The watchword for 2009 is "eco-chic" -- with materials and designs that are both beautiful and sustainable. Technology has given us highly efficient, new shower sprays that use a small fraction of the water used by traditional showers. It has given us lighting that is equally efficient in both use and spending and materials that are environmentally sustainable and beautiful.
But perhaps just as good for the environment and the soul, there is a new emphasis on simple, uncluttered design: the natural striations of bamboo, the smooth beauty of marble and limestone and the sparkle of polished chrome and glass. The 2009 bath is a retreat from a complicated world.
There is a move toward contemporary design even in traditional homes, since the bath is seen as a more private space and thus open to more individual expression.
The New York-loft look -- with plenty of open space, a squared-off uncomplicated design and subdued colour or white with deep-stained wood (a la Brian Gluckstein or Barbara Barry) -- replaces the hotel look as the influence of the year. It's more personal and relaxed.
In traditional designs, Art Deco and early- to mid-20th century modern elements such as graceful, simple lines and colours are quieter than Baroque traditional but more personal than a purely modern look.
Despite this toned-down, streamlined look, baths are still all about comfort: heated floors, multiple shower heads and, if there's room, an upholstered sofa covered in a water-friendly material (such as white terry cloth) for alternative seating.
Professional spa elements are borrowed for the home spa, both visually and functionally: soft, watery colours such as pale green and blue, white-on-white, light-coloured or white-washed woods, polished metals.
Bling or sparkle adds life to an otherwise subdued design: inset-crystal faucet handles and cabinet hardware, high-gloss glass mosaic tile, chandeliers, decorative mirrors.
Bath "furniture," whether built-in or stand-alone, softens the hard edges of the room.
As in the kitchen, efficient and ample storage is important: The pedestal sink gives way to the built-in vanity, even in the powder room.
- Natural stone, such as marble, limestone, slate and granite, provides a soothing, natural ambience.
- For pure luxury, metals -- even real gold! -- are often inset in glass tiles.
- Glass mosaics are still a favourite: Bright colours are making way for softer tones or natural whites, with subtle variations from one tile to the next to create a textured effect.
- Stainless steel is as intelligent as it is practical, even for the bath: It is hygienic, recyclable, inert and free of toxins that can leach from other metals, and it has a softer look than high-gloss metals such as chrome, making it attractive in faucets and other bathroom fixtures.
- Bamboo is another environmentally friendly and attractive material. Beyond cabinetry and flooring, it may be used as a laminate on vessel basins, in storage units, countertops and accessories and even as a fibre in towels and other bath linens.
- “Smart,” adjustable showers can be programmed to “remember” every family member’s personal preference for temperature, pressure and configuration of sprays and shower heads and accessed at the push of a button.
- Larger showers offer greater freedom of movement today but also a sense of changing needs in the future: They can be built to accommodate a wheelchair or shower chair and with a low (or no) curb for easy access and minimal chance of tripping.
- Shower seating allows you to sit to shave your legs and is essential for the needs of seniors or others having difficulty standing.
- Steam units are coming down dramatically in price, providing a water-saving and relaxing experience at home.
- Other relaxing therapies can include chromatherapy, whereby washes of colour can be introduced to the shower for mood effects.
- In keeping with larger showers and shower sprays, the tub is getting larger too, for a relaxed, peaceful soak at the end of the day.
- New shapes such as cubes, egg shapes or swooped sides (a 1920s look or feel) are available.
- Soaker tubs are coming back, though air-jet and whirlpool tubs are still going strong.
- Stand-alone units with the faucets mounted on the floor provide an uncluttered look with a subtle sense of history as well.
- The vessel, or raised, basin is available in many configurations and is seen as the artistic centrepiece of the bathroom, almost to the point of resembling a sculpture or ceramic art, often with hand-painting or cloisonne, mosaic designs.
- Materials range from jewel-toned and textured glass to ceramics, matte-finish porcelain, stainless steel and carved, moulded or cast concrete.
- Shapes also vary widely: Beyond the classic bowl shape, there are squares, rectangles, cylinder or cheese-wheel shapes and flat shapes with a shallow indentation for the basin.
- Wall-mounted units keep the floor clear, which is practical for cleaning and visually give a more open, uncluttered look.
- Subdued, adjustable and elegant is the rule: Dimmers adjust that bright lighting used for shaving or makeup applications into soft and subdued lighting for a relaxing soak in the tub.
- A crystal or vintage chandelier instead of a harsh overhead fixture adds atmosphere and sparkle.
- Beautifully simple and streamlined in design: Gloss finishes especially nickel, with its slightly warmer tone predominate for a touch of sparkle.
- New shapes include squared off rather than tubular, flat and sleek lines, or even linear or waterfall spouts.
- At the high end: Enamelled all-black or all-white faucets for a sleek look and brass are starting to appear.
- Second only to the kitchen as the most energy-demandingroom in the home is the bathroom. Efficiency, then, is veryimportant, particularly when it comes to saving water: Toilets are becoming more efficient with dual-flush units, high-pressure/low-water models and built-in cleaning and drying units that replace the bidet with a fraction of water usage.
- The newest multiple-shower and rain-shower sprays actually use only slightly more water than an old fashioned single shower head by combining air and water to increase pressure without using more water. Remember that any shower uses less water than a bath.
- Lighting technologies coming to the bath include LEDs, compact fluorescent fixtures and dimmers.
- Radiant-heat floors provide coziness while using less energy.