Five Tips for a Luxurious and Modern Shower

The Master Bath Shower has come a long way. We are typically removing small and cave-like 32×32 inch stalls from existing master baths and designing in roomy and beautiful custom showers. There are a few important things to put on the to-do list with your shower design, so we’ll start from the bottom and work our way up: 1st – Shower Drains: We are seeing a strong trend in linear drains. This is a long channel placed on one edge of the shower in lieu of the round drain often found in the middle. The channel drain has a couple of advantages that may be worth the extra cost (about $200-400 more for the product and additional work on the pan). You can use large format tile with a channel drain since the pitch is tapered in one direction- so that large tile can be installed inside the shower and the look is a bit more modern. modern shower stall2nd – Water proofing: The picture below is post applied water proofing, and this is not optional. There are a few different manufacturers and methods- the one shown is a liquid product that dries like a coating of rubber and we do use concrete board followed by the manufacturer’s recommendation to mortar all the joints.  And for a small and important final step on prep, we waterproof every shower. shower stall waterproofing3rd – Storage: A shampoo and soap niche can be an attractive way to break up a large finish and add interest, texture and color. Waterproofing is critical here and the shelves need to have a slight pitch so that water won’t collect there. In the first photo pictured above, there is a niche on the left, and handy corner shelves on the right. Note the lower corner shelf – we often include these shaving stoops so that leg shaving is safer and easier – make them about 12″ plus or minus off the floor. 4th – Shower Doors: Modern design often includes a walk-in shower (just a panel on one end and no door on the other). This is a clean look and many of our clients like this. It should be noted that no door means no steam build up… or less warm air from the warm water being trapped. Most Master Bath installations include a door, and are “frameless”. The word frameless is a loose term because the glass has to be attached in some way and some methods sacrifice strength and water tightness for minimal hardware. My suggestion is to meet with the Glass installer if you have questions and make sure you understand the pros and cons of your desired look and your specific design. modern shower stall5th and not least – Shower heads: Rain heads are the fastest growing trend according to our client requests. If the ceiling is too high or too low, don’t push it. Too high and the water gets tempered and falls weak so you get what feels more like a spring rain outside and less of a fantastic shower experience, too low and the stream is uncomfortable and will make the space feel small. Rain head or not we always suggest a handheld shower head in addition to a fixed one. A handheld isn’t always ideal as a main head, but if you want to lower it so you don’t have to wash your hair, if you want to rinse your legs or you want to rinse down the shower, it works perfectly. modern shower headIf you take the time to know what you want from your shower- you will truly enjoy the time to get refreshed!  

Bath Tubs in the Master Suite

People often ask me if bath tubs are an important feature in the master bath today- this is a relevant question, and its one that I get asked very frequently. I know most folks would like a simple yes or no answer, but the truth is- it depends. Bath tubs conjure something in the senses, so in the right place, they have a soothing affect just by being present. You know the photo of the tub with the towel over the edge- how it seems to be calling you to take a break? The same thing happens when we see a window seat complete with cushion and throw pillow- but are we going to sit there? Probably not- but the feel of the environment changes. The space becomes more inviting and relaxing- it offers opportunity to stir other emotions as well, and if that is important to you, even if you rarely take baths, then I would recommend looking at a design with a tub in it. The reality is that we see fewer bath tubs in the master bath, and is the result of having less time available in our lives. The space once reserved for the tub is often used for a luxury shower because we know we have time to enjoy that.  I know this to be true because many of our clients have the means to install a tub,  but they just know they don’t have time to wait for it to fill, or they know that by the time the bath is ready they will hear “Mom?” . If you already take regular baths, then the question is answered and all you have to do is find the right one.

Inviting Bath in Wellesley MA

Inviting Bath in Wellesley MA

If you are still unsure about adding a tub in the space, there are a couple more things to consider that may help you with your decision.  If you don’t think you will use it often but believe it either makes sense for your neighborhood or your desired aesthetic- then get a nice soaker tub that isn’t too expensive… you don’t need the hydrotherapy. If you are an avid soaker, consider  a tub with a few features that are great to have, such as: a heated back rest, a water heater to keep the temperature up, and air jets- which are more sanitary, quitter, and often offer improved hydrotherapy than a jetted tub. BainUltra is one of my favorite brands for tubs.  The last thing to think about is the tub freestanding or built-in? There are so many options… below is one of the newer designs I saw at the Kitchen and Bath Show last week- it is not very expensive and would be stunning in a transitional or more modern bath, and retails under $2k.


