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March 01, 2009

It’s a wash: your bathroom as a spa

Belle bathrooms flushing their utilitarian image down the drain

Kimberley Luu

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Your home serves many purposes—a shelter from the cold, a place for your children to grow up, a romantic setting for a candle-lit dinner and so much more. Now where you live can be a tranquil spa sanctuary too.

The bathroom is no longer a sterile white room with only a toilet brush as an accessory and many no longer take the easy way out by purchasing matching floor mats and shower curtains; rather, the bathroom has taken on many different faces and one of these faces is spa-inspired. While everyone interprets spa features differently, some materials Kelly Januario, owner of Pamplemousse Designs in Edmonton, suggests are woods, teaks, mahogany, pine or cedar woods, stainless steel, limestone, travertine and concrete. “Slate tile is beautiful against a wood floor, used as a backsplash, shower surround or the entire floor,” she says. Glass tiles in earthy neutrals and marble are great but can sometimes be too cold so warm it up with teak or mahogany accents.

Sanctuary made simple
Stylistically, Januario sums up the ultimate look of a lux loo in three words—clean, refined and organized. Cut down on clutter and distractions by using baskets, a storage bench, a towel rack to roll or fold towels over and glass containers to display pretty spa-inspired soaps, salts and bath beads. Minimalism is the key.

One builder in Calgary and Edmonton who understands the current spa niche is Jayman MasterBUILT. The builder, at least as a posh possibility in its single-family homes, has created an innovative, customer-centric option package called the ENSPA. This offering incorporates everything from the basics of tub, shower, flooring, cabinets, and closet space, all the way to the extravagant upgrades—bar fridges, LCD TVs and multi-function shower systems. According to Derian Harvey, senior marketing coordinator, the ENSPA allows customers to create the feeling of a custom home without actually having to build a custom home. “With 11 floor plan options to choose from you can bring a spa encounter right into your own home,” she says. The ENSPA starts at $60,700 but for everything it includes this is an exceptional value.

Give harsh hues the brush off
Still, if you’re not building a new home but want to update your bathroom, Januario says the first thing to address is paint. “It sets the mood for the space instantly so look to nature for warm neutrals, off whites, beiges, lights blues and greens.” Bathroom fixtures and basins, such as some of the round, square or rectangular bowls available, are high- impact yet budget-friendly changes. If given the opportunity, Januario says luxury items such as a steam shower, sauna, heated flooring, fireplace, waterfall shower, light control, heat control, and a TV are nice additions. Moreover, eco-friendly woods and non-toxic building materials, wood panelled walls, and if the space allows, a closet for fresh linens, massage table or even a small kitchenette are high-end renovations to consider if you are starting from scratch.

Your two scents worth
Once the permanent fixtures are done, you can focus on accessories—cotton robes, plush slippers, oils, and body lotions to name a few. Scents play a huge role in setting the spa mood and some that Januario recommends are associated specifically with spas such as lavender, patchouli, sage, mint, orange, cedar wood and bergamot. “You introduce the scents by candles, room sprays, and adding a few drops of essential oil to your bath will have an enormous scent capability.” She also says bath soaps and body washes in the right scent can be very relaxing. Director and owner of Rain Salon Spa in Edmonton, Ali Kassab says you need to take care of your body especially your hands, feet and face. There are many hand and foot creams available at Rain Salon Spa but Kassab recommends Gehwol for the dry, cracked skin the Alberta weather induces. Using professional products at home will give you the spa comfort without leaving your home. Kassab swears by two products for the at-home treatments; one being a skin-care product by Phytomer and hair treatment products by SEAH Hairspa. Both are used in his salon and then sold separately for continued treatments at home.

Glitz and glamour
There are no hard fast rules for transforming your bathroom to a spa-inspired scene, says Lori Elms of Lori Elms and Associates Interior Design in Edmonton, noting a few styles that are emerging are Hollywood glamour and glitz, which involves chandeliers and statement pieces. This can be combined with the current trend of contemporary design.  A glass shower enclosure is a simplified functional feature that is not too fussy. Mirrors are also getting more attention, either with framed mirrors, mirror defoggers or even televisions built into them. “People are using brushed nickel finishes in faucets, lights and towel bars right now but Venetian bronze and classic chrome are popular as well,” says Elms. Alternatively, a traditional styled bathroom is a classic. Cabinets with moulding and raised panels versus flat panels and stone tiles versus ceramic tiles are some key features.

Keep it clean
For Jim Rafferty, owner of Designers Choice Kitchen & Bathrooms Ltd. in Calgary, quality and simplicity never go out of style. “A bathroom renovation is so personal,” he says, that the best advice he could give is to invest in quality materials and workmanship. “Next to the kitchen, the bathroom has the highest return in cost,” he says. “People pay attention to clean and hygienic bathrooms.” Instead of making changes for the sake of making changes, keep the bathroom space as close to the original setup as possible saving you time, money and a headache. Rafferty suggests keeping the bathroom or any renovation for that matter consistent with the vernacular architecture of the home.
The bathroom should make a statement, with personal taste as the key. Whether it’s a peaceful spa or a contemporary backdrop with a splash of glitz, keep in mind the little yet essential elements that can transform your bathroom. You will be that much closer to a serene retreat in your home.   CL

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