While soaking tubs surrounded by a tile platform wide enough to hold a jungle of tropical plants was the “it” design trend in the 1990s, today’s luxury homes are more likely to have an elegant sculptural freestanding tub. While those tubs offer a wow factor in the master bathroom in larger homes, other trends in newly built bathrooms reflect the way homeowners today embrace technology and smart design concepts.
Bathroom designs tend to be limited only by how much space you have available rather than your location.
“We don’t see a lot of regional differences in bathroom designs,” said Tricia Zach, a market research analyst for the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association.
The 2018–19 NKBA Bathroom Design Trends survey and the 2018 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends study found that for newly built homes and remodeled bathrooms, premium features such as dual-head showers, vessel sinks and built-in vanities are highly desirable. And in January, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas showcased new products that are being installed in bathrooms now and are likely to become more common in the future.
Expect to see more of these bathroom features in the coming year:
1. Transitional and Contemporary Style
Transitional and contemporary style are the top two bathroom design choices of homeowners and interior designers, and both favor natural light, mostly light colors and minimalist vanities and fixtures for a relaxed atmosphere. Transitional style includes more chandeliers and pendant lights than contemporary or coastal styles, while contemporary style bathrooms often feature stained concrete floors, floating vanities and keypad controls for lighting. Coastal style, which has been gaining ground as a trend among homeowners and designers, according to Elle H-Millard, NKBA industry relations manager, uses more green and blue color schemes and glass and vessel sinks, along with mosaic tile and pebble tile in the shower.
2. Self-Cleaning Toilets
One of the most striking sights at KBIS was the line-up of self-cleaning, self-flushing toilets at the Kohler and Toto booths. Multiple companies now offer toilets that flush automatically and that include a nightlight, an automatic mister before and after each use to clean the toilet and lids that automatically open and shut. Toilets now come in square and rectangular shapes, not just round or elongated. And the heated seat may be the ultimate luxury on a winter morning. Dual-flush and water-saving features are available on lower-cost toilets, but for all the bells and whistles, including body-washing sprays, expect to pay $2,000 to as much as $13,000 per toilet.
3. Tech-Centric Innovation
Among the most popular tech items anticipated to gain popularity in bathroom designs over the next three years are temperature/thermostat controls, according to the NKBA survey. Other popular items include water conservation technology, internet-connected products (such as programmable showers), leak detection devices and occupancy sensors that operate lights when someone is in the bathroom.
“We were surprised that voice-activated controls for faucets, tubs, showers, lights and toilets were low on the list of items that are expected to be popular, with only 28 percent of respondents mentioning this feature,” H-Millard says.
4. Wet Rooms
For homes with enough space, designers can add a “wet room” that includes a tile floor and glass walls and includes both a freestanding soaking tub and a separate area with a showerhead (or several) and a drain. The design fits nicely with aging in place since typically these wet rooms are level with the bathroom floor for easy access. “The wet room can be ideal because you can also help other people shower more easily when the shower is part of an open space,” H-Millard says.
5. Freestanding Tubs and Updated Whirlpool Tubs
Freestanding tubs have been gaining in popularity in recent years and can be found in a variety of shapes and colors. In the New American Remodel exhibit house at the 2019 International Builders’ Show, the freestanding tub in the master bathroom was encased in teak. And whirlpool tubs may be making a comeback now that manufacturers have developed cleaner versions with massaging bubbles created by air rather than water.
One issue with sculptural freestanding tubs and oversized showers is that many homes are being built without a standard bathtub in any bathroom, which can be an issue for families who need to bathe their children, H-Millard says.
Functionality is as important as design, so homeowners with more than one bathroom may want to make sure that at least one offers an easy place for bath time.
6. Soothing Color Pallets
White, gray, beige, bone, blue and silver are hallmarks of the transitional style in bathrooms; contemporary style also includes these pale colors, but some homeowners opt for the more cutting-edge black and bronze shades for tubs, vanities and tile. For example, at the New American Home exhibit house at the 2019 International Builders’ Show, the master bathroom featured an oversized shower with black walls, a black marble seat, a pebbled floor and bronze fixtures.
When you’re making design choices for your new home, consider your tastes in the context of what’s trending and your projected lifestyle in the next decade or so. That freestanding tub may look lovely, but if a baby or grandbaby is in your future, don’t forget a traditional tub.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.