Soothing Sanctuaries

There is an array of options for making a bathroom beautiful and functional.

Choices in bath design and products have never been more varied-or earth friendly.

Bath designers say that no matter the size of the room, a homeowner can create a beautiful, functional space with spa qualities and new-age features, including aroma and light therapy. And with the variety of good-quality materials and fixtures on the market, a great bathroom can be had without spending
a fortune.

It is indeed possible to find value and functionality when designing or renovating one of the most important rooms in the house. "The bathroom is an area that needs to function well," says bath designer Julie Brady of Standard of New England in Portsmouth. "It can be beautiful, but if it doesn't function well, you're not going to be happy."

Any wish list for a bath update or new build should start with an understanding of dimension, such as the counter height and sink height. (In master baths, vanity heights have increased by several inches, with finished heights of up to thirty-five or thirty-six inches for added comfort.) Then, decide whether you want a shower, tub, soaking tub, hot tub, sauna, separate water closet or all of the above.

Next, Brady works with homeowners to create a space that is aesthetically pleasing. "Homeowners want a place that makes them feel good, and they seek value for the space they are planning," she says. "Those are the basics of the new trend. Customers are not into the glitzy looks so much anymore, but they do want to invest in the home and in their well-being. The bathroom is a good place to do both of those things."

A Zen shower

Popular trends for baths include choosing a large shower rather than a tub and shower.

"Most of our clients have gone to all shower stalls in the bath. In the United States, our citizens are a showering community. Baths take a lot of time and water," says Tanya Ricard, a sales associate at Splash Bath in Nashua. "And you can make your shower area a 'wow' piece of the room."

Homeowners can choose showers that accommodate seating areas, special nozzles, hand sprays, massaging therapeutic jets or steam features.

"A trend is toward the 'spa retreat,' but not in a big and lavish way-instead in a simple, well-thought-out, Zen-like environment," Brady says, "where you feel a sense of peace
and calm."

Light and aromatherapy features are another trend in bathrooms. Aromatherapy can be introduced in special steam showers that dispense soothing fragrance or with diffusers that sit on a countertop. Chromotherapy, or light therapy, involves installing an underwater lighting system in a bathtub and its premise is that certain colors have healing properties. For example, red is said to be energizing, green promotes balance and violet is relaxing.

Eco-friendly changes

The owner of Splash Bath in Nashua, Bob Boisvert, notes that the variety of products and materials on the market for the bathroom today are "phenomenal." His company remodels between twenty and thirty bathrooms a year, and designs another two hundred-plus for customers.

Outside the bath or shower area, heated floors and towel racks are becoming more popular, as they not only provide warmth and comfort but are energy efficient as well.

Designers note that baths, showers and toilets are becoming more water
efficient. Low-flow faucets are designed to save 30 percent more water, some using only a gallon of water flow per minute.


Accessories and color

Brian Gahan-owner of Somnia, Artistry for Bed and Bath, in Portsmouth-says organic fabrics, soothing aromas as well as soft earth tones, light blues and greens are popular in the bath.

"A lot of the trends we see in bath accessories are eco-related. It has to do with using sustainable fabrics and
sustainable surfaces," he says. "The biggest shift we've seen over a couple of years is from cotton woven towels to bamboo towels."

Gahan said his store sells twice as many bamboo towels than cotton towels. The fabric is highly absorbent as well as highly anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. "It dries quickly and doesn't get musty," he says.

Bamboo robes are ideal for after-bath or shower use, due to their absorbency. Somnia also sells a comfort robe for relaxing, some made from microfibers. "They are soft as fur, and machine washable and dryable," Gahan says.

Earth tones are "huge" in bath décor, followed by soft blues and greens, he says, and neutral tones for towels have surpassed white towels in popularity. Soft browns, ivories and taupe shades
are big sellers, he adds, recommending that homeowners add a contrasting-colored hand towel for "a little pop."

Tile is another way to add a stylish finishing touch to a bathroom. "Tiling a bathroom successfully means achieving a thoughtful balance of style, function and budget," says Ann Pattison, owner of Portico Fine Tile & Design in Greenland. "Whether you're wrapping an entire bath in glass mosaic or just using a small accent, perfect material combinations can elevate the 'ho-hum' to 'wow!' For any budget, the goal is always
to wow."

Categories: Architecture and Interiors