When it comes to the master bath, consumers still want soothing, spa-like spaces that are both beautiful and easy to care for. So it’s no surprise that creative tile applications remains prominent in the master bath. Indeed, nearly every designer KBDN spoke with for the annual Fall Bath Remodeling Report, mentioned porcelain tile as a leading trend. A variety of formats – everything from large sizes to linear mosaics – natural stone and wood resemblances, patterns/textures combined with affordability and durability to withstand a wet environment make it a popular choice for designers from coast to coast. Quartz is also trending, in large part because of its easy maintenance and the growing availability of options.
A focus on showers remains popular as well, with homeowners requesting amenities and elements that enhance functionality as well as make a statement. Following are several more design trends that are grabbing attention in master baths across the country.
Bruce Wentworth, architect/designer/builder, Wentworth Studio, Chevy Chase, MD
Large shower stalls: “The importance of a nice, walk-in shower for a master bath cannot be underestimated. Ideally, they should be 42”x60”, and for homeowners with ample space, foregoing a door is an option.”
Frameless glass enclosures are popular as well. “They have changed the look and function of our shower stalls, providing more useable space, creating a sense of more room, bringing more light into the shower, and establishing a focal point with wall tile.”
Most custom showers also feature a built-in bench, or at the very least a ledge, and a built-in recessed niche or shelf to accommodate shampoo and soap. Some male clients also include a fog-free mirror.
Larger showers are often preferred over a tub and separate shower when space is limited. “Our urban clients with older homes often opt for a large shower stall instead of having a tub, especially if there is a tub elsewhere in the home. Our suburban clients typically have more space so they will include a freestanding, sculptural tub rather than a deck or platform model.”
Since this homeowner had enough room, she included a freestanding tub with a floor-mounted tub filler, providing a sculptural element in the alcove that is accented with a chandelier and custom-fitted and -painted wall panels.
Aging-in-place elements: “Aging in place is a growing phenomenon and our baby boomer clients ask for grab bars, which these days are attractive rather than institutional looking. If a client’s budget and the home’s structure allows, we will also design curbless shower stalls with linear drains that eliminate the tripping hazard associated with a raised curb.”
Taller vanities: “We have some clients ask for vanities as high as 36”, although somewhere between 32” and 34” is pretty normal. People like having a higher vanity, especially if they’re tall, so they don’t have to bend over as much.”
Double-sink vanities are still popular, providing ample storage, and wall-hung units offer a modern, clean look. “Careful design maximizes storage in a bathroom with recessed wall cabinets, cabinetry that hangs off the wall and other discrete storage.”
Heated towel bars/floors: “There are quite a few heated towel bars on the market now, even models that are combined with radiators. And there is nothing cozier than walking barefoot on a warm floor as one gets ready for the day.”
Quartz countertops: “A lot of people request natural stone, such as marble, granite and limestone, but they seem to be more interested in man-made products, such as quartz. Manufacturers have introduced a lot of great options so there are more choices.”
Wall sconces: “In a bathroom you want light from multiple sources. Wall sconces can be very pretty and they give extra light from the side, combined with recessed lighting from above.”
Custom features: When the budget allows, homeowners are more willing to indulge in custom features, such as the electric hot towel/washcloth cabinet included in this master bath space.
Caption: This 1920’s urban home possessed all the right spaces, including his/her master baths that were part of a 1980’s addition. While adequate 30-plus years ago, her master bath lacked the upscale level of finishes and products she desired. It was also leaking into the dining room below. The remodel included several trends Bruce Wentworth sees in his area, including a large, curbless shower with frameless glass, ample storage and custom features, such as the hot towel cabinet, when the budget allows.
Photo credit: Ron Blunt
Vaidas Dlugaborskis, designer, VeDco Design Group, Naperville, IL
Minimal details: “Extras such as crown mouldings are not as popular now. Designs do not have as much intricacy as far as architectural details. Finishes are calm and cool. Cabinetry is sleek and clean… in white, espresso or gray/off gray. Doors have a shaker appearance but with widened rails and an accent moulding. Inset doors are also super popular and give my clients a way to combine traditional with modern. Tiles tend to be large format with linear designs, maybe offset. Linear mosaic tile is extremely popular.
“This minimalist approach gives designers the opportunity to steer a room a certain way. Back in the day, to make a shower more interesting you had to do borders or split panels and unique designs where you combined different shapes, sizes, dimensions and angles. Today, a clean, simple design lets tile, wood, countertops, etc. speak. Phenomenal chandeliers can be added as the icing on the cake.”
‘Wow’ showers: “Our schedules don’t allow us to enjoy baths so my clients focus on ‘wow’ showers. Niches, shelves, hand-held showerheads and focal point elements are all popular. In the shower, I like to design plumbing columns, rather than plumbing walls, that are accented with tile and flanked by glass that allow more natural light into the shower and make the space look bigger. These columns almost appear freestanding and they become a phenomenal design element.”
