For many hotel guests, the bathroom holds a special place. “It turns out the guest bathroom is the single most important part of the hotel experience,” says Tim Aubrey, vice-president of Innovation for Delta. Therefore, it’s not surprising that when Delta Hotels and Resorts recently asked guests to rate the most important contributor to the in-room experience, the bathroom trumped beds and office furniture.
Whether the budget is large or small, the surroundings sumptuous or simple, bathroom design is changing to pay homage to its elevated status. A big trend these days is providing more light in the bathroom — natural or otherwise. The latest designs feature innovations such as frosted glass sections built into room walls, larger door frames to allow ambient light in and, in a more whimsical vein, shower stalls with windows.
These recent design projects channel simplicity, space and timeless styling. Clutter-free vanities, under- or above-the-sink shelving, recessed railings, uninterrupted wall surfaces and expansive mirrors are turning even the smallest spaces into luxury havens.
Water closets for toilets are gaining popularity when space permits, and low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets have become the norm given the growing preoccupation with greening. In terms of colour, neutral palettes with glass and wood accents offer a rich canvas to showcase creativity with artwork and soft goods that can easily be replaced when the mood strikes.
From the ground up
For any designer, a clean slate creates limitless creative options. “With the opportunity to work with a new building, we can rethink the whole guest experience,” says Louise Dupont, associate and senior designer with Lemaymichaud, a Montreal-based firm whose recent projects include the upscale Le Germain Calgary and the budget-conscious Alt Hotel at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
In creating a signature look for the Calgary project, Lemaymichaud created room layouts that placed oversized bathrooms on an exterior wall so that every shower stall could contain a frosted window with a peephole facing the street. “It’s sort of a sexy concept,” Dupont says.
These days, custom fixtures, including organically shaped ceramic wash basins from Spain and oversized 18-x18-inch square shower heads from France, add to the mystique. The European-style wall-mount toilets create a cleaner look, while making it easier to maintain and clean the bathroom.
A smaller budget doesn’t mean you need to compromise design innovation. The latest Alt show-stopper offers unique space and cost-saving features that create a top-notch guest experience in half the space.
Rounded porcelain sinks from Italy-based washbasin designer Artceram incorporate a vanity and metal railings. Large backlit mirrors with defogging pads and strategically placed wall mirrors create an illusion of more space.
The Alt design team opted for nifty innovations, including a pre-fabricated, wood-veneered cabinet module instead of a wall between the bathroom and the bedroom on the opposite side. “Everything comes in a box and is pre-set for wiring and connecting the plumbing,” explains Marie Pier Germain, director of Professional Construction Services for Groupe Germain Hospitalité in Montreal. Plus, the modular approach saves on the cost of drilling and dry-walling when installing plumbing connections, because the cabinet serves as the dividing wall.
In keeping with the multifunctional spirit, the cabinet inside Alt hotels includes a low shelf behind the sink for amenities. Installing resilient vinyl flooring was another labour-saving choice, since the carpet installer could double up for the job without the need for extra contractors.
Delta Hotels may not have had a clean slate to work with, but the launch of its new ModeRoom design concept includes a complete redesign of the existing bathrooms for its 40 properties in Canada. The key for Delta was ensuring that all room categories, from Base to Signature Club, were built on the same design foundations, Delta’s Aubrey explains. “We tried to standardize as much as we could. If you can build something consistently, you can bulk-procure more items and get higher quality products.”
Much of the company’s design discussions centered on extending the life of their investment. That resulted in decisions to feature more monochromatic and hard surfaces, along with classic styles for fixtures.
“You have to invest in non-trendy things that will stand the test of time,” says Aubrey, who estimates that a well-maintained bathroom design could last 12 to 15 years before it needs a revamp. This time around, each bathroom renovation ranged from $8,000 to $9,500, depending on the upgrades, which accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of the total room renovation budget.
The biggest wow factor in his mind is lighting. “We have five light sources that we made sure were the right temperature to make a person look and feel great.” The lights are warmer than fluorescents and are located above the mirror, in the tub and shower area, and in the centre of the ceiling as well as a night light on the amenities shelf.
For guests, it’s all about keeping it clean and simple, he notes. That’s why there is so much focus on reducing clutter. “We don’t allow coffee makers in the bathroom anymore and have created amenity shelves to keep glasses and toiletries off the counters.”
the power of one
For Toronto’s newly opened 256-room Four Seasons Hotel, it’s all about customization and paying attention to the little things that matter most, says Allan Scoler, vice-president of Design and Construction for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “These bathrooms feature a lot of things you don’t see,” he explains. That includes exhaust fans and other mechanical accoutrements located out of sight in a perimeter cove, installing heated floors located on the outside perimeter of the building, and repositioning shower drains into a vertical cove in the corner of the shower so they aren’t underfoot.
Every room boasts a custom-designed and manufactured free-standing bathtub; stunning hand-selected stonework on the walls, shelving and floors; and sumptuous shower stalls encased in acid-etched glass. Its fixtures are premium selections from Dornbracht, considered to be the designer’s choice, according to Scoler.
The materials used speak to the strong design language that permeates the property, Scoler explains. “The stone on the bar in the main lobby, for example, is the same one used in the vanities of the guest bathrooms. We want the richness of the materials we use to be applied everywhere.”
Scoler notes that regardless of where a Four Seasons property is located, the design team insists on keeping each design concept unique. “We may incorporate elements such as a second door or free-standing tub to other properties, but we don’t like to repeat a design language. It’s customized all the way.”
When it comes to design for all ranges, Scoler says it’s all about considering every element at every level. “It’s not about making everything gold. It’s about appreciating how you can put the materials together to create something unique.”