This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s lifestyle blog, Luxury Defined.
No longer a merely functional space, today’s bathroom is part spa, part sanctuary, and part recharge station—and more lavishly designed than ever before
On the upper floors of 551 West 21st Street, the 19-story condominium designed by Sir Norman Foster in New York’s Chelsea Arts District, taking a bath will come with a breathtaking view of the Hudson River. Cruising pleasure craft will be spied through a large picture window (the view won’t be mutual), its frame a warm golden shade that subtly enhances the light that pours in, highlighting the sleek tub that takes centre stage.
In the high-end residential skyscrapers that are now altering the New York City skyline, the ability to gaze down upon Manhattan while bathing and showering is very much a must-have. “It is critical for a development of this type to have an exquisite view,” says Scott Resnick of SR Capital, the developer of 551 West 21st Street.
The picture window is the latest evolution in the bath’s transformation, from being just a functional space into one that is central to a home, in terms of style and wellbeing. “Two decades ago, the bath was an afterthought, tucked into a part of the house that could not be put to better use, and had no distinction,” says Barbara Sallick, co-founder of luxury bathroom brand Waterworks. “At that time, it was the plumber who ‘designed’ the space, and helped to make choices out of a well-thumbed catalog. Often, the space was shared, small, and the objective was to get in and out quickly.”
Today, the story is very different. While the rest of the home has become open-plan to suit modern, sociable lifestyles, the bathroom has become an even more private space, offering escape from the hubbub of life. “It is now more focused around personal wellness,” says Sven Ullrich, global head of marketing at German brand Dornbracht, a major player in bathroom technology. “Everything about our lives has become so busy; we are looking for a place to do something good for ourselves.”
While the rest of the home has become open-plan, the bathroom has become an even more private space that allows for escape from the hubbub
It is the master en suite bath that has changed most dramatically—now, a luxurious space to be shared with, at most, one other person. “The best baths are an experience, similar to one that might be enjoyed at a sybaritic resort,” says Sallick, who has written a book on the subject, The Perfect Bath. “It is a private sanctuary, where you can sink into a soothing bubble bath, or enjoy an invigorating shower, and emerge completely refreshed.”
In Berkshire, England, architect Gregory Phillips has created a bathroom that’s beautifully tranquil, thanks to its verdant countryside views, and merges with the bedroom to create a personal suite. “You can have a bath and at the same time chat to someone in the bedroom, or put up the sliding screen for complete privacy,” says Phillips.
At the other end of the spectrum, the desire for privacy has seen the rise of the his-and-hers en suite. “They’re designed to follow the sequence of morning activity,” explains Douglas Burdge of Malibu-based Burdge & Associates Architects. “Each half of the couple can get out of their side of the bed, walk into their own bathroom, then into their wardrobe area. We might put a study on one side, for the stockbroker who needs to start work early.”
With or without a view, the freestanding tub has become emblematic of the luxury bathroom. “For a long time the bathtub was up against a wall and boxed in, but having the bath freestanding makes it the sculptural element in the room,” says New York-based interior designer Brad Ford. “And the tub’s organic form softens the room’s hard edges.”
Outdoor showers are sought-after for that vacation-at-home feeling, but with a few adjustments for more temperate climes
The shower, though, is challenging the reign of the tub. The modern shower is either a fully tiled open area—the wet room—or an expansive space enclosed with glass that creates a cleansing steam chamber. Outdoor showers are also sought-after for that vacation-at-home feeling, but with a few adjustments for more temperate climes. “The tiles can be preheated,” says Burdge. “There is often a slatted screen, so the view can be seen, but which offers privacy and guards against a chilly breeze. There is also usually a roof—a popular feature is having the shower set in the ceiling to fully bathe the person in water.”
The drenching shower has long been popular. “But while shower heads were once quite large, today you can achieve the same effect using a smaller fitting, which means less water is used,” explains Phillips. “People want more [features] now as well—a shower that gives them multiple water experiences such as a head that blasts water and then another that feels more gentle, like rain.”
Dornbracht has taken this one step further and devised a horizontal shower that uses the principles of Kneippism, a philosophy promoting the health-enhancing power of water. “A horizontal shower provides total relaxation of the kind that is only possible when reclining—tension in muscles melts away, everyday stress is washed off,” says Ullrich. “By combining it with Kneippism, we can apply water to different parts of the body, at different temperatures, which has a proven impact on how you feel. You can use your shower to give you energy or to calm you down.”
