Suite life

Sylvia Plath once said, “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them”.

In confirming what most of her peers felt, the celebrated poet and author expressed simply her love affair with the bath.

Kylie Minogue merely confirmed the sentiment more than half a century later when she uttered the words, “I love to have a bath with beautiful, relaxing music on and have no rush to do anything. It’s a wonderful indulgence, and it helps me to calm down and stop my mind running overtime.”

The good news is that the bath has returned in a big way to bathrooms of the 21st century – and in many cases it is now elevated to centre stage as a design feature.

Together with the removal of toilets from many bathrooms and a transition to stylish powder rooms, the freestanding bath is also moving into en suites, rather than taking pride of place in the family bathroom. It’s all part of the quiet revolution transforming bathrooms.

Mazzei Homes director Daniel Mazzei said en suites and bathrooms were generally becoming larger and more luxurious.

He attributes a greater product accessibility, the proliferation of online resources and the creation of a ‘me’ space as the main reasons driving the trend.

“(In relation to products) there has been a recent increase in retailers and wholesalers providing special fittings and fixtures from across the globe – everything from expensive hand-crafted European items to well-made and affordable Chinese alternatives,” Mazzei said. “Retailers, such as Reece, have really lifted their game in the past couple of years by creating beautiful showrooms that entice customers to think beyond what they might have previously.”

Mazzei said websites, such as Pinterest and Houzz, that showcase the latest trends had also raised the standards of what clients can expect from their wet areas.

But the rise of a ‘me’ space is perhaps the greatest factor in the desire for luxury.

“En suites (in the main bedrooms) are increasingly being viewed by clients as more than just places to get ready in the morning,” Mazzei said. “They are being treated as breakaway rooms. A glass of wine, a good book and a beautiful freestanding bath create the perfect relaxation space and clients are taking full advantage of this. There’s no better way to unwind from a stressful day.”

Last, but not least, is the Keeping up with the Jones phenomenon.

“Now that it seems that everyone is investing in a luxurious bathroom, no one wants to be left behind. The more clients see these next-level bathrooms, the greater the demand becomes,” he said.

Having watched bathroom trends come and go for more than 45 years, Signorino Tile Gallery managing director John Signorino said the Nordic and minimalist style currently in vogue was focusing heavily on a monochrome black-and-white palette.

Signorino said bathrooms were increasingly being given a “day spa” style for a “luxury hotel, home-away-from-home” style. This includes using earthy materials, such as limestone, with simple textures and calming colours.

“Mixing materials such as wood, stone and concrete are becoming quite popular in bathrooms. Limestone would provide a rougher earthy texture, whereas wood and concrete would provide smoother contrasting surfaces,” he said.

As much as the aesthetics dictate the look of your bathroom, there are also practicalities to take into account.

For example, there is nothing like a cold morning to remind us of the worth of the humble heat lamp.

And thanks to Geelong-based IXL Appliances, its heat lamps have added another level of sustainability to the already energy-efficient range of Tastics.

The incorporation of LED globes to IXL’s Eco Tastic and Tastic Easy Duct models means reduced energy use in households, with 80-90 per cent less energy used compared to a halogen light, as well as a longer lifespan, which means changing globes become far less frequent.

Similarly, the humble toilet is often the butt of jokes, pardon the pun, but it’s a serious business.

In fact, the World Toilet Organisation estimates that the average person uses a toilet 2500 times year, or six to eight times daily.

Thankfully, the evolution of the toilet has come a long way from digging a hole in the backyard or the great Aussie thunderbox. The advances are best demonstrated by the water-saving half-flush and soft-closing lids becoming commonplace in recent years. It progressed to the wall-faced hidden cistern suites available today.

But after spending more than two years of research, Caroma has recently won an Australian Design Award for its latest innovation – Cleanflush.

Caroma describes it as ”our most effective and hygienic toilet”. As its spiel contends, “The rimless bowl removes the hiding places for germs and Caroma’s latest flush & flow innovations give you a more powerful whole-bowl clean.”

Getting down to the nitty gritty, Allure Bathrooms suggests vanity size is another important consideration.

“As much as you might like to choose the prettiest one, keep in mind … if it’s too large it might restrict movement, while if it’s too small you might not have enough countertop space and storage. And the wrong material might result in maintenance issues,” its Facebook post warned.

Thankfully, many of these issues will have been considered in the design of your new home. But they are particularly relevant if future updates or renovations are on the agenda.

While at the vanity, there’s no secret that tapware is back in black – and in a big way. Black tapware specialist Meir is thriving as a result.

If you’re aiming for industrial chic in your bathroom, Maria Tadic from Go Lights recommends using outdoor lights as wall lights as they are IP (Ingress Protection) rated and contain waterproof material.

Generally speaking, the higher the IP-Rating, the better the protection. It’s rarely mentioned, but lighting should always be zoned in wet areas. Lighting around the mirror should be bright for applying make-up or shaving, but should have the flexibility of soft, ambient light when the time comes to relax.

When lighting the vanity, Tadic recommends that a dimmer downlight be positioned directly above the sinkhole. This avoids any glare or shadowing when looking at your face. Bar or spotlights should be placed above the mirror and directed down to create a wash over the mirror. This helps to reduce glare, as you don’t want them shining directly on your face.

As for the mirror, using LED strips can provide an even glow from behind the mirror. Most are self-adhesive and come with waterproofing. Pendants should be placed on either side of the mirror but be sure not to place them in the way of any door or heated towel rail.

For safety reasons, it is best to avoid 240-volt pendants or fittings where the lamp holder is exposed above bath tubs, next to showers or in open wet areas.

“It is optimal to use a 12-volt fitting or change a 240 volt to a 12-volt fitting by asking your electrician to add a transformer or purchase a 240-volt pendant where the lamp holder is sealed within the shade,” Tadic said. “It is important to have appropriate ventilation (this can be exhaust fans or windows) that will help extract moisture from the air and circulate the steam. This will help to ensure the longevity
of your fittings. If your bathroom has no ventilation and your fitting is decorative it may cause peeling of material, discoloration and life deterioration.”

Stylist Julia Green said towels were an inexpensive way of adding colour in your bathroom, while accessories such as toothbrush holders, soap dishes, hand wash dispensers, tissue box holders and even art can also brighten up the space.

Plants can also liven up the room, and particularly those that thrive under steamy conditions. They can be placed on a shelf or a benchtop, hung from the roof or even trailed around shower rails or frames.

Plants are best left to their own devices, so consider an area in which it won’t be disturbed and have room to grow. Reece Plumbing & Bathrooms (Reece.com.au) asked the opinions of Charlie Lawler and Wona Bae from Loose Leaf plant store (looseleafstore.com.au) about the top five plants most suited to a bathroom environment.

Listing Boston Fern, Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant), Peace Lily, Birds Nest Fern and Philodendron, the experts said some plants improve air quality by filtering out pollutants, such as formaldehyde that can be found in flooring glues and paints.

“A lot of indoor plants don’t like direct light, but they do prosper in bright rooms with lots of indirect light,” Loose Leaf advised. “A bathroom with a warm, steady, year-round temperature is a great place for a plant to flourish. Each plant has different requirements which you can check with your local florist, nursery or online. As long as you follow those instructions and a consistent watering (but not overwatering) schedule, your plants should survive and thrive.”

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