Masterpiece Master Bath
Your bathroom awaits— rainfall shower, wine cooler, comfy couch, and all.
look ma, no hands!
Waking up is hard to do. But when you rest your naked toes on heated floor tiles, switch on the chromatherapy lighting to stimulate your mood, and turn on your morning show on the flat-screen TV—all before stepping into your purifying steam shower—it certainly makes the task a tad easier.
Welcome to the new bathroom-as-living room or, as Manhattan architect Andrea Dibner of Tobin + Parnes Design Enterprises calls it, “the new vacation spot.” “Life,” says Dibner, “is so stressful and people are so connected that the bathroom has become the one private refuge where they can get away from it all.” And if you can get away from it all with a toasty towel (from your heated towel rack), a remote control for music, and an upholstered daybed to lounge in while you contemplate what to wear, well, it’s a good morning.
heart of stone
“The list of what you can do in the master bath is endless,” explains Betty Rico, a design consultant with Mount Kisco-based Davis & Warshow. She’s seeing living room-like touches: stone countertops (“concrete slabs rather than marble”), vessel sinks (“in steel, glass, and porcelain”), and refrigerated medicine cabinets (“excellent for diabetics to store insulin”). Full-size showers—often with a heated a bench—boast a multitude of body sprays, along with rainfall ceilings or wall waterfall effects.
It’s all part of the cocooning trend, says Jonas Weiner, owner of Best Plumbing Tile & Stone (which has showrooms in Scarsdale, Yorktown, Somers, and Stamford, Connecticut) and a natural next step from the spa rooms that a few years ago were the hot master-bath trend. “People are putting more attention into their homes and personalizing their spaces,” says Weiner, who, with his wife, Sharon, recently renovated the master bath in their own Pound Ridge home. The job was complete with “all the gadgets,” including two toilet rooms, his-and-her mahogany and walnut vanities, and a TV. Weiner jokes that he already has a “waiting list” for people who want to stop by and try it (to accommodate the request, the couple is in the throes of remodeling a guest bathroom).
So it’s a downturned economy and you want to make your digs shine among the inventory of homes on the market. You’ve established that upgrading the master bath is a pretty viable way to do so. What should you include if you’re about to redesign your own?
Though what features you choose depend on your specific needs, there are some distinct trends experts are seeing. Incorporate a few and you’ll keep your home fresh—and marketable.
furniture finish Sitting areas with recliners, chaises, and decorative armoires are more and more common in the master bath. Upscale cabinetry has also shifted from the kitchen to the bathroom, moving way beyond the standard vanity to expansive, wall-to-ceiling built-ins.
mixed materials In place of standard porcelain, non-traditional materials such as glass, rock, wood, and chrome are leading the way in fixture and countertop design. Polished chrome, stainless steel, brushed nickel, and handcrafted bronze are the “it” finish for faucets, drawer pulls, and other accessories. Some experts report seeing more mosaics and many predict we’ll see increased use of stainless steel—in medicine cabinets, bathtubs, and shower walls (though tempered with natural stone)—perhaps due to its eco-friendly reputation.
divide and conquer Forget the old barriers and de rigueur walls of former bathrooms. Today, the trend is to divide the bathroom tub and shower by installing a center-stage whirlpool bath and separate glass-enclosed luxury massage or steam shower. Toilets are also physically separated from the rest of the bathroom, either hidden behind a wall divider or separated away in an alcove with a door.
music and more Shower to the sounds of Mariah Carey or enjoy a soak with Chopin: entertainment systems and flat-screen TVs are discretely hidden on walls, in mirrors, and as integral parts of tubs and showers, so you can remain in touch with breaking news. Some screens even can show you who’s standing at the front door if the doorbell rings!
tricked-out tubs Freestanding tubs often form a decorative centerpiece in the middle of a room—everything from old clawfoot tubs to copper tubs to stone tubs, in addition to two-person versions encased in wood frames. Along with its fashionable look, these bathtubs offer the opportunity to soak in luxury with programmable massage settings, chromatherapy mood lighting, built-in stereo speakers, and, for those who truly like to lap up luxury, a nearby wine cooler.
healthful benefits As Baby Boomers age, maximizing health has become a prime concern, and steam showers are just one way to add anti-aging factors to your routine. Many now include aromatherapy and chroma-therapy to encompass the elements of light, scent, and sound—all meant to help improve circulation, alleviate fatigue, reduce anxiety, support relaxation, and invigorate the entire body, an allover holistic indulgence. The multitude of body sprays, rainfall ceiling showers, and wall waterfall effects create a spa experience, often featuring themes such as “lightning” and “daybreak,” much like an IMAX theater.
aging in place According to AARP, the vast majority of Boomers plan to remain in their own homes for as long as possible; consequently, there’s an eye toward the future in bathroom renovation. That might mean bracing walls for grab bars installed later on in life or considering a roll-in shower so you don’t have to step over a ledge to enter. Weiner says he also sees a trend in strategically placed electrical outlets. Planning ahead, he says, will “offer you many options for future items that we’ll see on the market, making it a valuable addition.”
mini kitchens Since some homes are so large—and the kitchen so far away—bathrooms fitted with coffee makers, microwaves, wine chillers, water coolers, and refrigerated medicine cabinets are becoming more and more common. Showers, apparently, aren’t the only way to refresh.
green reigns Since the majority of your household water is used in the bathroom, there’s a growing trend toward eco-smart fixtures. Some of these include water-efficient taps, showers, and low-flow toilets; foot-pedal controls that make it harder to leave water running; countertops made of recycled material; nontoxic paints; and heat-reclamation systems that recirculate heat in showers and tubs to avoid consuming “new” hot water.
warm it up Heated towel racks and radiant-heat floors have been around for a while, but now homeowners increasingly are turning to toilets with warm seats, heated shower benches, towel-warming drawers, and showers that can be turned on and warmed up in advance. Add a wall-recessed gas fireplace and you’re in heat heaven. “It’s all about creating a sensory environment,” says Weiner, “like you’re entering a hospitality-type atmosphere, something more like a hotel bathroom than residential.”
less clutter People are streamlining their designs, hiding their toiletries, makeup, and hair implements behind closed doors. Plumbing all but disappears with wall-mounted taps. Even electrical outlets are hidden in drawers or medicine chests.
into the future Voice-activated control systems, preprogrammed thermostats…just say the word and your shower can start warming up while you catch up on the morning headlines. “There continues to be a hunger for new gadgets, choices, and alternatives,” says Weiner. But the end result? “Master baths have become an accepted and integral value in someone’s home—even in a diminishing real estate market.” In other words: go for it.
Top Tips from Top Pros
“Before you talk to your contractor, look carefully at pictures of the kinds of bathroom you want to create. Go to showrooms. Talk to people. Do your research and get suggestions. Then start the process.”
Bath N’ Bagno
“Go for the extras. If you want the waterfall, just get it. Once you do it right, you don’t have to change it down the road. It’s your home, enjoy.”
Davis & Warshow
“Think really hard about how you live: where you put your makeup, your hairdryer, the wet towels. Then plan accordingly.”
Best Plumbing Tile & Stone
Scarsdale, Yorktown, Somers, and Stamford, Connecticut
“If you want to make a small bathroom look bigger, use clear glass on the shower door. It deemphasizes the shower enclosure itself and focuses on the materials in the shower, such as marble, granite, or decorative tile.”
Mr. Shower Door
“Don’t just go for the hot trends; do what works for you and your family. Make your design your own.”
Tobin + Parnes
New York City
Abbey Gold, a Westchester-based writer who has had articles published in a variety of national magazines, focuses on home design and architecture.