A day at a spa brings peace, relaxation and rejuvenation. Now, more than ever, homeowners strive to have bathrooms that generate those feelings in the comfort of their own homes. Spa-style bathrooms with plenty of amenities that mimic what people see on television or when they travel are in high demand, though the specifics vary depending on the lifestyles and taste of the individual user.
The space needs to promote a calm simplicity, even when filled with the details that conjure the exact atmosphere each homeowner wants. “A spa-style bathroom evokes the feeling of relaxation and serenity,” says Janice Teague, CKD, CBD, CGB, senior designer for Drury Design in Glen Ellyn, IL.
Unlike a powder room, which may be designed for the “wow” factor, the spa bathroom is an opportunity for homeowners to create a private refuge for themselves, a place to relax and forget the outside world. “Most of our clients come to us at a stage in their lives where they’re ready to build their “dream home,” and they’ve saved up all their favorite clippings and bookmarked their favorite spaces,” says Ivonne Ronderos, a representative from the DKOR Interiors team in Aventura, FL. “What better way to spend each morning or evening than in a beautiful, soothing, spa-style bath that they can consider their own individual spa,” she adds.
There’s a definite correlation between the hospitality industry and the looks people want to create in their own homes, according to Josh Blumer of AB design studio, Inc. in Santa Barbara, CA. As the hospitality industry took cues from what people of wealth were doing in their homes and began offering that experience to their guests, more consumers were exposed to the idea of a master suite. When they return from traveling, they seek to create the same sense of sanctuary in their own homes, Blumer says. “The bathroom has emerged as a place to create harmony and workability for a couple or an individual,” he says.
The desire for a luxurious, serene environment isn’t limited to just those with a large space and even larger resources. “Regardless of the budget, it seems that every client these days uses the word "spa" to describe the look and feel they wish to have reflected in their new bathroom,” says Robin Amorello, CKD, CAPS, Atmoscaper Design in Topsham, ME. This can be achieved simply, by using classic materials, or there may be a desire for more creature comforts like a steam shower with multiple body sprays and rain shower, a chromatherapy tub, heated towels, and radiant flooring. “The budget largely dictates how many of these amenities the client will chose to include,” she says.
A spa-like environment can be created in a space of any size, and the Zen feeling these spaces evoke can exist in areas large and small. A thoughtful use of the available space is what matters most, designers agree.
Because spa-style bathrooms can come in any size, capturing the serenity desired depends a lot on materials chosen, says Teague. Larger spaces can accommodate freestanding tubs over six feet long, but smaller five-foot tubs can create the same feeling in a smaller space, she says. Simple lines and color have an effect on how a space feels, as well. And rooms both large and small can accommodate contrasting colors such as dark cabinets with light floors and countertops, she adds.
Neither does a small space have to look cluttered. “Even if clients are downsizing and the actual square footage is reduced, today’s trend is toward a cleaner, more minimalistic look so the room feels more spacious,” says ASID, IIDA and NKBA member Lori Carroll of Lori Carroll & Associates in Tuscon, AZ. If space allows, however, her clients opt for larger bathrooms with as many amenities as will fit, she adds.
Amorello says, “I don't think that the size of the bath necessarily limits the ability to achieve a spa experience. A creative designer can work magic with just about any space they are given, but obviously size does matter with regard to what you can fit into a space.”
Though spa baths don’t need to be large, space must be used efficiently. Large, lavish countertops that take up the entire length of a wall, or enormous tubs that dominate the room might not be practical with a smaller footprint. “Sometimes being lavish gives way to being more functional,” says Blumer.
Placement of components and how the bath relates to surrounding spaces such as the master bedroom and dressing areas should also be considered.
Many homeowners are moving away from a linear layout to tuck the commode away in a compartment, or mount it directly to the wall. This is more in line with cultures that value a separation of activities, where bathing is a ritual or practice that has its own space. “I don’t believe putting a toilet next to a bathing area is the most ideal scenario,” says Blumer.
A place to sit is another important component, whether for application of makeup, toweling off, or just relaxing in the space. When a space doesn’t reflect these self care tasks, the bath can become cluttered and impractical. “What I’m looking at when I’m designing these master baths is how to have the activities really be supported, so they’re not all being jumbled into one countertop space,” says Blumer.
As the economy rebounds and the remodeling market moves forward, homeowners are beginning to indulge themselves more, particularly in bath remodels.
“Spa-style bathrooms continue to evolve as the trend toward splurging in that space becomes increasingly popular,” says Carroll. “An endless variety of new and innovative materials and products continue to flood the market, making it easy for a designer to create the ultimate retreat.”
