What's making a splash in today's bathrooms?

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 25, 2014 - 3:30 PM

Deluxe showers are high on remodeling wish lists, while tubs are losing steam.

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A glass shower enclosure is the clear choice for most remodeling projects.

Photo: DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen,

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Thinking about remodeling a bathroom this year? Chances are you’re more excited about adding a state-of-the-art shower than a new tub. Homeowners are hot for high-end showers loaded with spa-like amenities, but appear to be cooling off on bathtubs, according to a recent trend study.

Houzz, the popular online resource for home remodeling and design, surveyed more than 7,600 of its registered users in the United States and Canada to share their bathroom makeover priorities, and found that a sizable number of remodelers, 43 percent, plan to skip the tub altogether in their bathroom project, including in the master bath.

“For me, personally, that was a surprise,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz. “I love my bathtub!”

But many of today’s homeowners would rather spend their budget and square footage on upgrading their shower. “There’s a swing toward super amazing showers,” she said. “Most people don’t have huge bathrooms and would rather put in a walk-in shower with all the bells and whistles.”

Today’s dream shower includes a glass enclosure, the choice of 79 percent for master bath makeovers, with frameless glass the top choice, preferred by 54 percent. (Shower curtains appear in only 10 percent of new master baths, and in 33 percent in other full baths.)

Frameless glass helps a bathroom appear more light and spacious, said Lynn Monson, owner of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen and Monson Interior Design, St. Louis Park. And today’s glass is easier to clean, he noted. “Water sheds off, and it doesn’t etch like the older glass.”

Body sprays and islands are other popular shower features, according to Catherine Harrington, interior designer with Ispiri in Woodbury. “People want bigger, better showers. We don’t see as many of the old Jacuzzi tubs.”

Monson has observed the shower’s ascendancy and the tub’s decline for several years, but he thinks the tub is evolving rather than disappearing. “For a while, we were taking out more tubs than we were installing,” he said. “But we’re starting to see a shift back,” fueled by a recent wave of tub innovations, from sleek freestanding tubs that look like sculpture to tubs laden with features such as microjets or chromatherapy. “If you’re going to have a tub, you have a [luxurious] one,” he said. “The plain old soaking tub, that is going away.”

Harrington, however, usually recommends that homeowners have at least one tub, somewhere in the house, for resale purposes.

Younger homeowners are less likely to skip the tub when remodeling, possibly because they’re the most likely to have young children to bathe, said Hausman. Older homeowners are the most lukewarm about bathtubs, with 59 percent of those 65 and older opting not to include one. “For people 65 plus, the issue is accessibility,” she said.

Older homeowners are looking ahead, said Monson. “If you’re age 50 to 60 and want to stay in your home, you add a roll-in shower whether you need it now or not.”

Accessible, walk-in tubs are available, but still have some drawbacks, according to Monson. “With most of them, you can’t walk out until it drains,” although there are some new models with two drains to speed up the process.

Other bathroom trends:

Make it rain? Younger homeowners (under age 45) are more likely to choose rain showers and other multiple-head shower options, while 55-plus homeowners prefer hand showers and sliding bars, according to the Houzz survey. “Rain showers are pleasant, but they spill out all over you,” said Hausman. “Older folks opt for control, and rain showers are the opposite of control.”

Monson isn’t a fan of rain showers. “The concept is cool, but practically, I don’t like ’em that much,” he said. “You can’t control the water pressure — it’s like Chinese water torture.”

White and silver. White cabinets are the finish of choice, according to the Houzz survey, with 32 percent choosing it for bathroom makeovers. Dark and medium wood were tied for second. “White allows you to go more dramatic with countertops and floors, and make a statement there,” said Monson. When it comes to hardware, most homeowners choose silver tones. Brushed nickel was the most popular choice for faucets, 26 percent, in the Houzz study, followed by polished chrome at 24 percent. “Chrome mixed with white is a very popular combination, with a few sparkles here and there,” said Harrington.

Warming it up. Here in the Twin Cities, Monson is seeing more homeowners adding heat to their bathroom makeovers. “It’s so cold up here, we’re doing a lot of in-floor heat mats,” he said. “You can also put them on the walls of the shower to make the shower warmer.”

Personalized pampering. Harrington says she’s spending more time talking with homeowners about their personal needs and preferences. “I see a lot more interest in function: How is the bathroom going to work for you? There was a period when baths were basic, and we didn’t have as many options, but we have so much more available to use now.”

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  • DreamMaker Kitchen and Bath

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