The latest bathroom design trends are simply sleek.By Nicole Maranhas | Photography by Dan Cutrona; Susan Hagstrom/ Snapshots by Susan
Consider salt air breezes, pebbled shorelines, and wide-open ocean. New Englanders have always found respite in simple luxuries, so it’s no surprise that even the most traditional homeowners have embraced a more modern approach to bathrooms: clean, open and inspired by the spa. Here are a few specific bathroom design trends that local experts are seeing.
“We are seeing a trend toward a luxury bath experience with a more European, open concept,” says Cathy Follett, owner of Renovisions, Inc. in Hanover. Curbless, or barrier-free, showers are one way to transform even a small space into an airy, light-filled retreat. “Homeowners are removing their fiberglass stalls and building fully tiled, custom showers,” says Follett. Curbless designs open up new possibilities in tile as well. “You used to be limited to small tiles in the shower,” she says. “But contemporary linear drain systems eliminate the need for a floor that pitches to a center drain, which allows you to work with large-format tiles.”
Large-format tiles, which can range up to 24 x 24 inches, create a seamless transition between spaces, making them an increasingly popular choice for flooring, showers and tub surrounds—even for walls or backsplashes. Simple undermount sinks—as well as integrated sinks where bowl and countertop are created as a single piece—are another option to streamline spaces, while Shaker cabinets and built-in shower niches add storage for linens and toiletries. “The trend is toward a sleeker, less-cluttered look,” says Follett. “This is a traditional area. People still want classic, but with a more contemporary style.”
Bathtubs, too, evoke spa-style luxury. Modern freestanding tubs are as much sculptural centerpieces as calming oases, in striking, polished designs that offer a more contemporary take on antique clawfoot tubs. “It creates those cleaner lines that make bathrooms feel more open,” says Danielle Jones, showroom manager at Snow and Jones in Norwell and Yarmouth. Simple luxury can also be found in the details: Stylish fixtures such as hand-held sprayers and “rainshower” shower heads, offered by brands such as Kohler and Grohe, reflect a spa look, while also being a simple upgrade for homeowners who don’t want to undertake an extensive remodel, says Jones. “We’re also seeing more single-handed faucets, both for simplicity of design and ease of use.”
High-performance toilets and radiant floor heating with programmable thermostats conserve resources while being both practical and pampering. “Especially in historic or older houses, [radiant floor heating] is a great way to get heat into the home that may not have been considered when the house was built,” says Cheryl Winters, showroom manager at Best Tile in Plymouth. “We have people doing them [for] everything from shower floors and master baths, to the entire first floor of the house.”
For many homeowners, design choices have a lasting impact, as the open-concept space and spa comforts also allow for ease of living. “People want to stay in their homes as long as possible,” says Jones. “As they think about aging and retirement, they’re thinking about functionality. High quality, easy to clean and maintain, simple in style.”
Natural materials give warmth to streamlined spaces. “With the simple undermount sinks, countertops can be statement pieces,” says Jones. “People are using lots of natural stone, like granite and Carrara marble.” Quartz has also experienced an uptrend, with high-end, handmade pieces that are both eye-catching and durable. (“Caesarstone has a line of semiprecious countertops that are gorgeous,” says Winters.)
Tilework has similarly trended toward natural stones and honed finishes, particularly in the large-format tiles that unify spaces. Porcelain tile with a wood-grain look replicates the beauty of painted wood floors or reclaimed wood—in styles that range from rustic to modern. “You can use them in shower stalls and tub surrounds, or other places where you wouldn’t typically be able to do a wood look,” Winters says. “Porcelain tiles tend to be very nonporous, so you don’t need to do the sealing you normally would have to do on a wood floor. They stand up to a lot of traffic and abuse; in a beach area, if you have a lot of people tracking in sand, you don’t have to worry about damage.” Accent tiles, often with ocean-inspired hues, are popular in coastal homes. Says Winters, “You can create a focal piece or accent wall with blues and greens that give a watery, sea-glass effect.”
Throughout the bath, neutral grays and beiges soften spaces. “Biscuits and beiges have timeless warmth, and people can use their linens and curtains for bright pops of color,” says Jones. Playing off surfaces, layers of ambient, accent and task lighting—from sconces to LED dimmers and sunlit windows—can be both energy-efficient and calming: “In bathrooms with high ceilings, a chandelier over a freestanding tub creates that nice focus,” says Follett of Renovisions.
Follett adds that the classic and spa-inspired trends go beyond adding value to the home: “They offer the comforts that make people’s lives a little more joyous.”