Focus on function/habits: “Some of my clients don’t want any maintenance, and today there are an insane amount of choices… porcelain tile that looks like stone and quartz that doesn’t need to be sealed. People are getting smarter about how they maintain their bathrooms and they realize what can happen with a glass of wine or cup of coffee set on a marble surface.
“A signature move of mine is to include convenient outlets. I provide one in every drawer that a husband or wife would consider using for a hair dryer, flat iron, razor, etc. so all of the wires are inside the drawers.”
Media centers/wireless technology: “All my luxurious bathrooms have TVs or at least a docking station so people can charge phones, listen to music or stream the news. Bluetooth technology allows wireless connections.”
Heated flooring: “I think heated flooring is a necessity. I heat up the shower bases as well as benches. I’ve even done shower walls.”
Touchless toilets: “You don’t have to do anything but wave your hand.”
Medicine cabinets: “These are a great choice for clients looking for function in smaller spaces.”
Caption: The shower in this master bath combines traditional (travertine tiles) with modern (glass mosaic) styling. “Traditionally, designers will combine travertine with marble, but I wanted to combine two completely different worlds into one,” says Vaidas Dlugaborskis in reference to the ‘wow’ shower he created for this client.
Gail Monica Dent, Provanti Designs, Seattle, WA
Extra storage: “I’m big into extra storage. When possible, I include a bottom drawer underneath the sink for toilet paper, tissue, towels, etc. This raises the cabinet doors for a cleaner profile that still gives space for cleaning products, without wasting it.
“The medicine cabinet is also back. I can do built-ins that you don’t even know are there. They are a great choice for small baths. This client wanted a tower instead, which worked well on the long vanity. Either way, I add power for electric toothbrushes, razors, etc…. all the items that used to sit on the countertop.”
Shower amenities: “People are requesting lots of glass, with next to no hardware… they don’t want to see any metal or trim. We work with some great specialty companies to make it safe and viable, while looking good at the same time.”
Benches or shelves for sitting and shaving legs, his/her showerheads (with flexible, non-metal hoses that won’t scratch, make noise or collect deposits) and decorative/tiled drains are also popular. “Tile laid vertically to create a rainfall look is still popular, although it may be starting to run its course.”
Mixing natural stone with porcelain tile: “The field tile on this bath’s shower walls and floor is Italian porcelain made to look like travertine. This is very much a trend! It’s durable for using in showers. The deco tiles are limestone.”
Another trend with tile is large-scale sizes. “I used 24×24 tiles in this bath. There are fewer grout lines to clean and see. I also always specify epoxy or urethane grout because it is more flexible and durable and is easier to keep clean.”
Master closet accessibility: “Providing access to the master closet from the master bath creates a true bathing/dressing suite.”
Quartz: “Quartz is very, very popular in the Pacific Northwest, to the point where I get more requests for quartz than natural stone. It’s a touch more durable, and manufacturers are offering more patterns that look more natural.”
Single-handle faucets: “We’re going to single-handle faucets even in high-end and master baths, which used to be taboo. They are easier to clean around and give a sophisticated, contemporary look. Manufacturers are offering more choices with quality components on the inside and great styling on the outside.”
Pendants and chandeliers: “These light fixtures offer a unique, ‘ah hah’ element that people don’t expect. Be careful about placement though. Pendants can swing with the air from hair dryers and chandeliers need to be high enough to meet code.”
Disguised/decorated vents: “I add heated flooring, with ‘chameleon’ vent covers, to all my upper-end homes. The vents are tiled, rather than metal, and are totally flush with the floor, providing a very clean, contemporary look.”
Automated humidity control: “We have a lot of skylights in the Pacific Northwest because we have a lot of gray, overcast days. They are great ways to get light into a bathroom without sacrificing wall, cabinet or mirror space. But moisture can get trapped high in them. An automatic humidistat will automatically turn off the fan when the room has reached the desired humidity level.”
Caption: The main goal with this master bath was to remove the leaking shower that created a maintenance issue with mold and mildew. From there, the homeowners wanted a calm, soothing environment with increased vanity space and storage. Gail Monica Dent accomplished those goals by reconfiguring the space (which included eliminating the garden tub in favor of a larger shower), highlighting it with woodland colors and mixing natural stone with quartz and porcelain tile.
Photo credit: John G. Wilbanks Photography
Michelle Moore, Moore Design Group, Orinda, CA
Universal design: Curbless showers are popular for everyone, regardless of age or ability. “You never know when you might need to gain access to a shower with a wheelchair or walker so a lot of my clients are adding them whether they are disabled or not. A curbless shower with an infinity drain also offers a clean look, which is trending, and it makes the room look bigger. Clients are also asking for grab bars, or at least the backing so they can easily add one later.”
Creative bath furniture: “Bath furniture [vanities] is getting a lot more creative, and a lot more oriented to small and/or well organized spaces. It features drawers that accommodate plumbing so furniture is more functional. Modern vanities that hang off the wall also have drawers that are compartmentalized and efficient.”
