Saturday, July 22, 2017  

Bathroom Design: Trends and Tips


The overarching trend in today’s bathroom design and fixtures is customization. Think soft and decorative lighting, smart showers (smart enough to remember your favorite song), even coffee bars. Consumers want a space that is unique to their personality and contemporary bathrooms very much reflect that.

Much more than a utilitarian space, the modern bathroom is a place of luxury – a place we go to escape and recharge. Conjure up an image of your last visit to a day spa or spa hotel for an idea of the kind of design that is spilling over into the home improvement market.

“Overall the trend is open and light,” says Vincent Haynie, owner of Ingram Bay Contracting which is based in Reedville on the Northern Neck. “We are seeing that everywhere. I think that one of the nicest things people are doing – even within a small bathroom – is introducing a lot of natural light into the bathroom. We are also seeing a lot of glass tiles.”
Muted colors and nature-inspired materials are increasingly popular in every sphere of the design world but especially bathrooms. Natural materials will stand the test of time and generally never go out of style. Natural isn’t wood exclusive, either. Stone, slate and other earthy materials are all natural options which will work beautifully for most designs.

According to Rich Sowinski, Jr., owner of The Virginia Bath Company, one of the hottest items for a bathroom right now is natural stone. “Stone shower floors, stone accent walls, even stone mosaics covering shower walls are huge,” he says. “Also, stone can be enhanced with different types of sealers and other products. This is a great start for customers wanting a spa or modern feel to their bathroom.”

With so many choices in faucets, sinks, toilets, tiles, cabinets, and other fixtures and finishes – homeowners can get exactly what they want.

Brittney Townsend Hopkins, Showroom Manager at Ferguson Enterprises’ Mooretown Road location agrees that people envision the bathroom as a beautiful and livable space where convenience is paramount.

“We see bathroom design becoming a space truly reflective of a homeowner’s personal needs and experience. Spacious walk-in showers are definitely a must have, filled with multiple shower heads (rain, multifunctional, and hand shower) and maybe the addition of a bench seat.”

Freestanding tubs have seen a huge aesthetic shift from the traditional and massive corner tubs that were so popular a decade ago to a sleek, elegant space that’s open, decorative and easy to clean.

“We are seeing more requests these days for large showers in the master baths,” Rich says. “I personally don’t recommend this, though, unless there is another bathtub in the home.”

A shower can be built to fit one’s individual needs by installing seats, grab bars, hand-held sprayers and even the curb-less shower which Rich says is gaining in popularity. Also, walk-in tubs, shower seats and towel bars are not only functional but they can be stylish too. Walk-in tubs allow people with reduced mobility to enjoy bathing. Some are available with an air bath system, great for getting the circulation going for users with diabetes or other circulatory problems.

Another luxurious extra finding its way into showers: heated tiles. Consumers can choose radiant heated floors, radiant electric mats for floors benches inside the shower, eliminating that first cold step into the shower without wasting hot water.

Ingram Bay’s Vincent and Lydia Haynie have remodeled bathrooms in homes that range from large and modern to 
the circa 1950s ranch house – and even homes dating to the early 1900s.

“We’ve done everything,” Vincent says. “We’ve even designed a bathroom around a vessel sink that a client’s daughter brought her from Mexico.”

If you follow design trends closely you will have noticed that colors are more tranquil with grey being extremely popular. And, according to Vincent, the color “white” is always in. In terms of materials, copper has been emerging with copper baths, copper light fixtures, sinks and other quirky accessories that will make your bathroom pop.

Speaking of light, another hot design trend is the placement of chandeliers in the bathroom. Typically smaller and more delicate than those used elsewhere in the home, bathroom chandeliers can transform the look of a room while providing elegant, soft overhead illumination. When combined with task and accent lighting, an appropriately sized chandelier will help create a “layered” lighting effect in the bath.

“Lighting is something that few people make a priority in a bathroom,” says Brittney. “They spend their budget on flooring, countertops and a tub – and forget about accessories and lighting. But lighting plays just as important of a role in conveying a certain design and driving an individual’s style to the next level. Layering of lighting, high quality accessories and beautiful countertops can be an easy way for a ‘do-it-yourselfer’ to upgrade a bathroom without changing plumbing fixtures that could require more time or expertise.”

Another easy (and inexpensive!) way to create that cherished spa-like atmosphere is to connect a dimmer switch to the bathroom light fixtures. Dimmers allow the homeowner to enhance the bathroom’s brightness in the morning when getting ready, and then decrease it later in the evening, perhaps while soaking in the tub.

High-Tech Twists

Bath time can and should be an experience for the senses 
with options like built-in audio systems, Chroma therapy (using mood-enhancing colors) or even tub-side refrigeration, for keeping beverages on hand or for storing nail polish or organic skin products or medications that need to be kept cold. Tricked out showers are smarter than ever, often featuring a control system for the shower with functions like water pressure and temperature.

For the sustainability-conscious, manufacturers are getting smart about reducing toilet and faucet water use and almost all of the large toilet manufacturers offer dual-flush toilets. Also, homeowners can easily and affordably save water by installing low-flow aerators on new and existing faucets and even hands-free faucets.

Does it take a massive-sized room to create a spa-like retreat?

“Some of my favorite bathroom remodels have been master bathrooms that were 5’x8’,” Rich says. “They are more common than you think. One of my favorite things to do in a small bathroom is to remove any visual barriers. Removing a non-load bearing wall dividing a tub and shower is probably one of the most common and cost effective ways to make a bathroom feel bigger. Changing the wall color in a bathroom can make dramatic difference, too, with just a gallon of paint.”

When considering a remodel, Brittney suggests that you first evaluate your existing space and determine those elements you appreciate about it – 
and those that you dislike for one reason or another.

“This will help you to make less emotional or ‘trendy’ decisions and instead focus on your needs or your family’s 
needs for this room,” she says. “Next 
select a designer and remodeler with experience in the market. At Ferguson, we work with many talented trades people and we believe that’s the key to a successful remodel!”

Brittney also suggests that budding designers visit sites like Houzz, Pinterest, and http://shop.ferguson.com to begin building an idea book.

Vincent agrees.

“I think that going to a good showroom like Ferguson and looking at the different fixtures is important,” he says. “Go get your hands on them, experience them – they aren’t all made the same. So you will definitely want 
to do that.”

“We love when customers know what they like, because that can be the hardest part,” adds Brittney. “If they have pictures of bathrooms or styles that they prefer, we can take their ‘dream’ and show them more budget friendly suggestions that still evoke the same look.”

When doing online research, though, it is important to look at manufacturers’ websites in order to get accurate information regarding customer services and warranty coverage. Note, too, that some online sites can often feature discontinued products and generic specification sheets.

Once a homeowner has made the decision to remodel his or her bathroom, Rich recommends getting at least three estimates. He considers providing an estimate to be part of his job interview and so The Virginia Bath Company provides that service at no charge. For the do-it-yourselfers in the community, Rich suggests that you conduct thorough research to make sure you have the time, knowledge and tools to get it done right.

“It is very, very important that every homeowner knows what they are paying for and how it’s going to be installed,” he says. “There are so many different products that are going to be used in a bathroom remodel that you want to make sure that the product is going to be right for your type of bathroom. I can’t tell you how many times I see a brand new bathroom that was built with the wrong products.”

As you approach remodeling, think not only about what works for your family, but also what other homeowners might be looking for because even though a bathroom renovation can be costly, that spa-like retreat can also be a tipping point if and when you sell your home.