Baths With Splash
By Stacee Sledge
Log Home Living, January 2005

6 ways you can indulge in a spa-like space without leaving the comfort of home

Homeowners everywhere are seeking ways to add a touch of luxury to their lives, and one of the best rooms in the house to indulge in a little opulence is the bathroom. This most private of rooms can be as spare or sumptuous as you please—all it takes is a little creativity and, of course, an ample budget. Take a look at the bounty of options for outfitting what has become one of the most relaxing—and pricey—rooms in your home.

1. Shower Yourself in Luxury
Tressa Downs, sales manager for the Cincinnati-based DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen franchise, says today’s most popular item for upscale bathrooms is a super-sized shower with power, including built-in seating, multiple shower heads and body sprays.

If pounding your body with multiple jets seems more like cleansing in a car wash than enjoying a sumptuous indulgence, consider installing a waterfall shower. The gentle cascade these units produce is firm enough to get you squeaky clean, but will make you feel like you’re washing beneath an exotic Hawaiin waterfall. Or linger in the latest in steam showers. May of today’s high-end steam showers incorporate aromatherapy and adjustable lighting—elements that are frequently used in plush spa retreats.

2. Decompress From Stress
Speaking of spas, certified bath designers Sandy and Lynn Monson of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, agree that in-home spas are the hottest thing in today’s homebuilding market.

“The wellness trend is huge,” says Sandy. “Rather than visiting a day spa, many home owners want the daily convenience and instant gratification of a spa at home.”

Tressa agrees. “Bathrooms aren’t just about getting clean anymore,” she says, “They’re about physical well-being and creating a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Our clients want stress-relieving products.” With the fast-paced lives we live these days, people want a retreat to get away from it all, whether it's work or a hectic (but enjoyable) day with the kids. So they’re incorporating not just hot tubs, but also foot massagers, steam rooms and cedar-lined saunas into the bath. In terms of design, the bath is more spacious and well-planned than in years past, incorporating ample windows to maximize the tranquil view and adjustable lighting to set the stress-relieving mood.

3. Warming Trends
Certified designer and licensed residential contractor Sara Ann Busby is installing more heated tile floors in the high-end bathrooms she’s creating, banishing the once-frequent complaint of cold-feet wake-up calls. A thin electric heating system is installed under the tile and controlled by a thermostat. “We even can be put it on a timer so the floor warms up just before the client rises,” says Sara Ann. (She suggests using the same technology behind mirrors to eliminate fog.)

And when it comes to staying warm, what can be more snuggly than a toasty towel after a stimulating shower or soothing bath? A towel warmer will give you that fresh-out-of-the-dryer feeling every time. Some units are even multitasking, such as the Myson towel warmer/TV/fog-free mirror. This snazzy unit also saves space, combining several opulent bath elements into one sleek package.

4. Royal Flush
Finally, a commode to take care of itself. This self-flushing device boasts a gauge to figure out how much water is needed for each flush and catalytic deodorizers that automatically activate after use.

But it’s not simply utilitarian. Manufacturers aren’t skimping on commode comfort either. The Neorest 600, a state-of-the-art toilet created by bathroom-fixture manufacturer Toto, features a warmed seat, a lid that raises and closes automatically, oscillating spray massage and even a bidet (and dryer), warranting a worthwhile second glance at this often-taken-for-granted fixture.

5. The New-Age Angle
Want to add a New Age twist to your shower, tub or sink, mixed with a new-age bent? Try chromatherapy. Fans of this holistic-healing philosophy contend that color improves wellness and has a tangible effect on feelings of well-being and comfort.

To satisfy this trend, Kohler offers its Sok overflowing bath, which incorporates a sequence of eight subtle rotating hues. Does it promote wellness? We can’t say for sure, but it does evoke a bath experience like no other.

6. Finishing Touches
The well-appointed bath doesn’t stop with bathroom fixtures, no matter how lavish they are. High-end materials and high-tech gadgetry truly convert this space from a mere necessity to a room to relish.

According to Sara Ann, materials need to be visually substantial in a log home, so, today’s bathroom-materials trends tend toward textured stone or slate flooring softened with throw rugs, while countertops often are stained concrete or granite, rather than tile or marble. She’s also seen a boost in the use of stainless steel, which marries modern design with a log home’s rustic style.

