Hotel Inspirations for Residential Master Baths

How often do clients say to you, “There was an amazing shower at the resort we stayed at last winter and I absolutely must have one like it in my bathroom!” Probably pretty frequently, if your design practice is a mid- or high-end one.

Hospitality design trends influence residential design trends, and nowhere is this more evident than in the master suite. The Westin group of hotels, which made a business out of selling their Heavenly Bed, has even expanded into selling bath products and fixtures.

It behooves designers to pay attention to what hotels and resorts are featuring to stay ahead of client requests. Here are some of the hottest looks and amenities in that sector that will probably show up on master bath project wish lists soon.


Trends at BD West

This regional hospitality design show featured some of the same brands you’ve seen at KBIS or Coverings – like Porcelanosa, Delta Faucet, Danze, Grohe, Brizo and Arizona Tile – but with offerings geared toward the fashion-forward, large-scale purchasing and resource-conscious end of the hospitality market.

One of the dominant style trends at the show was “opulent modernism,” where luxurious looks and amenities such as oversized spa tubs, chandeliers and marble-look tile played off of clean, contemporary lines. Rich stone and wood-look porcelain tile was abundant, as were highly decorative lighting fixtures. Overall, the show floor looks were clean-lined but elegant.

Another strong trend was digital integration. Electric Mirror epitomized this with its Vive technology. Vive lets users stream music or podcasts through Bluetooth-enabled mirrors. In the residential sector, we’ve already seen Bluetooth-enabled showerheads from Kohler, medicine cabinets from Robern and vent fans from Broan. Mirrors are what’s next, and Vive will be available for residential projects, too.

Sandra Vivas, general manager for San Diego’s Gaslamp District boutique hotel, The Keating, confirms this: “One of the trends that’s becoming more popular is the use of technology in bathrooms. Mirrors with built-in TV and sound systems that can be controlled by Bluetooth are now becoming easier to install in homes.”

Customization, which we’ve become accustomed to with our smart phones and tablets, is another strong hospitality trend. Neo-Metro, a fixtures brand that markets to both high-end residential and hospitality markets, offers this in its bath suites. The company designs sleek wall-mount toilets in a choice of Pantone colors. As with Apple’s colorful 5c collection, your clients don’t have to settle for just one or two colors.

You can also customize storage, which will surely be as welcome in residential projects as it is in hospitality.

Green was a huge trend at BD West, too, as hotels seek to save money on water and energy use. Their challenge is to minimize overhead, while still delivering a quality bathroom experience. As a result, air-injected showerheads, toilets that minimize water use and LED-powered lighting were all on display.

Another popular trend in the hospitality market is one that will likely emerge in the residential sector, too: clean-lined resin vanity components. These tops and coordinating storage pieces were on display at Cevisama in Spain two years ago, and at the Neo-Metro booth at BD West in March.

Resin’s low-maintenance, repairable finish makes it a natural for the hospitality sector, but busy homeowners benefit, too. The challenge is combining this sensible material with high style, and that challenge has clearly been mastered.


A hotelier’s insights

While it’s true that hotel managers are buying hundreds of fixtures, faucets and vanities, and acres of floor and wall tile for a project, the attributes they seek are seeping into the residential market, especially as local building and remodeling codes continue to toughen: High-tech, low-maintenance, resource-saving, durable, timeless and safe for users are all crucial criteria for hospitality designers. But, they also need to excite the senses and deliver a resort-like ambiance for guests.

“At the Keating, we think of everything as an experience,” shares Vivas. Homeowners want their master baths to have that same “experience” effect, so that they feel like they’re on vacation when they use them. Fixtures such as rain showers and separate hand-sets, mood lighting and jetted tubs with chromatherapy – as the Keating and other boutique hotels offer – contribute to that effect.

The challenge today, for both hospitality and residential designers, is to blend the excitement with energy and water savings. The air-injected showerheads and dimmable LEDs contribute to the spa experience without hogging resources.

Low maintenance and durability are also crucial in the hospitality sector, and increasingly in mainstream residential projects. This has led to the growth of wood- and stone-look porcelain tiles that have become mainstays in both sectors. Stylish resin components will likely overtake wood and granite vanities, too.


Design translations

Those designers who work in both hospitality and residential sectors are seeing (and facilitating) these trend crossovers first. This is especially true of those who work at the high end of the market and across national borders. Laura Bielicki, B.I.D., LEED AP, senior designer at Godwin Austen Johnson in Dubai, is one of those professionals.

“Many of our clients have stayed at some of the world’s top hotels and expect nothing less in their homes. We often hear them referring to the Armani hotels, as well as various global destinations, for inspiration,” she notes.

The trends she has seen cross over from hospitality to high-end residential include digital entertainment and chromatherapy, as well as bathrooms open to bedrooms. As far as finishes, Bielicki shares, “Nickel, stainless, matte black/white, brass and bronze finishes have been popular across hospitality and residential sectors, with the occasional gold-plated project.”


Next trends

Some of the recent innovations Bielicki has spotted for both hotel and residential projects include Laufen’s slim porcelain fixtures, Brizo’s touchless faucets, Mr. Steam’s digital showering, Gessi’s clean-lined fixture and faucet shapes and Roca’s tankless wall-hung toilets.

“Antimicrobial ceramic tiles have become very popular for many markets,” the designer adds. These tiles were on display at both Cevisama in Spain and Cersaie in Italy for large-scale projects, and will likely filter down into the U.S. residential sector, as well.

“Wellness toilets (which make sounds, wash the user, light up and seem to entertain users), have not taken full grasp of the market here (or throughout North America). However, our Asian counterparts cannot stop talking about them. We are interested to see if they make a big step into the [Gulf States/Mideast] market and if it will only be in the residential, or also the hospitality sector,” she shares.

“High quality and functionality will always guarantee a return on investment,” adds hotel manager Vivas. That, too, can be said for residential, as well as hospitality, projects. While researching the latest innovations and trends for your clients, source those that will deliver lasting performance. That is the ultimate nod to sustainability.


Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work (Taunton Press), and a blogger, design journalist, seminar developer and industry consultant.