January 18, 2012
Pamper Yourself With a Spa-like Ensuite
Make room, Calvin Klein: Bathrooms are sashaying down the fashion runway
From the chic, spa-like ensuites competing at last month’s Housing Design Awards hosted by the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association to the panoply of new product lines — sleek toilets with programmable bidets among them — bathrooms are boasting a fashion sense like never before.
Here’s a taste of what’s au courant.
“Simple, plain — that’s where the trend is going,” says Myra Flipsen, a designer at Deslaurier Custom Cabinets in Ottawa. At the recent awards, she shared the production bathroom prize with Cardel Homes for a flat-panel cherry vanity she created in a Cardel contemporary bathroom. “We’re seeing lots of clean lines, with square vessel sinks and thicker countertops.”
It’s part of the uncluttered spa look that continues to grow in popularity for ensuites, says Chuck Mills of Chuck Mills Residential Design & Development. He won this year’s award for custom bathrooms over 91 square feet for his drop-dead gorgeous ensuite with an infinity spa tub (Amsted Design-Build won in the under 90 square feet category). With its generous corner glazing, the bathroom relates directly to the homeowners’ well-treed yard.
“It’s almost like having your bath outside,” says Mills. Over the past four or five years, he adds, people have kept the main bathrooms relatively simple while putting their efforts into the ensuite. Natural woods continue to capture attention in bathrooms. Mills used bamboo for the floating vanity in his prize winner. “Bamboo is being used a bit more in bathrooms. In this one, it gives a bit of a Zen-like feel with the curved mirror and waterfall faucet.” Flipsen is seeing some gloss finishes in bathroom wood, but says conservative Ottawa homeowners aren’t flocking there yet.
Neutral colours and deeper tones predominate: sand, cream, cool light blues and classy whites all help create a laid-back spa atmosphere. Greens, too, foster a natural, spa-like feel and tie the bathroom to the great outdoors.
Determined to avoid a total snooze fest, designers are splashing fiery reds, cheery oranges and other accent colours onto this softer background palette. With light-coloured tiles also popular, bold, dark-coloured cabinetry ups the pizzazz factor by providing contrast.
Showers and Tubs
Acres of glass, slick frameless doors, rainheads and body jets galore make it tough to be conservation conscious by keeping your showers short. But pampering, not your conscience, is the name of the game here. Designer Suzanne Martin of Ottawa’s Luxurious LivingStudio — she designs all projects for her husband’s company Michael J. Martin Luxury Renovations, a housing awards finalist in this year’s custom bathroom category — says that Nuheat heating mats are a growing trend in showers.
Installed underneath floor tile and wired to a programmable thermostat, they actually make getting out of bed on a frosty January morning enticing. The thermostat runs $180 to $250, and the heating pad $17 to $25 a square foot. The heating system is also used around toilets and under vanity toe kicks to keep toes toasty. She also likes Fleurco’s frameless sliding glass shower doors. An overhead stainless-steel roller system “makes it look really nice. It’s a completely smooth system — it’s so elegant.” The system runs around $2,500 for a 60-inch opening.
Free-standing tubs ($1,500 to $6,000) continue to roar up the bathroom hit parade, according to Ron Carty, a sales associate with Ottawa’s Preston Hardware. The Victoria & Albert free-standing tub, starting around $2,500, is made of exceptionally tough volcanic limestone and resin, and scratches can be simply buffed out. Carty says jet-black tubs, making a splash in other markets, haven’t yet arrived here. However, he’s had some requests for elegant black sinks.
Sinks, Faucets & Toilets
Vessel sinks, once the new kid on the block, have gone mainstream as tract builders pop them into homes faster than you can say household debt. The American Standard box style is especially popular, says Flipsen: “It’s got clean lines and a contemporary look, and it’s easy to install.” Trough sinks, some with embedded glass chips, are also pinging homeowners’ radars, says Martin.
Faucets are changing as well, with polished chrome and nickel making a comeback and oil-rubbed bronze a popular choice. Some homeowners are moving to wall-mounted faucets to make countertop cleaning easier. In the toilet market, Kohler’s ultra-high-end Numi has a sensor that raises the lid automatically when you enter the bathroom, settings for your favourite seat heat, and a hot-air vent to warm your feet.
The built-in music function and speakers play everything from FM radio to your MP3 player. A touch-screen control panel provides a “personalized bidet experience,” which is doubtless preferable to a public experience. Available through Ottawa’s Ensuite Bath and Kitchen, it lists at $7,495.
Cabinets & Countertops
Floating vanities — so called because they are mounted on the wall and are open underneath — are showing up in more bathrooms than ever. Mills uses them when he’s seeking a contemporary look. For his award-winning custom bathroom, “I wanted the whole thing to be airy, so a floating cabinet made sense.”
Martin warns that floating vanities, like equally trendy floating toilets, need to be properly mounted on the wall to ensure they stay there. A wall with two-by-six-inch studs works best, she says. Cabinetry resembling antique furniture is scoring with tradition-minded homeowners. Old-world faucets and hardware along with vintage-styled mirrors complete the scene.
Designers agree that quartz countertops are starting to give granite a run for its money in bathrooms. The lighter look of quartz accords well with the spa feel that homeowners are seeking and because the material is non-porous, it doesn’t stain the way granite does.
And More . . .
The Kohler DTV Prompt Digital Showering System ($323, Ensuite Bath and Kitchen): Its large, intuitive display lets you design multiple spray configurations.
The Déco Drain: A linear, stainless-steel shower drain for ceramic, tile and other floors. It looks great and offers fast drainage. Available starting at $500 by ordering from Boone Plumbing & Heating Supply.
Illuminated mirrors for fashion and function: $350 and up at the Electrical & Plumbing Store on Northside Road in Bells Corners.