The walk-in shower, steam room, and whirlpool tub are staples of the home spa, although Burdge says clients are now asking for stand-alone areas, with a hot tub, sauna, and a massage room, too. So, with the spa moving out of the en suite, other activities have moved in—notably exercise machines for a private gym session. Most significantly is the introduction of furniture and accessories more often associated with the living room, such as a chair for lounging and even a statement pendant. Big-name product designers such as Philippe Starck and Patricia Urquiola have been particularly strong in pushing this narrative.
“Antonio Citterio introduced seating areas around the bath—so that one person can be in the tub, while the other is reading,”says Sarah Evans, head of trade marketing at Hansgrohe, the parent company of premium bath brand Axor.
With Vitae, we wanted to give functional items an aesthetic so there was a sense of pleasure in using them
Designers have also played with the aesthetics of the sanitaryware itself. Vitae, the first bathroom collection created by the late Zaha Hadid (and one of the last projects to be completed before the architect’s sudden death), was launched in 2016. Inspired by seashells, the collection features her trademark curves. “We wanted to give functional items an aesthetic so there was a sense of pleasure in using them,” says Christos Passas, associate director at Zaha Hadid Architects. “The curves fit with the body as there are no hard edges.”
At the other end of the scale, polished brass and black marble products by Maison Valentina lend a flamboyant, decadent feel. Colour, too, is making a return, with baths and basins in shades ranging from ruby reds through to dusky blues. Wall & Decò’s revolutionary Wet System™ waterproof wallpaper brings the power of colour and strong visuals to the bathroom for a look that is anything but cold.
Also resulting in a less functional-style bath are radiators with infrared technology. “You can create a decorative mirror that heats the entire bathroom or, shaped as a matte white rectangle, hide the radiator by mounting it on the ceiling,” says Simon Sharp of infrared specialist Funkyheat. Infrared is just one technology making waves in the bathroom. “Demister mirrors, subtle LED lighting, under-floor heating, and electric blinds are all the norm,” says Phillips. German brand Kohler has created the Moxie wireless speaker, which uses Bluetooth technology to deliver music or news, slotting into a matching shower head. And television has become more sophisticated too; Pilkington‘s MirroView™ is a waterproof mirror that conceals digital and TV screens
Programming has also entered the bathroom with technology such as Dornbracht’s Smart Water, enabling users to set the temperature and depth of their bath water, with just a click of an app. “Japanese-style toilets that have a built-in washing facility are growing in popularity, too,” says Phillips. One such toilet is the ViClean-L by Villeroy & Boch, which has controls that allow you to customize everything from the flow of water to the temperature of the seat.
Dornbracht’s Smart Water enables users to set the temperature and depth of their bath water, with just a click of an app
While luxury is often associated with large bathrooms, there is a growing focus on creating small bathrooms that feel equally escapist. “In a smaller space, it’s the materials and fixtures that give you a chance to ramp up the sophistication,” says Ford. Large-format stone and marble slabs with few joins are the designer choice, along with handmade elements that showcase craftsmanship.
“Then there’s brassware, which is the ‘jewelry’ for the bathroom,” says Benjamin Peake of The Watermark Collection. “Finishes can completely change the character of a product, from polished brass and copper, which work beautifully with marble for a super-luxe look, to pewter, for an industrial vibe, and clean and modern nickel.”
Having created the state-of-the-art luxury bath for today, architects and designers are now receiving requests to go one step further, and look to the future. “We are being asked to ensure that a bathroom is accessible for the next 20 or so years,” says Ullrich. “Basins that are high enough to accommodate a wheelchair, handles that can be easily used… ” All of which means the feel-good bathroom is definitely here to stay.
Just Listed on Lake Simcoe: 968 Degrassi Cove Pl W, Innisfil
This custom home direct waterfront home was built in 2000 by the current owner and has served as a sanctuary for family and friends. Over their 22 years of ownership, they have enjoyed the property during every season.
Degrassi Cove is a small and exclusive waterfront community and share the private road. The forested lands on the opposite side of the street provide great privacy. There is no vehicle traffic other than the neighbours, so it is very safe for kids.
Built as a 4-season home and located on the west-side of Lake Simcoe. You will enjoy north-west facing views of the lake and sunsets. There are no stairs to the water’s edge. The water table is level to the lot, which offers a beautiful beach area along the shoreline. There is great swimming and boating. The portable dock is 65 ft long with a 12’ x 12’ patio area. Boating enthusiasts can store their boat in the dry boathouse. Entertaining on the lake is so easy!
