Personal Choice matters most

When designers were asked about current trends in master bath remodeling, a few similarities surfaced. Multiple designers referenced the increased use of porcelain tiles, LED lighting and chrome finishes. The incorporation of laundry rooms as well as coffee/juice bars was also noted as a few trends that make life easier for today’s busy homeowners. But the underlying theme is about homeowners making more choices that are highly personal, creating spaces unique to their needs and wants.

“Our clients are still concerned about resale value, and they want their homes to be saleable in the future,” says Lori Jo Krengel, CMKBD, NCIDQ-certified, Kitchens By Krengel, in St. Paul, MN. “But they are looking more at what they want rather than what the next owner might be looking for. They are making a commitment to a home that is now probably going to be a longer investment than it would have been in previous years.”

This month, KBDN speaks with four bath designers who provide insight into how homeowners’ personal preferences are being implemented in their master bath designs.

Looking for Privacy

Krengel indicates that the economy is having a lasting effect on clients, who as such are making a stronger commitment to personal choices and decisions.

She notes that clients are looking to expand, when possible, grabbing square footage from adjacent rooms such as a closet or even master bedroom to create their personal oases. Often, those spaces will include his/her areas with separate sinks and, sometimes, even separate toilets. “We’re seeing this accomplished with a center column/tower, shower, back-to-back vanities or storage areas – anything that divides the space yet can be accessed from both separate sides,” she notes. “Clients are looking at suites and ensuites that will give them privacy.”

She reports that homeowners also still have a desire to be green when it makes sense. “They want to make green choices if they don’t impact the bottom line in a huge way,” she says. “Having said that, we’re seeing a greater demand for low-flow toilets and on-demand water heaters. It takes a lot of energy to keep water hot and on demand, so our clients are looking at what they can do to be a little bit ‘greener.’”

In that effort, Krengel sees an increase in demand for recycling. “We go through as many products in the bathroom as we do in the kitchen,” she says. “While we often see a pull-out trash container in the kitchen, now we’re including recycling in bathrooms that have enough space.”

In an effort to shave time off the morning routine, Krengel will sometimes add a coffee/juice bar to a master bath. “Our clients are looking for a place to make their morning coffee and store their juices and protein shakes within their master bathroom rather than the kitchen,” she says. “And, with the graying of America, clients need a place to store their medicines. We will sometimes include an undercounter refrigerator to accommodate these needs.”

For increased convenience, this designer also sees more clients adding a washer/dryer with a bit of storage to the master suite. “If clients have the space, they want to include them at the point of use,” she notes.

Low-maintenance Bath spaces

For Kevin Briggs, CMKBD, CAPS, CGR, CGP, KB Design, in Reading, MA, it’s all about large showers in low-maintenance spaces, with aging-in-place features becoming more prevalent amongst Baby Boomers who are looking to prepare their homes for long-term use with products such as grab bars and higher-level toilets.

“Larger showers with more than one showerhead are popular,” he notes. Briggs adds that enclosing them with glass keeps the bathroom open and bright.

Within these showers, his clients are opting for recessed niches for toiletries and linear drains. These provide a two-fold benefit – first, opening up new design possibilities by allowing for the use of larger-format tiles and, second, providing a chance for a curbless or zero threshold shower.

For showers with enough space, Briggs likes to include an area within the shower but away from the water source where clients can dry off before exiting. “It’s also a nice place to wait for the water to warm up,” he says.

Other comfort features include in-floor warming, which can be set to a timer. “It isn’t as much a heat source as it is a comfort feature,” he clarifies, adding that towel warmers also add a touch of luxury.

To minimize maintenance, Briggs notes that many of his clients are opting for reduced-care materials.

“People don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning,” he says. “They want something that is easy to maintain.”

As such, vanities are hung on the wall and feature sleek, slim designs made from low-maintenance materials such as laminate or lacquer. Quartz tops simplify upkeep since they don’t require sealing. “This is especially beneficial in a bathroom, where products such as cosmetics and nail polish removers can damage natural stone,” he comments.

Above-the-counter sinks are popular, especially those with a square design, he notes, as are vessel and bowl-type sinks, all of which are often accented with chrome fixtures. “Chrome is very durable, as well as economical,” says Briggs. “It’s been a popular look, and the shiny, glossy look is a nice contrast to a lot of colors being used now.”

