Reinventing the bath

Lisa Sandham - Bayview Magazine Spring 2011

Today's bathroom trends focus on wellness, comfort and luxury. Product selection has never been more exciting with countless choices to be found in plumbing fixtures, lighting and finishes.

Looking back over the last two decades the everyday bath was more functional than fabulous. With the launch of networks such as HGTV and DIY, design has taken a front seat in our society with emphasis on efficient design, comfort and return on investment. Consumers are devoting more of their budget and square footage when designing their ensuites and baths.

Sue Craig of Craig Plumbing agrees that bathrooms have taken on a more prominent role in modern home design and states, "Bathrooms have become very much a part of the overall design of homes. The choices of bathroom fixtures and finishes have never been more unique or exciting. We work with our customers to help them narrow down the right choices to mesh with their home's overall appearance."

Today's bath designs focuses on the promise to deliver the spa experience at home. The variety of plumbing fixtures now available is incredible. The square lines reminiscent of industrial and minimalist styles are still in demand but most recently the industry has seen the introduction of plumbing fixtures that are more organic and sculptural in nature. The bath is now being interpreted as an artistic expression, carved from either wood or stone with emphasis on technology and ergonomics. Egg shapes and unusual curves are starting to work their way into the market with a focus on holistic healing.

Manufacturers have invested a lot of research into understanding human wellness and how their products can assist their consumers in achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By introducing elements of holistic healing such as chromotherapy, luminotherapy and aromatherapy into showers, steam units and baths, it is believed that optimal health can be achieved.

Showers have also dramatically evolved with focus on integration, technology and transparency. Performance shower systems such as Kohler's DTV promises to deliver the ultimate shower experience utilizing steam, water, sound and light with six pre-programmed settings customized to the user.

Bathroom furniture and vanities now float effortlessly above the floor, offering clever storage solutions with low profile integrated sinks and configurable components. Toilets are preferred not to be seen and those that are seen no longer resemble our traditional definition of "toilet" but rather floating wall-mounted boxes. With the influx of luxury market fixtures seen today it is important to note that water conservation continues to be a driving force within the industry. Consumers are demanding environmentally responsible fixtures and manufacturers are listening providing fixtures that reduce water consumption and utility costs.

Although the standard bath light bar still serves a function, it is now being put aside as consumers search for fixtures that have that "wow" factor. Bathroom lighting now encompasses a variety of fixtures, such as recessed downlights, mini-pendants, backlit mirrors, gorgeous chandeliers and sconces that take on sculptural forms. As Cindy Bodak, manager and interior decorator at Maki Bay can attest, "The bathroom has become the space to really relax at the end of a busy day. Consumers are looking for a hotel and spa-like look that has elegance, style and ambiance."

Next to aesthetics, energy conservation is a growing priority. CFL (compact fluorescent light) continue to be a popular choice. Growing interest in LEDs (light-emitting diodes) is growing as well due to their numerous advantages, which include lower energy consumption, less heat output and life as long as 50,000 hours. When first introduced into the market, LEDs had a reputation of giving off a bluish light. LED development continues to improve and now warm light lamps similar to incandescent light can be found on the market. Maki Bay suggests that more than one light source be incorporated into your bathroom design. "Ideally, there should be one centered fixture to provide your room with overall illumination and decorative wall sconces on each side of your vanity mirror to illuminate both sides of your face evenly."

Tile continues to be a popular choice for finishing any bathroom or ensuite. Natural stone remains a classic choice, while new porcelain offerings include reptilian textures, wood grains and the inclusion of Swarovski crystals embedded into the tile itself. Luxurious, modern, exotic and natural are the key words that are associated with modern tile selections. When searching out an appropriate tile Silvana Rizzo, owner of Anttila Northwest Tile Ltd. recommends you consider usage and traffic. "Some natural stones may need extra maintenance, such as sealers to prevent staining or extra care to prevent scratching from everyday footwear. Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles need little or no maintenance and can withstand the heaviest of foot traffic." Rizzo notes, "We are seeing a definite modern, clean, uncluttered style when choosing tiles. Sleek, simple patterns are popular with modern linear designs. Some customers are also combining modern tiles with traditional stone as an accent."

If a complete bath remodel is not in your immediate future, there are ways to achieve a luxurious feel on a budget. Start with a great paint colour and update the existing light fixtures. If your tiled bath surround is looking a little dingy, use a product such as Centura's Aqua Mix Grout Colorant. This product is an excellent way to freshen up old grout or change the colour completely. Add a new shower curtain or add glass film to existing shower doors. Films are very versatile and when you tire of them they are easily removed.

Never underestimate the impact of accessories that define the current trends. Sumptuous bath towels, new hardware, candles and mirrors can breathe new life into your space for a very small investment. Whether you love or hate your bath, it is possible to reinvent it. Find inspiration on the internet, television and magazines. Decide to "make a splash" and create a space that is uniquely yours. With an astounding array of product to choose from our only limitation is our imagination.

Lisa Sandham is an interior designer, home designer and freelance writer. She can be contacted at info(at)lisasandham(dot)com