Bathrooms That Make You Go 'Ahhh'
New luxury and convenience items provide for the perfect home retreat
(ARA) - If there is one room in the house that has been completely redefined in recent years it is the bathroom. Kitchens are still for cooking, living rooms are still for living and rec rooms are still for recreation. But the bathroom has evolved so far beyond its traditional functions that to truly reflect its current status in many homes, "spa room" or the "retreat" might be more appropriate names for it.
Today's bathrooms, particularly those incorporated into master suites, are being designed and built to be a source of luxury and relaxation. After all, for many parents the master suite's bath may be the only room in the home where they can truly enjoy some private time for relaxation away from the kids.
Add to this the fact that bathrooms add more to a home's value than any other room -- with the possible exception of the kitchen and so it's no wonder more and more people are spending more and more time and money to create an in-home retreat in their master bath.
It's Like A Day Trip to the Spa -- At Home
Vertical Spas, which incorporate multiple showerheads, water diverters and sophisticated temperature control systems, are perhaps the biggest trend in today's baths. They offer the relaxation and luxury of a whirlpool spa, but without the time required to fill a large tub. And they still function as an ordinary shower for times when functionality is all-important.
Moen Inc., which may have coined the phrase "Vertical Spa" when it brought its shower/spa product to market in 2000 says customer demand and acceptance of the concept has been increasing steadily as more consumers become aware of the option to turn their showers into spa-like havens.
"We're seeing more consumers make luxury a priority when they redesign their bathrooms, and products such as the Vertical Spa are among the most sought-after add-ons," said Gary Pember, Moen Group product manager, Bath. "They want a steamy massage in a relaxing environment and they want to walk out feeling clean and refreshed. No other environment can accomplish that quite like a Vertical Spa."
Vertical Spas vary in design and some, such as Moen's unit, work with standard plumbing. Others require special behind-the-wall modifications to install larger water supply and drainage lines, or an extra hot water heater. These styles may be more suitable to new home construction instead of renovation where entire rooms are gutted and walls rebuilt.
But Vertical Spas are definitely catching on and many believe they are the new millennium's replacement for the whirlpool tub, which may be on the decline.
"Not everyone who's had one of these whirlpools really wants one when they do another bath," said Linda Lentz, features editor at Home Magazine and an expert in modern kitchen and bath design trends. "They find they don't want the extra maintenance or that the tubs are noisier than they expected. Because of that, a lot of people are opting for Vertical Spas and taking longer showers, or installing soak tubs, or both."
In general, the trend is toward larger showers, often with stylish frameless doors and glass block walls that allow in more light while sealing off the shower stall. With the extra room in the shower stall, homeowners are not only putting in items such as Vertical Spas, they're sometimes installing oversized showerheads or even entire Vertical Spa units on opposing walls, enabling two people to shower simultaneously without having to share a showerhead.
"The shower is coming into its own and we sell more "showering systems" than ever before, whether that means a Vertical Spa, two opposing Vertical Spas, or just twin and flexible hand showerheads on opposing walls. People love to shower and they're showing it by devoting more space than ever to their showers," said Moen's Pember.
In addition to Vertical Spas, many homeowners also are adding steam units to their showers, or installing a ready-made, self-contained steam unit that fits into the bathroom much the way a pre-fabricated shower stall would. By installing a steam unit into an existing custom shower stall, a homeowner can create a pragmatic shower and a luxurious spa-like steam room in a single package that fulfills either function.
What Else Is "Hot" In the Bath?
But hot water isn't just coming out of the showerheads in today's top-of-the-line bathroom. It could be running beneath the flooring and around the towels! Lentz said that heated floors, using hot water running beneath them or electric heating elements, are a new trend in bathrooms. Likewise, the use of towel warmers is also on the rise.
Which brings us to the sinks. Yes, that's "sinks" as in more than one basin -- because, if the available space allows it, today's well-done master suite bath definitely has two. According to Lentz, different shapes, such as square sinks, are becoming more popular, and console sinks that do not have attached vanities are replacing vanity sinks and pedestal sinks as designer favorites. Relying on the wall and forward legs for support, console sinks provide the countertop of a traditional bath vanity and even allow a person to sit at the sink without having cabinetry in the way of their legs.
But doesn't that mean the under-sink plumbing will be exposed? Yes, but that's no sin in today's fashionable bath. "People aren't ashamed of their plumbing anymore. In fact some companies are selling very nice designer pipes in special finishes that people want to show off," said Lentz.
Change Your Faucets Whenever You Change Your Mind
Of course, if you want to focus on the plumbing above the sink, as well as below, your options are almost limitless when it comes to faucets. Faucets can be an important part of a master bath update, and they are often changed for appearance's sake long before they've worn out. Some of today's faucets have been developed with this very fact in mind. Based on research into consumer trends, Moen developed its M-Pact series of faucets for consumers who want to change the look of their faucet without changing the entire unit.
The M-Pact system allows the faucet to be completely changed in terms of appearance -- a new spout, handles and trim -- without having to remove the faucet valve, grapple with under-sink plumbing or replace supply lines. Once an M-Pact faucet is installed, homeowners can choose from a wide array of styles and finishes when they later decide to update the look of the bath.
"M-Pact is rapidly gaining popularity among consumers," said Pember. "Often, we're selling them to consumers who are remodeling their bathroom and realize that they'll probably remodel again in the future, or at least think that they might. They want the ability to change the look of their faucets without the time and expense of installing entirely new units."
Another fixture that may need updating is the toilet. Like it or not, the toilet is a major element in any bathroom. But trends in bathroom layout are downplaying its presence by surrounding it by walls or even putting it in a small ante-room attached to the master bath.
As for the toilets themselves, low-flow models are still the rule (despite consumer efforts to circumvent low-flow requirements by recycling older toilets or even traveling to Canada to purchase high-flow models). The good news is, the newer low-flow toilets flush much better than their predecessors. Good thing, for, as Lentz notes, "You're really not saving any water if you have to flush more than once."
In addition to improved operation, newer models also offer easier cleaning. Lentz advises consumers to look for newer models with skirted bottoms that are easy to clean. Some companies, such as Toto and Duravit, use special glazings inside of the bowl to prevent build up and decrease the need for cleaning, she says.
So what's left once you've got your Vertical Spa, soaking tub, dual console sink, designer faucets and high-tech low-flow toilet in place? Luckily, only lighting and paint, both of which can be taken care of relatively inexpensively.
For lighting, look for bright, non-fluorescent multi-bulb fixtures, or perhaps halogen lighting. This will keep you from casting yourself in a blue pall first thing in the morning from unnatural fluorescent lighting, while still ensuring that you have enough light to make sure you look your best.
As for paint, white goes with anything and it is economical and always in style for the bath. But Lentz says colors, especially those connoting water, are the latest trend. Since paint is easy to change, why not finish the room with some pale blue or green hues to complement the rest of the bathroom.
For more information about remodeling projects or Moen products, contact Moen Incorporated at 25300 Al Moen Drive, North Olmsted, Ohio 44070-8022, call toll free 1 (800) BUY MOEN (1-800-289-6636) or visit its Web site at www.moen.com.