Apron Front Sinks- Not just for the Farm

Also known as farm house sinks, the apron front sink has changed in many ways, and it is no longer just for old-world or country style kitchens. Today’s farm house sinks are made with more durable finishes such as stainless steel, and fireclay. Both Stainless and fireclay do not have the staining or weight problems associated with porcelain glazed and enameled cast iron sinks. There are many advantages to using this style of sink- so let’s start with the obvious, they look great! In the kitchen, there are few tried and true focal points; one is the combination of sink and window. The look of an apron front sink can give you a great wow factor, so if you aren’t sure your cook top or range are giving you enough pop, this would be a great solution! Another less considered benefit is that the front of a sink cabinet is often the first place water damage will appear after wear and tear on the cabinets. Even the best finishes are subject to problems when you add wood and water, thus an apron front sink can be a great barrier. Are you doing a modern or transitional style? Not to worry, this large and deep basined sink also works well in contemporary style kitchens as you can see in the photos below. The last big advantage to this style of sink is that it’s ergonomic, putting you closer to the sink as you use it which will reduce the reach and bending. This is a big benefit for cooks with back problems, and an improvement for everyone. Apron sinks won’t have anyone fighting for cleanup duty in the kitchen, but they can add grace, charm and a few other benefits.

Colors for Your Kitchen, Bath and Home

Gray is today’s neutral color tone, but not the color of the year. In modern design gray is replacing the beige of yesterday. I am not talking about battleship gray or any other drab color that comes to mind. What I am referring to are the beautiful shades that move between cool and warm colors, from a hint of blue to a new color introduced by one of our cabinet makers, Showplace – “greige”. Color trends have been very strong in relying on neutral tones. A survey by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) found that grey is one of the strongest color trends for kitchens and bathrooms for 2013, but again- that color comes in paint, counters, tile, etc., and should be mixed with other colors to avoid a flat palate. A perfect example is Benjamin Moore 2013 color of the year – Lemon Sorbet (2019-60). If you look at their color trends you will see this as the wall color and mixed with off white and a gray rug. According to Benjamin Moore, “it is the perfect transitional color between the mid tones and saturated colors seen in today’s home furnishings”. In this example the gray tone of this room is cool or has blue tone, as opposed to other colors/shades that would have a warmer influence that is already in the Lemon Sorbet. Another warm tone that pairs well with cool grays is Pantones color of the year for 2014, Radiant Orchid (18-3224). This vibrant purple won’t make its way into many kitchen and bath remodels… but does lend value that grey neutrals are there to have other colors pop! Many of our projects have been showing up with shades of gray but notice in our portfolio, there aren’t any “colorless” rooms. Gray is not just a trendy color, but a classic tone that can give your home an elegant feeling.

Trends: Accenting with River Stone Tile

Riverstone 3River stone or natural rock tiles are a great way to add a natural point of interest if you want to create a unique texture, soften a plane of straight lines or bring the outdoors inside. These beautiful stone mosaics are made of whole or cut stones with a wide spectrum of colors, shapes and textures. Buyer beware – like many things you will encounter while selecting finishes, they are captivating – but not practical for everything. River stones should be used where they have purpose in the design aesthetic and enhance a look. The first time I used this type of mosaic, I had an existing handmade quarry tile floor in a sunroom that was about 20 years old, the slab had a crack on the perimeter, cracking the tiles around the entire room, so I was able to remove about a 6” perimeter and add the river rocks after making the concrete repair which saved a high quality floor and also update the look! It worked in this case because: 1) it was a perfect connotation for a room that had plants, indoor outdoor furniture, transitioned the inside and out and 2) quarry tiles are an earthy material and I was able to find a complementary blend of stone color. There are a couple of pros and cons. The first thing to consider is how textural the mosaic is that you choose- some of these river stones have varied thickness- that adds more visual interest, but will not feel great underfoot. I usually ask clients to stand on them in the store without their shoes on before they decide they want them on the floor. The next is that there will be more grout exposed, so that should be selected very carefully and the use of a modified grout that resists stains is imperative. Last is not to use this type of product gratuitously. If you are renovating a kitchen in a mountainous region- the stones would be a fun way to embrace the surroundings. A Penthouse bathroom is probably not the place you want to install too much of Mother Nature in the wrong context. Above is a picture of a project we completed about a year ago- a very modern bath with river stone used to add some Zen to the rigid contemporary lines. This composition is often associated with Pacific Rim design, but fits as well in New England Renovations with the proper selection of colors and placement. Note the use to accentuate the niche and frame the floor (avoiding an uncomfortable footing and getting more value from the texture than if it were used on its own.