Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

New-Look Loo

Bathroom designs are putting the "ahhhhh" into a spa-like experience at home. Designers are coming clean about master bathroom trends in the National Kitchen & Bath Association's (NKBA) 2017 Survey, featuring data compiled from 562 respondents in the home industry.

"We are spending more time wanting to unwind and seek places of comfort in our homes," says Adam Gibson, an NKBA-certified Kitchen and Bath Designer for 22 years and owner of a design firm bearing his name near Indianapolis. "As a result, a home's master bath has become a place where people want to feel pampered."

Gibson says master bathrooms are occupying a larger percentage of a home's total square footage. Often master bathrooms have direct access to bedroom walk-in closets, while linen closets are being built directly into bathrooms for storage.

"Before people face the day, they want to be able to get ready and dressed in a beautiful space that is well-lit," he says. "While the master suite occupies more space, the overall design of a master bath is more sleek and minimalistic."


"Light, bright and white," remains the monochromatic mantra for bathrooms. The first step to a super-clean master bath design is to make sure it remains squeaky clean. Marble countertops are a popular choice, but Gibson says engineered-stone or quartz surfaces are waterproof and stain-, heat- and scratch-resistant, and can be manufactured to mimic stone. Because a quartz countertop lacks surface holes, it does not require sealing, nor does it support the growth of bacteria.

Ceramic or porcelain tile is the flooring of choice for master baths because of its durability, water resistance and cleanability. If a homeowner wants to take the chill off the bathroom floor, an electric heated floor system under tile is a creature comfort into which more homeowners are investing, says Gibson.

"Heating mats are designed to operate like an electric blanket under the flooring and are constructed of coils of heat resistance wires, which are joined to a supporting material," he says. "Controlled by a thermostat, bathroom floors can achieve a comfortable temperature in less than an hour."


Installing water-saving features is hitting the mainstream in bathroom design.

Using a high-efficiency toilet and water-saving fixtures saves dollars and makes sense for conservation. The design of a high-efficiency 1.28 gallon-per-flush (or less) toilet forces water through the front of the bowl and can potentially save a family of five more than 20,000 gallons of water per year, when using a water conservation calculator.

Chrome is cool when it comes to fixtures in the bathroom, Gibson says. Fixtures not only include faucets, but also lighting. "Mirrors with integrated lights on either side are great," he says. "You want to avoid a single fixture on top of the mirror, which creates harsh shadows on the face."

The most illuminating tact, however, is to have a bathroom infused with as much natural light as possible -- either through windows or a skylight.

Sinking Feeling

Form follows function with today's bounty of stylish basin choices for the bathroom, but bigger appears to be better with the trend toward trough sinks.

"Vessel sinks that sit on top of the counter and pedestal sinks that integrate sink and stand into one piece are less popular," Gibson says.

While stand-alone sinks may be waning, stand-alone tubs are gaining steam. Half of NKBA members surveyed said they specified a freestanding tub in 2016, with up to 60 percent of designers expecting to specify one in the master bath in 2017.

Universal Design

Gibson says freestanding tubs are popular in bathrooms in which there is also a shower option, because a no-threshold shower works for people of all ages.

"More designers are thinking about 'universal design' as a concept so people can age in place," he says. "The key is to make master bathroom accommodations accessible without making it look too institutional."

Large, no-threshold showers are being designed to accommodate built-in shower seats with plenty of lighting. Shower doors are built wider and grab bars are cleverly disguised as towel bars, Gibson says.


After tending to the details in the bathroom, it should smell as good as it looks.

"Having a proper venting system is imperative to rid the bathroom of moisture and odors," Gibson says. "I suggest installing a 6-inch hard pipe vented directly outside, so the exhaust fan works efficiently."

But all of the planning around the venting system is secondary if it is never pressed into service. Gibson says many systems are often tied to a humidistat, which kicks on when the moisture in the air reaches a certain level. Candles placed in the master bathroom are common "scents," which also cast a relaxing, ambient light.

"More than ever, the master bath is an integral part of the homeowner's lifestyle," Gibson says. "This is a watershed movement in bath design."

Keeping It Clean

Visit the National Kitchen & Bath Association at NKBA.org. Click "Prosearch" to find a certified kitchen professional near you, or call 1-800-843-6522.