today's hectic lifestyles, they just want to get in and out."

Briggs concurs with this assessment: "Considering the pace of life today, the shower has grown in popularity."
Knoche also notes that popular accoutrements found in showers are adjustable sprays and high-quality faucets with massage capabilities.

"Two showerheads and even body jets are also of great interest to people," adds Briggs.

Whirlpools still remain popular, of course, but some designers believe there's a slight downturn in the amount of tubs being installed in bath remodel projects.

"People tend to use [whirlpools] when they are first installed, but as the novelty wears off, they use them less and less," Briggs suggests.

Knoche agrees: "People want larger showers today as opposed to the token three-foot shower or the big tub." She adds, "[Ultimately, what people are saying is], 'At the bare minimum, give me a 3"x5" shower with two showerheads and a two-person application.' "

Colby and Brown's master bath features a his-and-hers shower highlighting a hot new shower trend that follows the overall trend toward baths with both his and her spaces (see related story, Page 78).

Colby notes that this project really spotlighted the importance of the shower as a design element. "The privacy of the master bath allowed not only the use of the glass partition and the open-ended shower, but also gave us the opportunity to provide an atrium door off the shower."

Brown adds, "The door opens onto a deck with an old oak tree growing through the center, and provides a gorgeous view of [a nearby lake] from the bath."

Colby continues, "Natural light from the skylight shines on deck-mounted glass sinks, while light from the shower atrium door gleams through the matching curved shower wall. The resulting prisms of light reflect on the slate walls, where wall-mounted faucets are installed above a cantilevered vanity with a glass top that throws light back."

Luxury Tax
According to Preston, with all the upscale amenities available today, getting all the luxury extras they want may sometimes tax consumers' budgets. "They want their showerhead to do everything, or they want their tub to have chroma therapy, massage jets, pillows and heated backrests. There's almost a sense of entitlement."

She continues, "The mid-range clients are requesting [these items] and they're sometimes ruled out due to budgetary considerations. But I'm finding that people are willing to make concessions such as choosing less expensive cabinetry, or making concessions with their tile to get more fun things."

Knoche agrees. "Dollar amount is more of an issue for people today [than in the past]. Therefore, they're willing to give up the separate tub and shower for a more luxurious shower. With floor warmers, we're seeing tile on the floor and seeing that heated as a nice compromise."

But, while many amenities are making their way into the mid-range bath, she notes that certain items, such as steam showers and separate bidets, tend to remain almost exclusively the purview of the high-end client.

Photo Finish
When it comes to popular finishes, brushed nickel, brushed chrome and oil-rubbed bronze are all gaining ground, several designers note.

Schey offers: "We're seeing a lot of projects that feature brushed chrome. It's moving more toward a rustic, ornate style."

"The aged look, like the oil-rubbed bronze, seems to be catching on," Wrape suggests.
But, he adds, "In the contemporary, it's still chrome or shiny nickel. We're not seeing chrome in the traditional bath."

Schey also points out that in terms of color, cream and blue are gaining in popularity.

"Clients want any type of blue from light blue to Cobalt," she points out.

Schey also notes that, for vessel applications, black glass is hot. "It's available in different colors not just the clear glass. It also comes in bronze and blue and a pinkish tint."

Colby agrees that color is key, "The color palette we chose [with our last project] began with earth tones for the transparent, bronze glass sinks. The clean lines and natural color of the stainless steel faucets blend with the African Rustic Gold slate of the walls, flooring and tub surround. The texture of the natural slate, with its veins of greens, rust and golden tones, provides perfect contrast to the smooth lines of the faucets and sinks."

And, it's this sense of warmth that completes the perfect sanctuary for clients, Knoche believes.

"Many people are rolling back and retreating. They still go out, but they want to build their own haven," Schey explains.

"Rather than put money in stocks, clients are putting money into their homes so they can enjoy it," she concludes. KBDN