Functional Luxury

Given today’s fast-paced lifestyle, many homeowners are looking at their master bathrooms as a place to pamper themselves. “Our clients tell us they need a retreat…somewhere to go and relax, de-stress and rejuvenate,” says Erica Westeroth, XTC Design, Inc., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And they want that retreat to be at home, “especially if they have a family and it isn’t easy to get away to a gym or spa.”

Yet, these spaces need to be highly functional and efficient, as well. An aging population – many of whom desire to age in place – is impacting bath remodeling, as is the growing obesity demographic in the U.S. (see related story, Page 22). Additionally, technology is impacting not only product design, but the growing desire for a spa-like escape.

“Historically, so much time and thought has been put into kitchens. But the reality is, if you spend more than a half an hour in the bathroom, you’ve probably received 10 emails, three text messages and there are four reasons why the kids need to come in and ask you questions,” says Sid Levin, Revolution Design and Build, in Wayzata, MN. “In the instantaneous world we live in, scheduling and daily planning happen the minute you wake up. People are really living in their bathrooms. Many days begin as soon as people wake up, rather than when they move into the kitchen for their first cup of coffee.”

And it seems homeowners are willing to invest in these spaces to incorporate products and features that improve functionality and help them unwind.

“Some of our clients are spending as much on master suites as they are on kitchens,” says Don DiNovi, Ulrich, Inc., in Ridgewood, NJ. “They want a retreat. I hear that all the time. I just spoke with clients who told me they wanted a spa in their home. They want to enjoy that luxury every day.”

While creating that spa-like environment has become a well-established trend, how that style is implemented highlights several emerging trends in products and materials. These include everything from the desire for large, luxurious showers with multiple water sources and beautiful natural stone tile, to the growing demand for customized storage solutions and attractive Universal Design features. This month, KBDN looks at some of the hottest master bath trends.

Designer: Tatiana Machado-Rosas, Allied ASID, CKD, CAPS, CGB; Jackson Design & Remodeling; San Diego, CA

Trend: Softer colors, especially blues, grays and off whites

“We’re seeing softer colors in both contemporary and traditional bathrooms, combined with natural materials and distressed wood,” says Machado-Rosas. “These colors are often complemented with dark brown hues, especially in contemporary settings.”

Trend: Natural stone tile (for floors, walls and countertops) and mosaic tiles used to create interesting patterns

“People are more open to the use of natural stone, such as marble and onyx,” she relates. “Marble, especially, is making a comeback. It gives an elegance to both modern and traditional spaces, and it can be used in vintage decors. Natural stone mosaic tiles used in combination with glass mosaic tiles is also very hot right now. Fabricators are doing some very interesting patterns, and adding depth. They are changing the shape of the tile and are going beyond the typical 1"x1" squares to create designs with a special touch. People seem more willing to be a little more dramatic, to use products that have a lot of depth and texture. And, they are moving those mosaics outside of the shower…creating accent walls, liners and niches.”

Trend: Creating functional yet stylish and attractive spaces that reflect a client’s taste and lifestyle

“Our clients want spaces where they can express themselves and relax,” she says. “They want special places where they can pamper themselves. For example, in cabinetry, they want something that is functional, but part of the design. It’s the same with lighting…functional, but beautiful. Lighting is like jewelry. It’s the final touch to tie in everything.”

Trending products: Multiple showerheads, benches, body sprays/jets and quiet fans.

Designer: Sid Levin, CKBR, principal; Revolution Design and Build; Wayzata, MN

Trend: Benches outside of the shower

“This trend speaks to the social aspect of the bathroom as much as it offers a place to rest,” says Levin. “We really try to understand how people use these spaces. For many families, kids come into the bathroom to hang out with mom and dad. Or dad hangs out while mom gets ready. People’s lives are becoming so busy.

“Sometimes benches will flow into the shower. When that’s the case, they will be made of tile. Otherwise, we’ve upholstered them, more like a banquette where people can keep their clothes or phones while they’re showering.”

Trend: Floating and valance-type vanities

“There's a lot of opportunity for floating and valance-type vanities in contemporary and modern baths, and we’ve seen people lean toward this style even in traditional homes,” he says. “A vanity that is 10" off the ground offers a dramatically different look, without sacrificing much storage. When we’re dealing with smaller spaces, it makes the room feel larger because extending the floor under the vanity allows the eye to travel underneath it. Oftentimes we’ll also add indirect lighting to this space as a type of night light.”

