Bathroom Showcase

Bathroom Showcase

Turning a spare bedroom into a luxurious bath is the latest trend in home remodeling.

Creating a spa at home

A recent blog on the Kohler Spa website featured a beautiful “Empty Nester Bathroom” as an example of how aging baby boomers are remaking spare bedrooms into luxurious, spa-like bath spaces. It turns out that homeowners whose children are grown and living on their own are increasingly likely to eschew creating home offices or rarely used guest rooms. Instead, they’re opting to remodel old bedrooms into well-appointed in-home spas that they can enjoy for years to come.

“Instead of growing families, they’re growing the other way, as more and more baby boomers are putting their kids into college and beyond,” says Keven Schmidt of Dreamhouse, Dreamkitchens. “Many who have a four-bedroom home are now taking that second bedroom, the one off the master, and creating a larger master bath and bedroom suite.”

Even if a complete overhaul isn’t in the cards for you, there’s still room in this trend to recreate smaller, existing bathrooms as well. What’s important is carving out a space with a spa-like feel at home, whatever that means for you.

“They’re really looking to create a spa retreat,” agrees Denise Quade of Denise Quade Design. “They just want a haven, to be able to get away from the hustle of their lives, and just relax and unwind.”

Tubs and showers

Large tubs, particularly bubble or jet tubs, are on their way out in most master bathrooms, says Quade. Freestanding pedestal tubs or soaking tubs are taking their place, or even no tub at all—particularly if it means making room for a lower-maintenance, eye-catching walk-in shower. Schmidt agrees, and says it has a lot to do with making the most of limited space.

“It’s pretty hard to create a spa-like bath feel in the typical five-by-eight space, which is why twenty years ago it was popular to put a hot tub outside, and then ten years ago it was popular to put a bubble-jet or air-jet tub inside,” says Schmidt. “Now we’re taking all those tubs out. People are asking for a spa bath that has either a sauna and/or a steam shower component.”

These showers are generally fifty to one hundred percent bigger than standard showers, with room for more than one person. Whether it’s a steam shower or just a large walk-in, today’s technology allows for curb-less showers that don’t require doors. This feature feels luxurious, looks spectacular, and offers better accessibility. Even a three-inch lip can be insurmountable to homeowners with mobility issues, whether from disability or aging; having a shower opening that’s flush with the floor is possible once those showers get bigger—and they look terrific, too.

“Even if you don’t do that jaw-dropping, huge square-footage master bed and bath suite, and opt for a simple remodel of a smaller, existing master bath instead,” says Schmidt, “you can still have a mini-spa-like feel at home with a walk-in curb-less shower.”

Design aesthetic

How a space feels is inextricably interwoven with how it looks. As a result, the well-considered interior design will play a critical role in creating that nurturing vibe. Many spas mix materials and textures that draw heavily from natural inspiration; the same can be done at home.

“A stone wall paired with natural tile or glass, a combination of shiny or polished and matte finishes, and a mix of metal finishes on faucets, hardware, towel bars and light fixtures are what gives that comforting yet rich feel,” says Quade. She says a recent favorite project matched dark-stained cabinetry and dark slate floors with white statuary marble-slab countertops, tied together by a textured stacked-stone wall and accented with white fixtures, including a pedestal tub and double sink with lots of storage. On the other hand, white painted cabinets against white marble is also an equally popular and clean, yet show-stopping, look. Both are neutral and classic, which Quade prefers.

“I like to design with a timeless feel for the core components, and leave the color spurts to the painted walls, accessories, towels, rugs and pictures,” says Quade. “That way the room can be changed easily in the future.”

Bringing design to life

If visualizing isn’t your forte, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. In addition to bringing dimension and life to blueprints, today’s 3D technology allows you to see exactly what your color and material choices, furniture and accessories will look like ahead of time.

“We now use 3D technology to give our clients the ability to really see everything before it happens, which saves all of us from costly mistakes,” says Schmidt. “It’s also just really fun and exciting.”

Luxurious warmth and soft lighting

When creating a spa bathroom at home, some of the most important design elements are less obvious, or even invisible. One feature sure to conjure relaxation and warmth—literally—is heating.

“Radiated floors add a comforting feel that starts with your feet and warms your whole body, which is especially nice on those cold Wisconsin winter mornings,” says Quade.

In addition, bringing warmth to design isn’t limited to radiated floors. 

“Most people don’t realize you can also have heated countertops, so your coffee and tea stay warm,” says Schmidt. “Heated towel holders are another great feature, and heated mirrors ensure they don’t fog up while you’re in the shower.”

Lighting, too, can make or break most any design, and the bathroom is no exception. Just as in the kitchen and other areas of the house, LED lighting is big in today’s bathrooms.

“A combination of side lights and overhead lighting will give the best light at the vanity, because without the side lights, your neck and chin are shadowed,” says Quade. She adds that some fixtures are not compatible with LED lighting, so it’s important to check compatibility. “Most LED side lights over a sink are only offered in a more contemporary style,” she notes.

Speaking of troubleshooting tips, Quade says it’s important to purchase plumbing faucets, sinks, tubs, toilets and more through your plumber in order to get a warranty on those products and the labor used to install them. Enlisting experts is a good general rule for any project, she notes, but particularly one where the purpose is to make you feel relaxed and pampered.

“People want to hibernate and cocoon at home. We all lead busy lifestyles and want our home to be a sanctuary,” says Quade. “So making the bath feel spa-like is a natural way to achieve that.”