Nothing embodies a sense of luxury more than nicely appointed bathrooms and powder rooms. This is one of the best improvements that can be done to any home, townhouse or condominium, as it adds both perceived and actual value.
Since the times of ancient Rome, baths have been a great place for cleanliness and also for establishing a connection among body, mind and spirit. Baths were a refuge for one to go and think clearly and even, in some cultures, to negotiate the finer points of a business deal. In our world today, bathrooms are more private but, nonetheless, just as important.
Today's bathrooms are not just functional rooms of the house but also an extension of one's living space, and they are no longer clinical in design. Designs for these spaces have gone in many directions, often including saunas, hot tubs, massage tables and even exercise areas. Gone are many of the materials one used to expect in bathrooms: ceramic tile, traditional fixtures, tones of mint green, cherry pink and sky blue (unless you are involved in a historical restoration). These materials have been replaced with warmer tiles, slates and marbles in a variety of incredible colors. Some have textures; others are laser-cut for intricate designs. Stones are mixed with glass and mirrors, and tiles and fixtures that glow in the dark are available.
Some of the newer bathrooms rival the size of their en suite bedrooms. Larger spaces are in favor over the typical 5-by-7-foot bathrooms of yesteryear. Most homeowners are even willing to eliminate a spare room so that the square footage can be used for their new bathroom. Lounging areas are de rigueur, and this means space for a chaise or a pair of club chairs and an ottoman.
Fixtures such as toilets, lavs and tubs are available in traditional styles to fit in with most conventional architectural styles. But some are also available in sleek versions that look as if they have been designed by aeronautical engineers. Materials for fixtures have evolved to include the traditional porcelains and enameled irons, as well as newer materials, such as resins and polyesters, that can easily be molded into any shape while having the same sheen as earlier models.
Custom cabinetmakers can make bathroom furniture in any style to fit your decor and lifestyle. The one caveat is to use materials that are not affected by direct contact with water or humidity. Today's styles range from floating wall-mounted cabinetry to furniture-like pieces that completely conceal the fixtures.
The whirlpool tub was the must-have 10 or 20 years ago. Today high-end plumbing fixtures are all the rage. Most whirlpool tubs are being removed for lack of use and are being replaced with larger showers -- sometimes large enough for two. These sybaritic showers feature multiple massage sprays and rain showerheads and spa-like steam options. These features, once found only at therapeutic clinics and spas, now are commonplace as people search for antidotes to their hectic lives.
Joseph Pubillones' weekly column, "The Art of Design," is available at creators.com.