Inside & Out: Relaxing Environment

Home builders looking for bathroom trends needn't look any further. We've gathered the industry's experts to weigh in on bathroom trends.
By Laura Butalla, Senior Editor | March 31, 2006

Today's bathrooms feature four main elements: luxury, spa, comfort and detail. According to industry experts, of all of those elements, creating a spa-like feel is the most important. Space in the home can be a precious commodity, but builders are focusing more on bigger bathrooms to provide homeowners with more space. That space is fitted out with special amenities such as coffeemakers, under-counter refrigerators and microwaves.

Adding to the sense of luxury, comfort and a spa-like environment are designer touches of detail including accent colored walls, distinctive mixtures of tiles or unique sink bowls.

"The bathroom is the jewel of the home," says interior designer Lita Dirks, president of Lita Dirks & Co., Englewood, Colo. "The powder room is the diamond ring of the home, and the master bathroom is right behind it."

Bathroom Hype

While all bathrooms in the house are getting special attention, the master bathroom utilizes all four elements the most completely. "The master bathrooms are spa-like in feel," says Dirks.

Separate vanities, not just separate sinks, are increasingly popular. This provides distinct areas for men and women in the bathroom, allowing each his or her exclusive comfort and space. "In her space, she wants a tub to soak in and separate vanity space," says Dirks. "He may want the higher sink height and the john."

Some builders provide 36-inch vanity height, which is more comfortable for the average man. "It's all about being really efficient," says Tina Barclay, president of Barclay Interior, Lake Oswego, Ore. "They live differently and it gives them their own separate space."

Luxury is not just a vanity. It's customized cabinetry. Furniture-style cabinetry creates distinguishing vanities as well as space for storing bathroom essentials, while giving the bathroom that sense of comfort. Many builders match bathroom cabinetry to the cabinetry in rest of the home, but a distinct style can create a unique look for the bathroom alone. "The entire wall can become cabinetry," says Dirks. "Many builders are using cabinetry to distinguish their difference from another builder."

The master bathroom still holds a standard tub or hot tub. The hip version of the hot tub is Chromatherapy, which is a hot tub with colorful lighting used to sooth and relax. Home buyers are also occasionally requesting Japanese soaking tubs as upgrades.

The most significant change in bathrooms recently is the shower now dominates the space. Walk-in showers with glass block walls. Shower stalls with clear glass doors. Snail showers with tile-covered walls. No matter the style, many feature built-in shelving for shampoo and soap, decorative grab bars for safety and patterned non-slip floors. Other added details for luxury and comfort include multiple showerheads, body sprays and water tiles to line the walls and ceiling.

The master bathroom still features a private area for the toilet. Some provide privacy with a single door, while others define the space with half walls. Some toilet spaces even provide extra cabinetry for storage of toiletries, towels or other necessities.

Maximum Detailing

Upgrades allow for personalization. "There's more flexibility for builders in upgrades," says Doris Pearlman, president of Possibilities for Design in Denver. That flexibility makes it easier for builders to deliver unique details. No matter the product, each offers ways to deliver personalization:

  • Tile: "Tile is the easiest way to add touches for a production builder," says Dirks. "The way you use the tile itself can become a piece of art." Consider lining tile around a mirror to create a frame or mixing tile sizes, shapes, and textures to add to the detail. One of the newest trends is using leather tiles to create new looks for the powder room or as a vanity border.
  • Lighting: "Lighting is critical," says Barclay. "Different levels of lighting make a difference." Place a chandelier over the tub or add scones throughout the room to create a new look.
  • Sinks: "People want interesting sinks," says Dirks. Bevel and pedestal sinks are still very popular. Sink bowels in different shapes and sizes provide an entire new look and create unique detail too.
  • Toilets: "Someone finally got around to redesigning the toilet," says Pearlman. The Hat Box toilet is all the rage for those who can afford it. This sleek looking, comfort-height toilet with no backing delivers a personalized detail by adding a new look to the room.
  • Plumbing Fixtures: "Now you can get any finish you want with plumbing fittings," says Barclay. Round or square rain showerheads can match with the style of the rest of the bathroom. Water tiles, grab bars, even toilet handles can be upgraded to match plumbing fixtures.

Builders can add almost anything to the bathroom to provide personalized and unique details. It's just a matter of having the options available to the customer. Allowing them to add luxury, a spa-like feel and comfort to the bathroom gives the customer what they want and helps the builder differentiate his product.


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