Trend Watch: Bathing Beauties

Inspired by time spent in upscale spas, boutique hotels and luxurious resorts, homeowners are seeking bathrooms intended to make their daily shower and shave a more aesthetic experience. “You stay in the Four Seasons Hotel and see a shower door you like, or you see a piece of furniture in Cape May, New Jersey, and you want to have it,” says Mark Soble, owner of Delaware Valley Plumbing Supply/West End Hardware, which has showrooms in Voorhees, Wynnewood and Warminster.

It turns out, though, where bathroom style is concerned, location counts. On the Main Line, traditional looks mostly rule, while in Center City, South Jersey and at The Shore, contemporary designs are setting the new standard. “It’s turning into an eclectic mix,” Soble says.

At Teknika Design Group in Old City you’ll see many of the most cutting-edge styles. Here, industrial- chic stainless-steel sinks cling to the walls framed by mosaic tiles. According to Teknika design consultant Lisa Marie McKeogh, it’s perfectly appropriate to set contemporary bath pieces in a historic home. “In Europe, you have old houses, but the designs are more contemporary,” she says.

But even conservative homeowners are getting playful, mostly in the powder room where they want to make a bold statement. Here, you’re likely to see vessel sinks made of glass or porcelain, perched on console tables and paired with sleek one-piece toilets. “In powder rooms, people do something fun and different,” says Kim Stranix, showroom consultant with Ferguson Bath & Kitchen Gallery in King of Prussia. “In traditional Main Line homes, they give it the flair in the powder room.”

The retro look, popularized by retailers like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, still has a place in traditional homes, although the pedestal sink is losing favor. Instead, many are opting for a European-influenced look in the main and master baths. Practicality—and the need for storage—plays a role in choosing furniture-inspired cabinets topped with wood, marble or stone; these are set with under- or surface-mount sinks.

“The trend seems to more of an efficient use of space,” says designer Sandra Soltoff, co-owner with her husband, Michael, of Unique Kitchens & Baths in Doylestown. “They’re downsizing the tub area and upsizing the shower area. They’re making the bathroom more efficient as far as storage needs, with a pantry for linen and custom cabinetry, creating furniture looks that are efficient.”

Some homeowners at The Shore are “getting rid of the shower door and replacing it with a drain and a sloping floor,” says McKeogh. Others keep the door, but use a frameless one. “You take a hot shower and you let the cold air in,” Soble. “People like the coziness and the secure feeling.”

The same sense of practicality usually steers people away from a vessel sink in a main bath. “In the main bath, where you’re spilling toothpaste, the practicality of a vessel sink is very questionable,” Soble says. “For a bath that’s used everyday, the under mount or surface mounts are more practical.”

Shower Power

Heading down the hall to the master suite, you may be in for a surprise. The ubiquitous whirlpool tub is losing favor. “People are getting out of bathtubs,” says Roe Fierro, president of Teknika. “All they want is a shower. They will keep one bathtub if they have kids.”

Many people, especially those with brand new houses, still opt for a large tub-and-shower combination. “They want both a shower and a tub,” says Stranix. “People are so busy. They don’t have time to fill up a big tub. They tend to go toward luxurious showers.”

For those who can’t live without their whirlpool and TV, Jacuzzi offers both in the same package: a fully jetted tub with a 13-inch set, with a floating remote.
Those with space and practicality in mind are putting the focus on the shower. These aren’t boring stalls, but oversized areas built for two. “People are using big, ceiling-mounted shower heads,” Stranix says. “Often, it’s multiple shower heads and steam is also big in the shower. A lot of people like the health clubs, where they have the rainhead showers. When people are redoing their homes, they want that same thing.”

Or they’re choosing to have his-and-hers bath suites, featuring a separate toilet and sink for him and a toilet, sink and bidet for her, with a common meeting area for another sink, and the shower or tub. “It feels like a living space rather than a bathroom,” says McKeogh.

Whatever your style, a successful bath’s form and function have to be in sync to make it work well. “There is a certain continuity to a bathroom,” says Soltoff, “and it needs to be maintained if it’s going to work efficiently.”