The home offers 2,700 sf on the main and upper level. The principal rooms offer generous space including a large private family room, formal dining room, large great room combined with the eat-in kitchen. In addition, there is 1,535 sf of finished space on the walk-out level. There are four generous size bedrooms. The primary bedroom is situated on the main level and overlooks the lake, and includes a five-piece ensuite, a walk-in closet and a garden door to the lakeside patio area. The three other bedrooms are located on the second floor.
The lower level includes a large recreation room with wood-burning fireplace and a walk-out to the lake. A large office with a built-in desk and bookcases can serve as a large 5th bedroom. The 3-piece bathroom is also equipped with a partially finished cedar-lined sauna. There is plenty of storage space on this level too.
Photography by @ishutterphoto
Staging by @chateau_designandstaging
This professionally designed custom-built home embodies a comfortable, vintage cottage feel built with energy efficient maintenance-free materials. This home offers a private park-like setting, with in- town conveniences. It’s a nature lover’s lot…a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. This one in in a million home was showcased in a 16-page spread in Cottages & Bungalows Magazine.
Shiplap walls and wood slat ceilings throughout impart a cabin-like coziness. The primary bedroom is secluded on the main floor overlooking a wooded area that surrounds the property. The front office duals as an additional main floor bedroom adjacent to a 3-piece bathroom. The upper level includes two additional bedrooms that provide enhanced privacy for guests. One of the bedrooms functions as a seating area with a Murphy bed and small kitchenette. It has been designed as a secure space for future rental opportunity.
Located in the charming lakeside village of Bayfield, this property is a stone-throw away from Lake Huron, a short walk to town, the fishing pier and marina, Pioneer Park and the Community playground. This spectacular property backs on to a designated environmental area and surrounded by trees makes it an ideal retreat for entertaining family and friends.
It’s no secret that green has been trending in a major way lately. Not only does the leafy shade conjure the sensation of being outdoors after two years cooped up at home, it also is a versatile (and welcome) alternative to traditional colors like white and gray.
Sweet 3 bedroom home that has a light and airy feel to the interior. Vaulted ceiling with open concept design creates a welcoming feel with plenty of natural sunlight all afternoon. Hardwood floors in bedrooms. Updated interior ready to be moved in to. It is a special place to call home or cottage.
Large wrap-around deck features West-facing views of 2-acre park of which you would be a 1/10th owner. Private dock for all park owners. Deeded Lake Simcoe access is rare to find. Very private setting with mature trees.
Message us today for more information or to book private showing.
staging by @chateau_designandstaging
photography by @ishutterphoto
20 Quiet Heights Lane, Georgina provides views of the lake from all spaces on the west side of them home, including the great room, kitchen, dining area, and primary bedroom.
You will enjoy the morning sunrise from the front covered porch and of course, sunset views from the lakeside. The natural sunlight fills the home with warmth and light all day long. It’s tranquil, serene, and welcoming.
In the design stages, the current owner had some important “must-have’s” including a Muskoka like feel, spaciousness, sun-filled rooms, and an “understated elegance“ carried throughout the home.
Some of the interior features include:
– 3 bedrooms on main level and 2 additional bedrooms on the lower level
– 3 full bathrooms plus powder room
– 10.9 ft ceiling height on the main level and 9 ft ceiling height on the lower level
– Great room includes custom millwork and 13 ft vaulted coffered ceiling
– Gourmet kitchen with upgraded appliances
– Spectacular light fixtures including ceiling fans in each bedroom
– Custom drapery and blinds
– Radiant heated floors in kitchen, primary ensuite and the entire lower level
– Surround sound system both indoors and outdoors
A full list of room features, additional images, virtual tour, and more can be found on our website (link in bio).
This listing is also available on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)
When you combine the attention to detail of a quality builder with the owner’s vision to create a sanctuary home, the result is spectacular.
This home offers a “Zen” feel immediately upon your arrival.
The landscaping is wonderfully appointed with a collection of perennial gardens, shrubs, mature trees and privacy hedges on both sides, which is home to many birds. There are several seating areas promote great conversation with family and friends or a place to enjoy some quiet time when you want to be alone and enjoy nature all around you.
This is a wonderful home to entertain in both indoors and outdoors. The raised balcony includes a covered area where you can enjoy a summer rain shower. The open area provides lots of space for your chaise loungers to get some sun and watch an array of boats on the lake.
The lower deck is covered and a perfect location for the 7-seater plus lounger hot tub along with another separate seating area to enjoy the lake views.
Listing Price: $1,935,000
DM us to book a private viewing.
The full listing can be found on our site & on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)