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Modern bathroom design is all about enhancing a sense of retreat through crisp clean lines, with natural materials and organic forms providing warm accents
Jennifer Palumbo, a leading Boston interior designer, says homeowners are still wanting to create a sense of escape, but the look is a lot more streamlined and crisper than in the past. And it's the materials that are leading the changes.
"In recent times there has been a proliferation of large-format porcelain tiles," says Palumbo. "These have had a huge impact on the overall aesthetic of modern bathrooms. The large square, rectangular and plank-shaped porcelain tiles are very cost effective and provide a sleek, clean-lined look. They are often paired with natural stone tiles that help to warm up the space."
The designer says two key styles have emerged in Boston. On the one hand there are designs for the classic New England houses with their traditional architecture, and on the other, designs for the ever-increasing number of high-rise apartments.
"Bathrooms in the older homes reflect a more international influence, compared to a decade ago. The owners are often young and well traveled, and interested in transitional styling, rather than replicating original bathrooms of the era. Designs are a lot more streamlined, but also soft and respectful of the architecture.
Palumbo says other projects reflect a more contemporary approach, with clean-lined, modern fixtures.
"However, we are seeing a move away from looks that are too clinical," says Palumbo. "A bathroom needs to be an inviting retreat and this often translates to warm tones and organic forms, materials and textures. There may even be a tile that mimics wood – maybe bleached wood for a summer house. One bathroom we completed, in a vacation home, is lined with wave tiles. Another bathroom in the same house has a pebble-tile floor."
The designer says good bathroom design is a question of balance.
"We recently completed an all-white bathroom with a high ceiling. We created separate functional zones, but keeping it all white helps to avoid a choppy look. We added mosaic tiles to the shower, specified a gray-blue tile for the floor, and added a mahogany vanity to ground the space visually."
Palumbo says other key trends include the increasing use of trench drains in showers. These are less obtrusive and allow a flush entry, with no step or curb.
LED lighting is another popular option today, as homeowners look for energy-efficient alternatives.
"Bathroom lighting is also not as utilitarian as it once was. The modern bathroom is a living space – a place where people go to relax – and the lighting needs to reflect this. Consequently, a lot more thought goes into the choice of fixtures."
There is one bathroom in the house that stands alone, however, and that is the powder room. Palumbo says these are the most fun spaces to design. And because they are occupied for such a short time, they provide an ideal opportunity to be a little adventurous.
"They lend themselves to dramatic treatment, be it bold color accents or interesting fixtures and wall coverings. The powder room shown here features a wood veneer wallpaper with a distinctive 3-D effect."
First published date: 13 July 2014
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