Thank goodness for trends. Otherwise we’d still be living with green shag carpet, massive, oversized furniture and wagon wheel coffee tables. At least that’s the philosophy of Ione Victoria, owner/designer of Paradise Interior Design, Santa Cruz, California.

“When we look at design trends, we’ve come a long way,” she says. “The 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were very earthy. After a period of time, we figured it was way overdone. It was difficult to keep clean, way too heavy to move and it wasn’t versatile. Oak – with its busy grain and heavy, dark color – was everywhere.

“Then we lightened up,” she continues. “We went from warm to anemic. Everyone whitewashed everything. It swung too far the other way. Now we’re living in a design era where we’ve found the medium. We’re into soft colors, low maintenance with less clutter, a little bit of bling in our metals and a small amount of sheen. It’s much more versatile. It’s peaceful and soothing.”

Designers across the country expressed some of the same sentiments when KBDN asked them about what current trends they’re seeing in master bath remodeling.

“It seems spaces are becoming more simplified,” says Sarah Michalowski, CKD, Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota. “People want a really clean look and they’re putting things away. Plug-ins inside medicine cabinets for electric toothbrushes, curling irons and hair dryers are becoming more popular. I think it makes them feel calmer.”

Fellow Minnesotan Laura Orfield-Skrivseth, co-owner, AKBD, designer/project manager, Orfield Design & Construction in Minnetonka, finds that homeowners are interested in personalizing their spaces and making them their own. “They don’t necessarily worry about fitting into a certain style, allowing ‘eclectic’ and ‘transitional’ to represent their personal tastes,” she says. “Realizing that resale is important, they’re asking for advice from design professionals about architectural best practices for function/layout and material selections.”


Showers gain dominance

Much of the advice they’re seeking focuses heavily on the shower. Walk-in showers with glass block, frameless glass or even without doors are common requests. Handheld and rainhead shower heads, heated shower seating and flooring, integrated ledges and niches, and beautiful tile ranging from natural stone and limestone to recycled glass are all popular. In fact, the shower is gaining such dominance that in many cases homeowners are trading in their bathtubs for walk-in showers.

“It’s a huge trend that just isn’t going away,” says Michael Finley, owner, Rocky Mountain Bathrooms, Littleton, Colorado. “Homeowners on all levels of economy and scale are placing more emphasis on the shower. It’s something they use every day. A lot of times, we’ll completely remove bathtubs and enlarge showers in the master bath.”

Bathtubs just aren’t what they used to be in popularity, he reiterates. “Ten to 15 years ago it was all about jetted tubs,” he says. “Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon for people to tell us they’ve lived in their home for 10 years and have only used their tub a few times. In our projects, the shower is the dominate focus.”

Michalowski finds much of the same in her market, especially when homeowners are tight for space. “People are tending to stay in their current homes rather than build larger ones,” she says. “They’re working with the space they have. And if it’s a smaller space, they’ll forego the bathtub for a larger shower.”

For many of Victoria’s clients, it’s all about opening up the room with beautiful, oftentimes doorless, walk-in showers in spaces inspired by nature with lots of windows and skylights. “A lot of people don’t want any doors [on their showers] if they can get away with it,” she says. “Depending on the size of the space, it really isn’t necessary. With handheld and rainhead shower heads you don’t have to worry as much about overspray. And by incorporating radiant heat floors, warmth is not an issue, either. Plus, you can have a beautiful, continuous floor. Unless someone is looking for a steam shower, there really isn’t a reason to completely enclose it.”


Economic influences

Victoria indicates that she sees design trends influenced by location (climate), technology (what’s new and improved), politics (green products), economics (what’s cost effective) and current fashion (which reflects human emotions of the day).

She indicates in her market, homeowners are in their bathrooms only as long as necessary. “We have an outdoor mentality,” she says. “We’re very organic here. Homeowners love natural stone. If a client wants color, it’s usually more of an accent rather than a mainstay. For a bit of glitz, I’ll use recycled glass mosaic. It’s so easy with the materials available today to create something beautiful.”

Victoria relates that with so many influences, it’s exciting to see how design makes spaces more interesting and easier to live in.

Other designers reiterate Victoria’s mention of the economy as influential in current master bathroom remodeling trends. Finley finds that many of his clients are toning things down to keep costs in check. “We’ve seen a trend from major remodels to more of a focus on value,” he says. “Spaces are a little less extravagant. People aren’t living off the equity of their homes. They’re having to pay out of their pockets.”

