In the world of interior design, no rooms have changed more dramatically than bathrooms. They have blossomed over the last decade, growing from tiny utilitarian areas into spacious, handsomely appointed rooms, often with whirlpool baths, steam showers and other fixtures designed to pamper and soothe harried residents.
Bidets; oversized showers with seats and multiple shower heads; exercise areas; entertainment centers, and expensive materials like marble and granite are becoming more and more visible as Americans upgrade old bathrooms and add new ones.
All this bathroom attention makes sense. Bathroom additions and redos are near the top of the list in value, just a few percentage points behind kitchen projects. Ninety-two percent of the building cost of a bathroom addition will be recouped if a house is sold within a year, reports Remodeling magazine.
But value isn't the only motivating factor for building new bathrooms or remodeling older ones. Having a luxury bathroom is like owning a Mercedes -- status is guaranteed. The credo seems to be bigger is better. The once-standard 5-by-7 bathroom has all but disappeared. Instead, interior designers routinely create bathrooms that are 100, 200, even 500 square feet.
A strong trend in the design of these larger rooms is allocating space for specific functions, such as bathing or dressing. The goal of such planning is to allow two people to use the bathroom at the same time -- highly important when husbands and wives both work and leave the house at the same time each morning.
In a small but growing number of homes, bathroom plans also include a completely separate room -- sometimes called a water closet -- to house the toilet. Still rare, but showing up with increasing frequency, are adjoining his and her bathrooms -- the ultimate in space and privacy.
Following are three designer master bathrooms that highlight trends for the 1990s.
Joan Eisenberg, J. M. E. Consulting,
Sue Miller, interior designer
When Joan Eisenberg, a certified bath designer, was hired to help with the remodeling of an older Colonial home, she discovered the project included redoing three bathrooms and adding three new ones. The master bath was a major concern. "Basically it was a typical early 1950s bathroom with a tub, a toilet, a sink and a small dressing area," recalls Ms. Eisenberg.
Working as a team with interior designer Sue Miller and architect Allan Hitchcock, Ms. Eisenberg created the basic layout of the bathroom and served as a liaison between the clients and the contractor. Her specific concerns were "making the bathroom functional and making it easy to take care of," she says. She also wanted to design a bathroom that would be a nice place for her clients to relax.
Ms. Eisenberg divided the space -- approximately 200 square feet -- into three distinct areas. The smallest space, directly off the master bedroom, houses a makeup vanity with a sink. To the right is a large walk-in closet/dressing area. To the left of the vanity, through a door, is the main bathroom. Highly dramatic with black fixtures and walls of mirrored glass, this enclosed space contains a large corner Jacuzzi tub, a glass-enclosed, site-built steam shower with a seat, a vanity with sink and the toilet.
Safety features are a major part of the design. The glass surrounding the shower is safety-glazed; the ceramic tile flooring is slip-resistant in a matte finish; the electrical outlets have ground fault circuit interrupters that cut off if touched by water. Grab bars are installed. "It doesn't matter how old you are, grab bars need to be in every bathroom," says Ms. Eisenberg.
Joe Bowers, interior designer,
Rita St. Clair Associates:
When Joe Bowers planned the bathroom in a new home designed by Baltimore architect James Grieves, one problem he didn't have to worry about was lack of space. The bathroom had plenty of it -- 502 square feet.
Working closely with Mr. Grieves and the clients, Mr. Bowers used the space to create a sophisticated and extremely functional bathroom geared to busy lifestyles. "Our primary job was to plan for all the interior finishes and to design the storage cabinets and closets," says Mr. Bowers, who has worked 27 years in the design business, all of them with Rita St. Clair Associates Inc. in Baltimore.
Situated just off the first-floor master bedroom, the bath is carved into specific areas, each geared to a specific function -- bathing, dressing and personal hygiene. The room has two dressing areas, each with its own closets and vanity sinks surrounded by Italian marble. A Jacuzzi tub, sandwiched between the two dressing areas, is backed by a wall of windows that edge the tub and overlook a private courtyard.