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.”
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.”