It’s about choices, he indicates. Instead of body sprays, they’ll install in a rainhead shower head, which provides a bit of luxury. Instead of an ogee edge on a granite vanity top, they’ll choose a beveled edge, which allows them to still enjoy their granite top.

Although homeowners may be taking a step back, Finley indicates they still expect beautiful spaces. To achieve the desired effect, he says he gets creative.

In one particular remodel, he created custom storage with a standard linen closet. “We built the cabinet into the wall,” he says. “It was a nice cost savings for the homeowner without having to do custom-built cabinets.”

Finley also indicates he offers different levels of glass options. “Full-framed glass is less expensive than frameless,” he says. “But we also offer a hybrid option where we can polish a corner of a framed-glass shower to get rid of the frame to open up the space.”

Orfield-Skrivseth finds that the economy has curbed her clients a bit, too. “The economic downturn is rapidly becoming accepted as a hopeless normal,” she says. “Instead of everyone remodeling everything all the time and freely financing everything, I have found my clientele to be much more frugal in mindset.

“That doesn’t mean ‘cheap’,” she insists. “They are taking a lot more time to plan before jumping into a project. They are calculating their long-term enjoyment of the investment, the source of their cash flow for the project and the security of its replenishment. They are even considering respect for the earth’s renewable materials and the green movement. They are deciding that it’s best to do it right once, taking into consideration not just the [bathroom] space, but how it relates to the rest of the structure and rooms as a whole.”

In that regard, Orfield-Skrivseth finds her clients are demanding knowledgeable and creative designers/remodelers as they become readily educated by technology’s searchable plethora of options available for materials, home flip/makeover/interior design/real estate shows and the consequences of artistic choices. “Considering these [influences] they are more open to reusing salvageable materials or re-purposing them,” she says. “They accept compromises on personal wish lists for the good of the whole project (budget driven and/or best practices usually).” For example, prefabricated showers are supplied and embellished with tile borders instead of the greater expense (and maintenance) of completely tiled showers.


Media moves into the bathroom

As far as trending products within the master bath, Michalowski and Orfield-Skrivseth find that steam showers are popular. “They work into any style of bathroom, whether it’s traditional, contemporary or transitional,” says Michalowski. “While some homeowners may be tightening their budgets in some areas, many still want a steam shower for its added health and wellness benefits.”

“My clients consider this space their relaxing spa area instead of driving to a gym for these amenities,” Orfield-Skrivseth adds.

Michalowski is also seeing more media move into the master bath. “A lot of my clients want a TV in the space, regardless of whether or not they can see it,” she relates. “It’s more about hearing the news in the background as they’re getting ready for work in the morning. It seems people are getting busier and busier. A TV in the master bath gives them a chance to catch up on the news without having to sit down and read the newspaper. People are working harder, longer hours. Time is more precious to them.”

In keeping with the clean lines, Michalowski recesses a lot of TVs into a niche or an opening in the wall so homeowners can tuck them away after viewing.

Other trending products include those related to aging in place. Larger showers and built-in seating can provide immediate benefits for those in need or can fulfill perceived needs in the future.

“We’re doing less with curbs,” says Michalowski. “It adds to the clean lines and improves safety so homeowners can easily get into the shower.”

Orfield-Skrivseth also sees universal design products and features becoming more popular. Good lighting – general and task as well as that which is controllable (dimmer) – single-hole faucets and lever handles which are designed for use of any age (child or older) can help prevent extreme temperature fluctuations.

“Many people are combining their family households,” she says. “Children are moving in with parents and grandparents are moving in with children, while others are looking at the cost of assisted-living facilities and deciding to create easy-to-use, one-level living. This is causing them to design for both short- and long-term use. Creating attractive flexibility for users of all ages and mobility involves non-slip materials with diverse lighting solutions, wider entrances, low-maintenance materials and structural backing for future grab bars, cabinetry of varying heights and a lot of storage – INSIDE the bathroom!

“The linen-in-the-hallway concept is being replaced by incorporating full storage inside the bathroom,” she continues. “It is ready when needed. It’s an important detail for multi-gendered households so family members don’t have to ‘streak’ down the hall to get a forgotten towel or washcloth.”

For Victoria, many of her clients desire the spa look with open spaces. “For us, it’s about freedom of movement,” she says. “It’s about air. It’s about daylight. Any design that accomplishes that is always welcomed, and always enjoyed!”

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