Contemporary styling: Contemporary elements are showing up everywhere in the master bath. “There has been a huge shift from traditional to contemporary styles. The palette has also gone gray… various shades of gray. I love it! Contemporary ‘demi’ vessel sinks in rectangular and square shapes with rims that are 2” or even 4” high are also popular.”
Wall-hung faucets/toilets: “The cleanability of a faucet on the wall versus on a deck, and a toilet on a wall versus a floor is so much better. And I love the look!”
Bidets and dual-flush toilets: “Everything in the bathroom is about water, and being in California, water savings is really important.”
Cold storage medicine cabinets: “These provide easy access for medicines and facial creams that need to be kept in cold storage… no more storing in the kitchen refrigerator. They can also be electrified, and some cabinets have doors that lift up which allows a designer to hang pendants in front of the mirror.”
Pendant lights: “The best way to light a face for putting on makeup or for shaving is from the side, rather than from above and down. Pendants can hang at face level while providing a more formal, elegant look.”
Porcelain tile: “Porcelain is a great choice because it’s less expensive and more environmentally friendly… and you can mix it with natural stone, for example porcelain tile that looks like Carrara marble on the walls in a shower with an inset basket weave of Carrara marble. It’s very exciting, and it’s very hard to tell the difference! It also blends into the move toward contemporary styling.”
Caption: This Asian-influenced master bath remodel provides a peaceful bathing sanctuary that includes several trends Michelle Moore sees happening in her area such as an eye toward water conservation with low-flow bath faucets that light up, making the user more conscientious of water usage. Two side-by-side medicine cabinets with lift-up doors allow for pendant lights. “The best way to light your face is from the side,” says Moore.
Photo credit: Caroline Johnson
Bill Dolan, residential sales/design, Pine Street Carpenters/The Kitchen Studio at Pine Street, West Chester, PA
Natural light: “Windows, skylights, half walls or all-glass shower enclosures help achieve this. Sometimes we get the space so open that we struggle to find a place to hang a towel bar!”
Timeless/classic features and cleaner/simpler lines: “‘High contrast’ or ‘transitional’ have been the buzz words lately, with homeowners adding elements like an ornate mirror or chandelier in an otherwise clean space. Transitional styling is especially popular with baby boomers. They’re tired of dusting, but they don’t want to give up the classic look. They’ve also collected some traditional pieces over the years, some of which may be heirlooms. They want to go modern, but not all the way.”
‘Right-sized’ showers: “For the past few years we have been taking out Jacuzzi tubs in favor of large showers. Now we are seeing showers come back down in size… not too small, not too large – just right. A 3’x4’or 5’ footprint with frameless glass creates a large feel without becoming a cold space that is too large to steam up.”
This shower, at about 3’x5’, is a bit larger than its predecessor. With frameless glass and a half wall, it is also much brighter. Adding benches and toiletry niches/shelves are popular additions.
Tubs are often removed to make way for a right-sized shower, but if space allows, clients often opt for freestanding models. “She wanted a soaking tub, and we had the space. It replaced a jetted tub with three steps that led to a deck. It was precarious to get into and ate up about 6’x8’of space.”
Improved lighting: “People really want good lighting in their master baths. Sconces provide good side lighting while pivoting halogen lights recessed into the ceiling can direct light where it is needed, bouncing light off the mirror for putting on makeup and shaving. They give a nice clean, out-of-sight light that is adaptable and adjustable, and can be especially useful when people of different heights share the same vanity.”
TVs: “I’m working on one bathroom now that will incorporate a touch screen TV into the mirror… time will tell if this is a new trend emerging.”
Porcelain tile: “Porcelain tile has been the go-to product lately. It can look expensive but is very affordable, durable and easy to clean. The technology to print on porcelain has come a long way, and manufacturers are really getting creative with it. We are doing a lot of tile with linen textures and patterns. It makes the hard surface appear soft. I recently designed a master bath that was part of a whole house remodel. When the owner needed to cut back on the budget in a few areas, she changed the marble tile originally selected to a porcelain tile… same bathroom, different tile, big savings.”
Large format porcelain tile is also gaining ground. “Mosaics are still popular, but they may be waning a bit in favor of larger, simpler tiles that speak to the transitional look we’ve been seeing.”
Quartz surfaces: Quartz has become the vanity top of choice. “We coordinate it with shower thresholds, niches/shelves or any horizontal surface. It unifies everything.”
Caption: These empty-nesters wanted to update their 25-year-old master bath, which had a leaking shower, a steep, sloping ceiling that trapped heat and inadequate insulation which left the room feeling cold during the winter. “It just wasn’t conducive to use. They also wanted to better utilize the space. They had the luxury of enough room for a large shower, double vanity and tub – which we often taken out if space is a concern – but they were struggling with what to do with the large space.”
Photo credit: Pine Street Carpenters