The elements people choose to put in that personal sanctuary are as varied as the individuals who use them. Some like bathtubs, while others prefer custom showers. Some want all the bells and whistles, but at the other end of the spectrum a preference for a simple, uncluttered environment prevails.
Having a space that reflects personal needs is important, and the details are what can make the space work. “The little things are what matter most in design,” says Ronderos.
A freestanding tub shows up quite often in the spa bath design, providing the ultimate pampering experience, particularly when aromatherapy or chromatherapy are added. These fixtures provide a beautiful focal point in the room, says Teague.
Large showers with plenty of extras like built in bench seats, body sprays, rain heads or hand-held shower heads have been popular for some time now. This trend isn’t waning, and in fact may be increasing in popularity since people don’t always have time to soak in a tub, but still want a luxurious experience.
It’s important to remember, says Blumer, that although the rain heads are popular, they aren’t always practical for cleansing since they can’t be angled. However, if there are other options available, a rain head can provide a nice extra to the spa experience.
Carroll adds, “Water tiles, rain showers, hand-showers and rotating spray-heads provide refreshing benefits. To expand on the relaxation of the shower experience, steam showers are proven to promote beauty and wellness, the essential element in a spa experience. Add therapeutic light and aromatherapy and clients can relax, imagining they’re at an exclusive resort.”.
Warmth is a major theme in the spa bath, from color selection to elements that add physical warmth, like steam generators, heated towel racks, radiant heat in the floor, and wall-mounted electric fireplaces.
And then there are all the extras that create a refuge for the consumer. These amenities may not be chosen by all, but having the variety available allows the homeowner and designer to create exactly the experience they long for. Some extras that designers are hearing requests for include washlets, no-touch flush options, hands-free sinks, commode seats with a built-in nightlight, dimmer switches for softer lighting and anti fog mirrors.
Though advances in technology permeate every facet of everyday life, in a spa-inspired design, the demand is limited. Though there’s some interest in adding specific tools, a clean, uncluttered feel takes precedence over having the latest and greatest high-tech toys.
“Less is more,” says Ronderos. “We seldom get the client who is looking for lots of gadgets for their bathroom space – and when they do want a sound system or specialty lighting, it needs to be simple and easy to use.”
Teague says that technology works for specialized shower controls or a TV built into the mirror. “It’s preferable to hide outlets inside cabinetry if possible and switches can be reduced to a single master control panel to keep walls simple and clean,” she adds.
Carroll disagrees, having seen technology moving to the bathroom. And she sees no reason to hide it unless it’s recessed into the wall, such as a cold storage cabinet designed specifically for the bathroom. She adds that the ultra-thin vanishing mirror television is an exceptional upgrade for a spa-style bathroom, which can be equipped with a multi-directional sound system.
To create a calming environment, soft muted colors work best and natural materials like wood and stone are in high demand. “Soothing colors are the key to a spa-style bathroom,” says Carroll. These colors range from shades of grey to standard beige, cream and taupe tones. “Any tone that evokes serenity and peacefulness is appropriate for a bathroom. You can always add small measures of color with accessories,” she says.
Ronderos notes that warm woods, including grey tones, and materials like wood planks and stones that bring a feeling of nature to the space are popular. Rather than accent colors, people are asking for easy-to-digest soothing colors, she says.
Some consumers prefer contrast, adds Teague. In that case, they may select a rich chocolate brown for cabinetry with Calacatta or Carrara marble for floors, countertops, and shower walls. People who favor a monotone color scheme gravitate toward whites and soft grey tones, she adds.
Natural light creates a softness that can be used in creation of spa-like spaces. Blumer says the master suite should have a lot of indirect lighting to create a very calm space. This indirect light, whether from windows or recessed lighting, conveys a sense of the time of day without the harshness of light direct from its source.
Natural or organic products also play an important part in the spa-style bathroom design, bringing the soothing elements of nature inside. Carroll says, “Using stone, slate, wood or any other natural material creates an ultimately serene and timeless look.” She cites “fish-scale” tiles – interlocking tiles that include pockets to plant greenery – as a way to create a stunning aesthetic that relieves stress and can be beneficial to health.
Natural stone is still a preference for many homeowners. Teague cautions that maintenance issues must be considered when choosing natural stone. “While everyone desires a relaxing getaway, they don’t want to spend a lot of time with maintenance,” she says. Sometimes, porcelain floors and shower walls take the place of natural stone, as it’s easier to clean, doesn’t need to be sealed and has minimal grout joints, she adds.