Other ornamental fixtures seen in today’s baths are blown-glass vessel bowls, furniture-style vanities and large, free-standing linen cabinets that serve as focal points, not just storage facilities. Non-log walls are covered in interesting materials such as rock or ornate listello tile, or they’re painted in soothing, natural shades for a Zen-like experience.

If you’re looking for that extra dose of opulence, fireplaces, surround-sound systems, flat screen televisions with Internet access and even espresso bars are no strangers to the luxury bath. Some home owners have incorporated plush chaise lounges, ottomans and coffee tables, creatively using extra spaces by converting them into casual parlors.

And for the truly indulgent, Sara Ann has installed mini-kitchens in the master area, complete with refrigerators and microwaves, giving clients easy access to their jolt of morning java, warmed-up pastry or late-night snack—just a stone’s throw away from their relaxing retreat.

So if you’re in the infant stages of planning your home or looking to do a little post-construction renovation, don’t brush the bath aside. Relish the possibilities of this haven for relaxation.

Sidebar: Reality Check

Sure, we’d all love a little sumptuousness in our bathroom space, but for many it’s impossible to stretch the style budget to include the latest high-tech gadgets and fancy finishes. The good news is that you don’t have to feel less-than-pampered. Incorporate some of these tips to add glamour to your holistic haven—without breaking the bank.

Designers Tressa Downs and Sara Ann both suggest doing away with the expense of a soaking tub and putting a walk-in shower, dressed up with a second showerhead and artistic tile work, in its place. Install a shower door rather than a curtain for a sleeker, cleaner look. And a frameless shower will not only increase the luxury factor, it’s also smart design if you’ll be spending your Golden Years in this home and find that navigating a tub or shower is a hardship.
For many homeowners—especially those with young children—banishing the bathtub may not make sense. You can up the luxury quotient in your soaking tub with a bubbler mat that mimics a gentle whirlpool action. This easy-to-install and portable accessory adds a gentle massage to your bath time without drowning you in debt.

Control the lighting with layers and dimmers to get different effects. Use sconces and small lamps in lieu of harsh fluorescent lighting for a romantic, relaxing glow.

As a general rule, bathrooms aren’t big, so use the best materials you can afford, in smaller amounts, suggests Sara Ann. Key areas where you may want to “blow the budget” for a big look are gleaming granite countertops or a striking light fixture over the vanity.

If replacing staid marble counters with solid granite is simply out of reach, try thin-granite slabs (real stone that can be installed over existing shower walls and vanity tops). Designer Sandy Monson says you’ll spend a fraction of the cost for full installation of new surfaces, yet achieve the same elegant look.

Painting walls in soft, calming colors warms a room at low cost. Peruse delectable designer hues, such as tomatillo, cypress and canyon at Devine Color (

When it comes to adding a spa-like touch on a budget, a towel warmer is a fun, affordable and very luxurious accessory. Add a small CD player to your bath. And don’t forget to indulge yourself with the basics: scented candles, exfoliating soaps and moisturizing oils and lotions. These are inexpensive ways to add instant ambiance and a touch of luxury.


Sidebar: What’s on the Wane?

Just like fashion, home design trends come in and out of vogue, though thankfully not as frequently. Changing the style of your tile isn’t nearly as easy (or cheap) as changing your shirt. So what are today’s bath designers getting fewer and fewer requests for?

Tressa Downs, sales manager for the Cincinnati-based DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen says that tapering trends include excessively large tubs and double-bowl vanities. “Some clients are choosing to have more countertop space instead of a second sink,” she says. “They’ve realized their spouses aren’t getting ready at the same time, and it’s wasted space.”

She also sees fewer make-up vanities in today’s high-end bathrooms. “People are opting for more drawers and storage space instead of the leg room under the countertop.”

Certified designer and licensed residential contractor Sara Ann Busby agrees that these trends are taking a downturn—especially the outmoded oversized tub. “Large jetted tubs as the focal point of the bathroom are long gone,” she says. “They take up way too much space, are difficult to clean, and people just aren’t taking the time to use them.”

Instead, home owners are turning to jetted showers for relaxation or muscle-tension issues, according to Sara Ann. “They feel that a jetted shower is faster than taking a bath and the water is ‘fresher,’” she says. However, clients who still want a jetted tub or whirlpool bath are concentrating more on the strategic placement of jets in a small tub to achieve a therapeutic experience and less on a massive soaking tub itself.

Stacee Sledge is a freelance writer based in Bellingham, Washington.

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