Those colors include dark woods with brighter colors as well as neutral tones that provide contrast between the countertop, sink and vanity.

Wall-mount faucets and toilets are also popular since they’re easier to clean around. “And, with tanks that are installed in the wall, the amount of space required for the toilet is reduced,” Briggs adds.

Underfoot, porcelain tile is popular given its low maintenance requirements. In a wet environment, it’s also a safer alternative to polished, high-gloss tile, which can be slippery, especially with wet feet, he indicates.

Briggs also sees clients paying more attention to lighting, choosing to use recessed lights as well as LED lighting in atypical applications such as the medicine cabinet. “Some manufacturers offer lighting built into cabinets,” he explains. “When you turn them on, the perimeter of the mirror, or a portion of the mirror, lights up. It’s a seamless, low-maintenance lighting solution because homeowners don’t have to clean around light bulbs, escutcheons, etc.”

Controlled luxury

Although the recession took a bite out of her business, Robin Rigby Fisher, CMKBD, CAPS, principle of her own design firm in Portland, OR, has recently seen an uptick in client confidence. “I think they have pent-up energy,” she says. “They want to do more with their homes again.”

She notes that her clients are favoring “controlled luxury,” striking a balance between extravagance and value. They are including body sprays or steam showers, while wanting larger – yet reasonably sized – showers with benches. Heated flooring underneath porcelain tile meets the desire for more comfort and less upkeep. Softer colors promote relaxation. “People want to be able to relax in their homes, to be comfortable,” she says.

Fisher is also finding that people want to include custom closets as part of the master bathroom or master bedroom, carving out extra space when possible and improving organization when not. “People are finding that, when their closets are more organized, they are less stressed,” she states. “And they are recognizing that if they are more organized, they actually have more space.”

Along with custom closets is the desire for master bedroom transformations, Fisher explains. “They are asking me to do the entire package,” she says, “the master bedroom as well as the master bathroom.”

Like Krengel, Fisher is also fielding more requests for laundry rooms in the master suite.

Overall, people want comfort in a space that is designed specifically for them, she relates. “They want their homes to express who they are,” she says. “One good thing that has come about with the economy is that people are more accepting of their homes. We were in a non-sustainable economy. Now people are living in their homes longer. They are buying better-quality products. They are recognizing the value of investing in their homes and they are designing them according to who they are and how they live, not necessarily according to any trends.”

Chic looks

For Nancy G. Henry, registered interior designer, DDK Kitchen Design Group, many of the same trends and client desires noted by previous designers are evident in her area of Glenview, IL. Zero-threshold showers, chrome finishes, wall-mount faucets, floating cabinets and LED lights are all popular, as are porcelain tiles.

“Elongated drains offer a very fashionable, clean look,” she elaborates. “And we’re still seeing a lot of polished chrome, as well as brushed nickel finishes in fixtures.

“Over the past couple of months, I’ve also had a lot of requests for wall-mount faucets,” she continues, “especially from clients who live in the city. It’s a very chic, contemporary look, as are floating cabinets.”

LED lighting is a growing request that offers an array of benefits. “I’ve floated vanities and put LED lighting underneath them, as well as above and inside cabinets. It can be very attractive to see something [in the bathroom] that doesn’t look like it’s in a bathroom,” she says, adding that xenon lighting is also frequently used.

“Lighting is incredibly important in any room, especially one where women put on makeup and men shave,” she continues. “Wattage [of LED lights] is extremely low and output extremely high. The technology is still growing, and the price will come down. It’s already headed in that direction.”

Many of Henry’s clients are also trending toward porcelain tiles. Those that resemble brushed granite are especially exciting, she indicates. “We recently installed some in a master bath that was complemented with a quartzite vanity top,” she says. “Everyone actually thought the floor was granite.”

Henry is also noticing clients choosing a variety of tile shapes to create patterns on the floor as well as in the shower. “It’s less expensive than granite,” she notes. “It’s available in a variety of different colors, and it isn’t slippery.”

Another product Henry hears many requests for is the large rain showerhead. “They’ve been ‘in’ for quite some time, but people still really like them,” she says.

Vessel sinks, as well as those in various shapes, and free-standing tubs that can be placed in the middle of the room as a focal point, are also popular.

“We’re also seeing a lot of exotic veneers, including Wenge and Afromosia,” she says. “They provide a contemporary look. Horizontal grains are very popular now.”