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.