Mastering the Bath

Few rooms in our homes have changed more over the years than the bathroom. Today the bathroom, and, in particular, the master bathroom, is one of the most sybaritic and luxurious rooms of all. New design and cutting edge technology have made this essential space into a retreat that is important to every homeowner.

Jan Speziale of Barnard Speziale Design Associates, knows exactly what her clients want in a master bath: “Luxury, luxury and more luxury!”

“It's no longer about utilitarian function. The master bath has become a haven within the home, somewhere to relax and recharge, to escape from the craziness of life for a while,” she says.

Trends in bathrooms follow that luxury theme. Colours, says Speziale, are still white and biscuit, and white on white bathrooms are big, with glossy white fixtures and matte white on tiles and floors. Biscuit is a soft, warm form of white that is more traditional.

According to Speziale, spa-like amenities also continue to be popular.

“Clients want an attractive free-standing soaker tub, but the big built-in tubs are gone.  The jets that used to be in tubs are now in the shower. And showers now come with all the bells and whistles, including automatic settings that control the temperature, preset spray angles and your personal music playlist. Actually, many of the great innovations in bathroom technology are invisible controls that custom design the bath experience.”

“Heated toilet seats, remote control bidet functions with presets for two people that adjusts the temperature and angle of oscillating jets ““ these things all help to enrich the bathing experience. Some toilets have sensors that illuminate as you approach them at night and warm the seat.”

Radiant heated floors are almost de rigueur today. “To get out of your shower or tub and step into a heated stone or tile floor is the height of luxury.”

“Another trend that is important to mention,” adds Speziale, “is the growing number of amenities for the Boomers, to help them age gracefully. There are tubs with elevating sides that are quite attractive looking that ease entry and exit, toilet seats that are comfort height, and grab bars are now so attractive that they look like high end towel bars. Boomers drive a lot of what happens in the bathroom.”

In the bathroom and powder room featured in this issue, luxury was the key word. Alison Knapp, Senior designer at Barnard & Speziale spearheaded this bathroom and powder room design.

“The small but impressive powder room eschewed a production vanity and used a piece of furniture made in Mexico and converted to this use,” explains Knapp. “The wallpaper has gold embellishments that were hand placed strategically to catch the light and balance the design. It is a formal room, elegant and inviting.”

“Details like crystal drop sconces, an impressive Italian mirror, antique gold faucets with frosted glass and a countertop and floor in platinum marble give this small room a traditional yet subdued opulence.”

The master bath is impressively large and the spaciousness is underscored by the use of pale colours, and lots of mirrors and light. The custom cabinetry, with antique mirrors and leaded mullion window details, is finished in cream with an antique glaze that has a bit of gold in it for sparkle. Even the heated marble floor has gold porcelain inserts.

“There's a large soaker tub in front of the window that invites lingering baths, it looks like something you might find in a French chateau. There's a separate room for his toilet and hers, his with an English library look to add a masculine tone. In the main room, a stunning cut glass chandelier catches the light.”

Countertops are crema marble with biscuit undermount sinks and the separate shower room, with rain head shower, is finished in marble with a mosaic tile insert with a marble le stello frame. Faucets and shower fittings are from Samuel Heath of England.

“This is a space that makes you feel as if you could be dressing for a grand ball,” Knapp tells me. “It avoids being stuffy, though. The rooms are fresh and airy.  There's an old world European feel here but it has all the latest innovations to make the daily rituals of bathing and dressing a glamourous event.”

The master bath that Steve Kjarsjaard  of Opal Baths in Burlington created for his clients is a perfect example of some of the current major trends in bathroom design. The style is very “zen”. 

“The monochromatic look is soothing, while at the same time a feature wall in contrasting red stone and brick tile adds depth and texture,” Klarskaard says.

“These browns, biscuits, beiges and natural earth tones are popular for the bath because of their comforting and relaxing effect. They create a tranquil space, which is what people are looking for today.”

This bathroom has a large walk-in with a rainhead shower. “Showers are the big feature in bathrooms today” says Kjarsjaard. “It used to be the bathtub, but many people are taking out the old oversized Jacuzzis and building larger showers instead. The doorless walk-in shower is very desirable, perhaps with a linear drain and a gently slopped floor without a barrier.”

New shower designs ensure that all the senses are satisfied. There can be seats, either built in to the shower or free standing, music, aromatherapy and chromatherapy in the shower, as well as a television screen. “And most of my clients want heated floors which not only add comfort but help to keep the shower area dry and mildew free.”
“The floor in this bathroom looks like hardwood but it is tile and feels wonderful underfoot when heated.”

The toilet, in a separate room behind a cherry-wood pocket door, is wall-hung, with the tank set into the wall, making it less intrusive into the space and easier to clean.

“The new comfort toilet, which is pretty well the standard now, is two inches higher and two inches longer and has much lower water consumption. For real luxury,” explains Kjarsjaard, “Kohler has a $7,000 toilet that has a self-cleaning function, and can air dry and deodorize as well as having ambient lighting, music speakers, and a heated seat and foot warmer.”

The vanity in this spa-like bath has an open shelving design in poured concrete, with a Kohler spun glass vessel sink in translucent glass and Kohler wall mounted faucets, also easier to clean and freeing up space on the countertop. 

There's a free-standing tub from Victoria & Albert, a South African company. It is made from volcano rock, featuring a smooth surface without a high polish. “You always have to be careful when you are designing a free standing tub that you leave enough room to walk around the tub and to be able to clean behind it.

“I'm not being self-serving when I tell you that it is important to use a professional when you remodel or design a bathroom. It is so important to design the space, decide where things will go and make sure they will fit. I see lots of adequate handyman work, but a professional has a good understanding of how the finished design will look and how everything will work. And we get the work done on a schedule. You can spend a lot of money but in the end it may not be what it should be.”