Once considered largely utilitarian and basic, baths and closets have become standout showplaces in the modern home. Here, Matthew Quinn discusses how to transform these utilitarian spaces into sybaritic retreats—and all the latest luxury options that are sure to make them a client’s favorite getaway.
Luckily for me and my team, today, more emphasis than ever is being placed on designing the ultimate master suite. These spaces have become luxurious cocoons, keeping the sounds, stresses, and annoyances of the world outside their doors. Five-star hotels have perfected bite-size teasers of baths and closets that incoporate unique materials, finishes, and fixtures. So I always ask my clients to list their favorite hotels. This gives me insight into what they consider luxury. And no matter what space I am designing for them, I always ask to see their closets because this helps me to understand their color preferences, sense of style, and how they go about organization.
There are more choices now than ever in terms of plumbing fixtures, stone, lighting, and technology that are appropriate for the cleanliness, durability, and functionality that a bath requires. As far as I am concerned, a must have for the master bath is dimmers on every single lighting fixture (this is non-negotiable), with a radiant heat flooring system and instant hot water close behind. Obviously, bathrooms are incredibly personal spaces, so understanding a client’s morning and evening rituals is key to creating a room that works for, not against, them. As in a kitchen, finding a home for every item will make the space feel cleaner, fresher, and calmer.
In a space that is mostly hard surfaces, with few color choices when it comes to toilets and bathtubs, preventing the space from feeling cold and sterile is a common issue. I like to specify sound deadening insulation behind the walls, which does a remarkable job of absorbing vibrations, echoes, and sounds from pipes, outdoors, and adjacent rooms. Fabric used as draperies or on furniture will also absorb sound, and visually soften the room. With all of the indoor/outdoor fabrics available now, durability is no longer an issue. The same is true of wallcoverings, where beautiful textured vinyl papers can serve as a reprieve from too much white. Wood floors or other wood elements, honed or leathered stone rather than polished surfaces, and warm lighting temperatures will all add visual warmth.
I like to install tiny way-finding lights linked to motion sensors that dimly light the path to the toilet or sink in the darkness. In showers, I don’t use as many wall jets anymore, but find that installing steam showers is becoming quite popular—and they are so therapeutic. I always specify a heated shower bench, which is not only nice to the touch but help keep the shower dry. Other luxury amenities I love to use are fogless shaving mirrors, hidden televisions, speakers in the shower, towel warming cabinets, electrified drawers, seamless medicine cabinets, and bathtubs for two.
Dressing rooms already have built-in visual warmth, due to the all clothing they hold. So here, eliminating clutter and creating a functional, organized space is the most important task. I am always surprised by the different methods clients take in deciding what to wear each day, or when planning for a trip. Just as in designing a kitchen, logic, geometry, and even a little science are needed to help lay out a closet so that getting dressed is not a chore, and everyday items are conveniently at hand. In general, women like their clothing to be stored in wardrobes with solid, mirrored, or glass doors, while men tend to prefer having everything out in the open. I approach the design of a closet as if it were a boutique clothing store. That way, even the most mundane sweatshirt has a chance of getting some attention. Luggage and seasonal clothing can be stored above the hanging clothes, or, if the room has a ceiling height of at least nine feet, a third pull-down clothes rod can be installed. Multiple hampers, an easy-to-use steamer, lockable drawers, and lots and lots of valet rods are necessities. If a safe is to be incorporated, I always locate it at eye level, so that using it becomes an easy habit rather than an aberration.
Lighting is critical; if the budget doesn’t allow for LED strip lighting to be placed vertically or horizontally where clothes are hanging and inside drawers, then track lighting on the ceiling provides the most flexibility and illumination. A chandelier and sconces can reflect the personality of the homeowners, without them having to take into account the design of the rest of the house. This is where clients can really have fun and make it only about them. Ultimately the master suite is solely about the homeowners; it is their private refuge, a place that should make them feel their most comfortable, and a space that can energize and refresh them, as well as calm and relax them.