Oh, the Zen of a spa bathroom at home—it’s a personal oasis that’s becoming more and more popular.
“I find that my clients ask for spa-like bathrooms in their homes these days as a refuge from their hectic work and personal lives,” said Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York City. “It’s a place to step out of daily life and take a long, deep breath.”
“There is a common misconception that a Zen/spa-like feeling has to come from white or wood; the reality is that the space needs to create a sense of calm and tranquility, which can be achieved in many ways,” said designer Lori Morris of Lori Morris Designs Inc. in Toronto. “The key element is to achieve a sense of calmness, through colors, soft finishes, and soft edges—there needs to be a level of cohesiveness to relax your eye, body, and mind,” Ms. Morris said.
Here, advice from the pros on how to transform your bathroom into a retreat right in the comfort of your home.
1 Pick your focal points wisely
“To create a feeling of serenity, the overall layout of the bathroom should feel open and airy. Making the tub the focal point of the bathroom also creates that feeling, which you can achieve even in the middle of a big and chaotic city like New York, as we did with our Vetrina Lofts project…. Since the property is in an urban environment, we wanted to create a relaxing retreat within the unit, so we used natural elements in the bathroom (i.e. a fireplace, large slabs of marble), and made the spa tub the focal point.
“It’s also about creating balance. For the private villas we’re designing at the Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, the goal was to create a mindful, balanced atmosphere that complements the property’s natural surroundings in the desert. The bathrooms include steam and outdoor showers and a soaking tub. We used neutral colors and clean, simple lines to achieve a spa atmosphere that exudes rustic elegance.”
— Kara Smith, president of SFA Design, Los Angeles
2 Build the right bathing area
“For showers, it is all about proportion and the feeling of space. I try to make my showers as large as possible. I find that larger spaces help to support the idea of peace and tranquility. People feel like they can take a deep breath when there is space around them. A great showerhead, however, can take a shower space to a whole new level. I am loving the Dornbracht Rain Sky shower feature for my clients. It is a showerhead on steroids. It is like being out in nature in the rain. You can choose from a light drizzle to a heavy deluge. What I also love is that there is the option of incorporating light into the shower feature, which creates soothing sparkle.
“Rather than doing a simple shampoo niche, I like creating areas to display items in spa-like showers. It is a place for an individual to display beautiful shampoos, soaps, and bath salts as well as other objects that bring pleasure to the individual.
Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York City, used shelving in this shower to display prized objects, elevating the space to more than just an ordinary nook. He also installed a cloud-like light fixture to further the calming feel.
“Tiling, such as natural stone, glass (both in large slab format as well as in tile), and frosted glass, which captures natural and artificial light helping to create a soothing glow, all help further a soothing atmosphere.
“Lighting in a shower space is also important. Rather than more conventional direct light sources, such as recessed lights and shower lights where you see the bulb, I prefer more indirect light sources, such as perimeter coves that use light reflective materials and surfaces as a way to illuminate the space. This type of lighting adds to the feeling of peace.
“When space is limited for spa-like environments, I like to create ‘wet rooms’ for my clients where I combine the shower and tub into one space. This makes both spaces feel larger which lends to a spa-like vibe.”
— Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas, New York City
3 Create a feeling within the space
“Lighting is a key element to evoke a mood in a space. It not only works in the functionality of the room, it is also an opportunity to make a statement. Dim, dancing light—an overall glow—is ideal for a spa-like bathroom. In the simplest form, dimmers can be added to existing lights. But you can create a candlelit atmosphere with a chandelier, sconces, or an overall lighting scheme. Lighting should not be harsh in design, but it can still be interesting. Glass flowers, feather balls, metal finishes can create that soft glow that moves with the space, and acts as a soothing element.
A standout blue glass chandelier over a floating tub, chevron-patterned flooring, and gold-trimmed cabinetry add romance to this bathroom designed by Lori Morris of Lori Morris Designs Inc. in Toronto.
Photography by Brandon Barré”Accessories should reflect this palette to make you feel relaxed. The design theory to remember is to create a feeling within the space. Color is just one of the many elements that helps to evoke that feeling of total relaxation. This can also be furthered with the cabinetry finishes. They should flow seamlessly with the rest of the space. Not one element should shout at you; they should all work together in a seamless balance of harmony.”
— Lori Morris, Lori Morris Designs, Toronto
4 Don’t be afraid to accessorize differently
“I don’t limit the decor by using accessories that are traditionally found in a bathroom as they can make the space feel more generic and impersonal. I like to incorporate one-of-a-kind items I find in my travels around the world, such as marble vases, trays, and vessels from India. I also use unexpected accents, a traditional mirror hung over a tub, for instance, to give the bathroom an air of sophistication. Using accessories that tie the bathroom to the rest of the house creates a coherent, harmonious dialogue between spaces.
This bathroom designed by Vicente Wolf of Vicente Wolf Associates, Inc. in New York incorporates non-traditional items for a bathroom—a marble table from India, a traditional 18th-century mirror, and two Baccarat sconces—adding unexpected detail.
Photography by Vicente Wolf”To up the level of luxury, I use mirrors that are lit from behind to give a luminous look. Recessed lighting, task lighting, sconces, and pendants allow you to highlight different areas of the bathroom.
“Using different types of wood throughout bring a sense of nature into the space. Limed rubbed woods make the room seem lighter and add texture. Darker woods like mahogany bring a warmth and richness while giving the room a more classic feel. In one of my projects, I designed a mahogany wood cabinet with inserts of shagreen in the door panels. We installed stainless steel floors and then trimmed the doors of the cabinet with stainless steel to connect the doors with the flooring. It added fluidity and coherence to the space while maintaining clean, uncomplicated lines.”
— Vicente Wolf, VicenteWolf Associates, New York