Trend: Open shelving for baskets or rolled towels

“To a certain degree, open shelves offer some of the same benefits as floating vanities in regard to opening up a space and making a room feel larger,” he says. “It also provides a place for specialized storage. It’s about designing and customizing a space for how people use their bathroom. If a client uses a new towel every day, there’s a fresh one handy. And, if they purchase beautiful towels, they have a beautiful way to store them.”

Trending products: Multi-function toilet seats (i.e. Washlets), zero-clearance shower drains and heated flooring systems.

Designer: Don DiNovi, CKD; Ulrich, Inc.; Ridgewood, NJ

Trend: Larger showers with multi-function features

“I have clients who have brought in pictures of showers they’ve seen in movies, or in places like Las Vegas, with multiple heads and jets. They just love them,” DiNovi says. “They are on the go, and they want a shower with multi-function features to massage them when they’re on the run. We're also doing a lot of remodels where we’re pulling out smaller third or fourth bedrooms and incorporating that space into the master suite. With space permitting, we’re building showers that are twice the size they were 10 years ago. Today, [putting in a shower that’s] 4'x6' is fairly standard. In fact, we have to be careful not to design them too large.”

Trend: Soaking tubs

“When my clients are ready to relax, they want to do so in a deep tub, one that houses them more comfortably,” he says. “We've lost some interest in whirlpool tubs, but we’re doing more in terms of soaking tubs. In fact, we’re working on a current space with a freestanding tub surrounded by a garden area.”

Trend: His/her vanities

“His and her vanities have always been popular, but they seem to be a big plus right now,” DiNovi notes. “People seem to want their own personal space. We’re making those vanities larger now, and including dressing tables with them.”

Trending products: Towel warmers, hand-held sprayers and televisions.

Designer: Chris Wright, CR; WrightWorks; Indianapolis, IN

Trend: Freestanding tubs

“We've been doing freestanding tubs for a number of years, but they are so much more common now than deck-mounted tubs,” he says. “They don’t take up as much real estate. And because the floor runs around them and is continuous, you get a little bit larger sense of space.”

Trend: Emphasis on the shower experience

“There are some clients who like their tubs, and they use them fairly regularly. But there’s a lot more emphasis on planning to make sure the shower provides a good daily experience,” he says. “Most clients are looking for size, with some of them wanting two-person showers. In master bathrooms, the bare minimum is that we install at least two water outputs…one for a standard showerhead or overhead rainhead, and one for a hand spray.”

Trend: Curbless showers and trench drains

“Given the trend toward Universal Design and aging in place, curbless showers make a lot of sense for baby boomers and for those who want to stay in their homes longer because they afford a shower without a tripping hazard,” he says. “They also have aesthetic value because you can use the same material in the main area and in the shower so everything flows seamlessly. And, because you don’t have to follow the contour of the floor, they afford the ability to use larger format tiles.”

Trending products: Tankless water heaters, layers of light with dimmer switches and heated floors.

Designer: Erica Westeroth, CKD, ARIDO, NCIDQ; XTC Design, Inc.; Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Trend: Personalized spaces

“We’re finding that the master bath is becoming much more personal,” Westeroth says. “It’s more than just a toilet and a sink. Amenities are no longer limited by a bathroom’s size or shape. The design, fixtures and fittings that help make a bathroom much more like a personal space have eliminated the utilitarian nature of bathrooms of old.”

Trend: Therapy features, such as those related to color, aroma, light and sound

“Now, more than ever, a new bathroom will harmonize design and therapy,” she says. “Our clients’ free time is at a premium, and many of them tell us they want to spend that precious time in the comfort of their own homes. They want to set themselves up at home where they can have an air tub, where they can incorporate different therapies. These types of therapies are especially beneficial for people who travel. We can use lights to help with jet lag.

“Color also has a big effect on a person’s well being. Palettes are available to help stimulate or calm, in a range of monochromatic to distinguished colors. We can also include aromatherapy, with herbs such as lavender and eucalyptus, for de-stressing and muscle relaxation. Overall, our clients are looking to create a holistic, healing place for themselves.”

Trend: Digital controls for a personalized bath/shower experience

“Digital controls can personalize the bathing and shower experiences,” she continues. “Each bather can have his or her own settings based on preferences for everything from temperature to pressure. The homeowners can also set which features turn on, when, and for how long. Digital controls can be a great way to help save water, too.”

Trending products: "Vanishing" televisions; medicine cabinets with interior lighting, electrical outlets and cold storage options for perishables; and dual-purpose toilets with integrated bidet seats.