Whoever said “design is in the details” may have had hotel bathrooms in mind. After all, it’s those details that can set a bathroom apart, creating luxury at any hotel, from budget to high-end. Such a space can impact guests’ overall impression as much as the bedrooms, leading to bad experiences that discourage loyalty or wowing them and ensuring return business.

Just ask the design team at Munge Leung. The Toronto-based designers have been tasked with recreating hotel spaces across the continent, including the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver and the Thompson Seattle, slated to open in 2016. “Guests have an expectation for the bathrooms to be memorable and luxurious,” the team said in a statement. “Today’s hotels are offering that through high-end materials, fixtures and art, and are increasing the size of the bathrooms to create a sense of grandeur and exclusivity.”

And the bathrooms at the Hotel Elan in Calgary embody that. The hotel — which opened in 2013, with 61 rooms and suites — has bathrooms with features that range from heated floors and toilet seats to high-end, user-friendly thermostatic faucets, oversized showers as well as rain and hand-held showerheads. Even the bathtubs light up in an array of colours — an ode to chromotherapy, which is purported to balance energy. The hotel’s bathrooms feature a contemporary style, complete with wood vanities, alongside dark quartz countertops, Concord, Ont.-based Rubinet plumbing fixtures and soaps and shampoos by Phoenix-based Philosophy. In a market where today’s consumers hunger for the best of the best, the one-of-a-kind luxurious details in bathrooms such as these make them special.

“We wanted to go for clean and modern, giving a lot of thought towards amenities that you may find in one or two hotels when you’re travelling and think, ‘That’s really nice,’” says Brian Webb, director of Hotel Elan Ltd. So, Webb and his team at Hotel Elan focused on getting every detail right, from the enhanced soundproofing to a dedicated Wi-Fi feed in each room. But, amidst all of that, it’s the heated toilet seats that have received some of the most exuberant guest responses. “On a cost basis it wasn’t one of the more expensive things we did, but it was one of the better things we did, because people really appreciate it,” adds Webb.

But, it doesn’t only take heated toilet seats to impress. Take Vancouver’s Victorian Hotel — a heritage building originally constructed in 1898 — as an example. In addition to private bathrooms, the 47-room boutique hotel offers six bathrooms that are shared between 18 guestrooms. It’s not only a popular option, especially with budget-oriented travellers, but it’s part of the building’s original design, which husband and wife co-owners Miriam and Andrew Mowat didn’t want to alter structurally, partly out of respect for Vancouver’s heritage regulations.

The bathrooms hadn’t been updated in five years, and hadn’t been fully redesigned in 10, so Miriam decided to take on the renovation this year. “Everything was chosen to maximize cleanliness and create a space where guests really feel comfortable,” she explains. Cleanliness is a concern in any hotel bathroom, but in shared bathrooms it’s even more important. With that in mind, Miriam replaced the original bathtubs with glass-enclosed showers and introduced easy-to-clean porcelain tiles in a large format that reduced grout lines.

She also opted for a clean-lined contemporary design that would juxtapose with the hotel’s historic feel, using a neutral but high-contrast colour palette that includes dark smoked walnut vanities, white manufactured stone countertops (also easy to clean) and Kohler, Wis.-based Kohler undermount sinks and toilets, along with PuraVida sink faucets from Alpharetta, Ga.-based Hansgrohe USA. “We chose high-end fixtures but ones that weren’t over the top — that had functionality and would last, because these bathrooms are well used,” Miriam says. “We were within a budget, but we were still able to obtain a luxe, modern look.”

Miriam budgeted approximately $5,000 per bathroom and launched the project during the slower January and February months with the help of trusted local trades people. “An experienced tile-setter was especially important,” she says. “You really have to have that when you’re working with large-scale tiles, especially in an old hotel where the walls aren’t perfectly straight.”
And, all the effort was worth it, according to guest feedback. “We’ve had people comment on TripAdvisor that these are some of the best shared bathrooms that they’ve been in,” Miriam adds. “And quite often the rooms with the shared bathrooms sell out before the luxurious deluxe rooms.”

The new Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, which was previously a Delta, reopened in the spring; it now features a bathroom redesign. Guestrooms and bathrooms were revamped under the vision of designer Jolanta Lukas of Newmarket, Ont.-based Royal Design Inc. (The public areas of the 202-room hotel are undergoing a redesign as well.)

In the bathrooms, hotel management opted to exchange most of the existing tubs with showers, to appeal to business guests. Tubs remained in approximately 50 rooms to create an alternative for parents, who often prefer bathtubs for their children. “It’s made additional space in the bathroom — getting rid of the tub,” says Ally Visram, COO of Vista Hospitality Co., the hotel’s ownership group, based in Kitchener, Ont. “The new bathroom designs are very contemporary, giving a fresh look.”

The Crowne loo high-lights a neutral palette accented by green vinyl wallpaper. Indiana-based Delta faucets and dual-flush Georgia-based Toto toilets reduce the brand’s environmental impact, in keeping with the hotel company’s corporate Green Engage sustainability program. A contemporary bowl sink is a standout, creating “more of a boutique feel,” Visram adds. Ceramic tile floors mimic the look of wood, and sliding pocket doors help save space in the small rooms, while frosted glass windows open them up to natural light.

The design was accomplished with a budget of $2,500 to $3,500 per bathroom. And, the hotel has received “fantastic feedback,” says GM Yari Khan. Guests call the new bathrooms “very unique,” which, he says, contributes to the guest’s overall hotel experience.

After all, bathrooms that shine help create the right impression, Khan adds. “The bathroom is 50 per cent of the [guestroom] experience, if not more,”
he says.

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