Text by Lynn Petrak
Time was, design innovations didn’t extend to the most private of spaces: the bath. A bathroom or powder room usually featured basic elements, especially in older houses, where their tiny dimensions reflected their significance.
Times, of course, have changed, and today’s designers work closely with homeowners to create custom baths that require nearly as much planning as kitchens or family rooms. And as the size and number of baths in modern homes increase — many newly built homes have virtually one bath for every family member — so does the use of creative design elements.
One of the most important elements in today’s bath is cabinetry, with custom cabinets and freestanding furniture pieces available in all shapes, sizes, finishes, and functions. That’s a far cry from a simple two-drawer vanity or built-in medicine cabinet traditionally crammed with toiletries or stuffed with towels. “We’re seeing a lot of people who come in and say, ‘I want my bath to be a haven’, remarks Brigitte Fabi, a cabinetry designer for Rutt of Chicago.
The days of small vanities or long, boring rows of drawers have passed. There are a lot of cabinets in baths these days. Some people want to have units that look like freestanding furniture as well as totally built-in cabinets. In addition to adding dimension, color and warmth to a bath, cabinetry also has a practical purpose — you may have a bedroom set, but they’re not always great for storage, explains Julie Loehner of Insignia Kitchens and Baths. “We’re doing wardrobe units in baths that are built into a space where a small closet or shelving unit would be, to put things like socks, underwear, and pajamas as well as bed linens and toiletries.”
Architectural design plays a key role in the new use of cabinetry, particularly in master suites according to many experts. As the bath extends into the boudoir, homeowners bring matching cabinetry into adjoining dressing rooms and walk-in closets, tying the rooms together with door styles and stains.
Brigitte notes that designers are seeing more homeowners who want the look on antique furnishings in their baths. “We have a lot of clients that bring in pieces of furniture that we try to copy — antiques or family furniture. We’re seeing very specialized pieces, mostly in powder rooms.” Pieces of furniture are even being made into vanities.
Whatever the origin of the unit – a family heirloom or custom-built vanity complete with lingerie chest – cabinetry is definitely taking on a new and important role in the bath. As Julie notes, “Everyone thought vanity, cabinet, mirror, that’s it. But there’s so much more.”