WARM AND LUXURIOUS
From heated towels to open showers – bathrooms are individual expressions of our creativity
BY SUSAN KELLY
The bathroom: a private retreat in which we seek welcome sanctuary from the pressures of modern life. Individual expression is on the upswing in bathroom design. No more generic Zen serenity; it’s all about going big and bold with very personal design choices.
Not that style-conscious Montrealers ever seem to tire of the sleek and timeless look of contemporary design, even in the bathroom. But now they are looking for ways to add some punch, according to Richard Brunet, designer and consultant at Batimat bathroom design on Jean Talon St. W. “Although shades of white, gray and taupe predominate, saturated shades are a growing trend for porcelain tiles or vanities,” Brunet says. Of those, it is the dark blues, from cobalt to navy, that are of the moment, as is matte black.
Or they might add a colourful sink, such as the translucent, glossy, red Rialto, an edgy contemporary vessel sink from Decotec. Faucets and other accessories might also have colourful enamelled details, he says.
Brunet sees a major trend that has legs … literally. After so many years of floating in midair, the latest vanities come with feet on the ground. And if you think this old-school approach is only for traditional decors, think again. It takes on a new edge, especially in the hands of Italian designers, Brunet says. “You could call it a transitional style, as it lies somewhere between modern and traditional.” This trend holds true in freestanding tubs, which are still de rigueur for at least one bathroom in the home. The KOS Agora tub, for instance, has a shape that’s both retro and modern, with curvy chrome claw-foot legs.
Stephen Carrier, vice president of sales and product sourcing at Nortesco, a distributor of designer brands for bathrooms and kitchens, sees this trend emerging in bathroom fixtures, too. Amidst all this pushing the envelope, he sees a big trend emerging that is all about compromise. “While about 85 per cent of the Canadian market favours a contemporary chrome aesthetic, the transitional look is gaining ground in the bathroom,” he says.
When interpreted by fixture designers, transitional means borrowing gracefully arched shapes and rounded surfaces from the classic tradition but rendering them in a contemporary way. The Newform Class-X series of bathroom faucets shows how striking this approach can be in the right hands.
For both faucets and accessories, trend forecasters long have predicted that gold, along with other warmer metals, such as brass and bronze, were on the upswing. Yet consumers in Canada resisted—until now. Gold finishes are hot. “It used to be you’d have to go to England to find a gold bathroom tap,” he says. “Now many North American manufacturers provide options.”
Still, not everyone wants 1980s-ish shiny gold, opting instead for a satin or brushed version. Copper, which is being pushed in many design circles, is beginning to catch on, he finds. And oiled bronze and raw brass with natural patinas that change over time also are on trend.
A distinctive vanity will continue to be a big trend, says Ekaterina Zherinova, president of Dezign Market in Vaughan, Ont., which specializes in luxury bathroom furniture and accessories. “This year, we collaborated with many interior designers, such as Heather Segreti and Evelyn Eshun, to select key design trends for 2017,” she says. “Our designers chose vanities from our ornate gold collection all the way to our geometric Elegant collection.”
Geometric shapes will continue to be a trend in 2017. The line of solid oak floating vanities features relief designs, angular ridges and raised geometric shapes that mimic diamond cuts on the doors, a 3D effect with a brilliant high-gloss finish.
Zherinova also thinks a subdued colour palette and serene finishes will prevail in the year ahead. “It’s about calm and timelessness in the bathroom, seeking the complete oasis,” she says.
There will be more matte, in shades of white and dark gray. The latter shade, she says, will be an “it” shade and one of the top trends ahead, whether it’s on the walls, vanity or tiles. It’s modern, and harmonizes beautifully with other light neutrals and the natural-looking wood finishes that are so popular now, she says.
There’s no getting away from the importance of natural materials in bathroom design today. It’s a trend that shows no signs of waning, says Kimberly Sorochina, a designer at Cuisines Denis Couture, which has stores in Montreal and Longueuil. “People want a spa look, but also a bathroom that’s warm and inviting,” she says. “Mixing materials, especially adding wood elements, is a great way to do that.” Look for raw reclaimed wood features in bathrooms heading into 2017, including accent walls and planks on ceilings. The less adventurous might opt for open shelves made of wood to play against the tiles and lacquered cabinetry.
There are many options for people who want a natural look but the practicality of porcelain. Porcelain that mimics marble is recherché, she finds, along with tiles that emulate the raw look of concrete. Thanks to advances in technology it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between real concrete, wood or stone and the porcelain imitations, Sorochina says.
Another hot trend is the 10-by-five-foot large-format tiles that resemble a slab of Carrara marble, slate or other stone. “You can create a seamless shower surround or cover a wall,” she says. “Like the real thing, it can be cut to size, and used on the floor or walls, even an entire tub or shower surround.”
Using those large-format tiles in the shower area now is possible thanks to linear drain systems, says Dinu Filip, president of ACO Systems Ltd. “With something like our QuARTz line, you no longer have to put the drain in the middle or slope the floor toward it,” he says. “This one aspect alone opens up all kinds of design possibilities.” Most homeowners place it at the periphery or at the entrance to the shower; this allows for a barrier-free or curbless shower. Perfect for anyone in a wheelchair or who has trouble stepping over a raised threshold.
And because they can handle a lot of water, linear drains also make it possible to create a wet room in the master bath. “You basically have an open-concept shower, with no shower door. They’re very big in Europe and in spas and are coming here,” he says. They also work with any kind of material, including porcelain, natural stone, concrete or river rocks. There are eight grate styles made of stainless steel in either a polished stainless or oiled-bronze finish. Some drains have LED lighting embedded, which means you can add up-light effects to the shower ambience.
And the shower continues to dominate as the most important bathroom feature, says Pierre Descoteaux, chief executive officer of bathroom design company PierDeco. “Most often the freestanding tub is something that is not used every day,” he says. “The shower is what gets the most use.”
Having a bench and rain-head shower is not enough; people want a fully immersive shower experience, complete with multiple functions, waterfalls, body sprays and handheld wands, he says. The Pierdeco Aquamassage collection of shower columns continues to be highly functional, but can be more discreet. The panel can be inset into the wall for a built-in look, but the unit is easily installed by a plumber.
Descoteaux also identifies colourful porcelain fixtures as a big trend in Europe, albeit not just for sinks; it usually means it will come our way soon. “For so many years anything but white was out of fashion for the toilet, tub and sink,” he says. “I think it will be common within two years here.”
Already, bathroom standards can be found in many colours, including red, black and taupe. Of those, says Descoteux, he’s keeping a design eye on taupe for bathroom fixtures. It’s the shade many designers have deemed the “it” shade, whether it’s the sink and bathtub, walls, vanity or tiles. It’s modern, and harmonizes beautifully with other light neutrals and the natural-looking wood finishes that are so popular now, he says.
So many trends, so many ways to go. Bathrooms are many things to many people, and there are so many ways to express individuality in them. “Like in fashion, Montrealers like to do things their way and aren’t afraid to make personal choices,” says Richard Brunet.