Bringing the great outdoors in (the bathroom)

The most popular bathroom trends of the year are all about bringing the outdoors in and creating a private oasis. With the right design, a relaxing and indulgent ambiance – which used to be seen only at spas and high-end vacation destinations – can be enjoyed every day of the year.

What are homebuyers looking for in a perfect bathroom? Larger showers, subdued colors, tiles in natural tones and understated fixtures.

Showers are big and bright with plenty of natural light beaming through crystal-clear glass walls. Numerous streams of water cascade from multiple shower heads or a single large one, creating the feeling of a summer rain.

Color palates are simple with plenty of taupe, white and sand. Fixtures are subdued brass or gold with a matte finish. Tiles are in natural hues of earth tones, such as blue slate or speckled pebbles.

“Homebuilders are creating very Zen-like bathrooms that make you think of a 5-star hotel,” says Sheila Tomlinson, the design center director for luxury builder WCI’s model home designs in the Tampa Bay area. “They are becoming personal sanctuaries.”

Slowing down

This trend in bathroom design supports the growing appreciation for making the most of quiet moments, during a busy life. Homeowners may meditate for five minutes in their bathroom in the morning or unwind for an hour at the end of the day.

Instead of taking a long soak in a tub, however, more folks are relaxing and rejuvenating in a shower these days.

“More and more homebuyers are looking for large, walk-in showers. They’d rather go big and put in larger showers instead of waterfall tubs, which used to be a standard in luxury bathroom design,” Tomlinson says.

WCI features a 14-foot-long walk-in shower with two entries in its “Siesta Key” model home at Southshore Yacht Club in the Little Harbor area of South Hillsborough County. There’s a rain-shower fixture hung from the ceiling, plus additional shower fixtures on the wall.

With bigger showers, there is also plenty of room for built-in bench seats and multiple shelves, which are other must-have bathroom features.

The oversized shower can also be good for the needs of a family. Young families who have enough bathrooms for everyone in the house often find themselves throwing all the little kids in the master shower for easy and boisterous bathing.

As for showers versus tubs, while bigger showers are in, tubs are far from out.

“Consumers who do want a tub often choose to have it in the middle of the room, unattached from the wall,” Tomlinson says. “This design really gives the feeling of a spacious, relaxing room at a spa.”

Instead of oversized square tubs with water jets, deep, elongated tubs are preferred. They are simpler and more classic, yet still offer plenty of room for a good soak.

Going natural

Taking another page from high-end spas, the latest bathrooms include elements that echo nature.

“Instead of bright colors or flashy patterns you are seeing walls, tiles and countertops in subdued tones. The colors of the Earth,” Tomlinson says.

Some bathroom designs have backsplashes, shower floors or entire walls with tiles that look like flat stones or smooth, rounded pebbles.

If you can’t be in the actual great outdoors, a bathroom inspired by it has some of the same calming effects. Perhaps the simplistic, natural surroundings will encourage homeowners to unplug like they do when hiking or boating. In fact, the first step toward making your bathroom a relaxing sanctuary can be declaring it a no-phone zone.

Sensing needs

While simplicity and tranquility are prominent in the latest bathroom designs, these rooms can also encompass high-tech features that enhance the ambiance.

“Occupancy sensors can turn lights on and off as a homeowner enters or leaves a room,” Tomlinson says. “The sensors, which can tell when someone is in the room, can also be programmed to open or close blinds. This means Florida’s sunlight won’t overheat the bathroom when it’s empty but will offer a bright glow when it’s in use.”

Of course, you can also program them the opposite way, to close when you come in after dark, so the relaxing privacy can begin. ♦

Kaidy Solesky is director of marketing for Lennar, the parent company of WCI. 

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