Throughout the ages, the bath has been a prime venue for pampering and self-indulgence. the yuppies of ancient Rome frolicked in heated pools. Louis VIII loaded his bath with freshly-cut roses, and Empress Josephine devoted three hours daily to her ablutions in a silver tub.
Bathing in America of the 90s is no less a favorite pastime than it was in old Rome, but unlike the Romans we cherish the privacy of our salles de bain. In fact, our bathrooms are becoming sanctuaries, as much appreciated for their privacy as their sudsy, steamy comfort. After all, theres great luxury in locking out a hectic day of e-mail, tele-conferencing and frenzied freeways.
For this reason, the bath has become increasingly beautiful and pampering, and according to Rutt design experts from across the country, theres even a trend towards the master bath thats a suite rather than a single room.
Designer Debi Oertle of Rutt of Chicago defines such a master suite as a space thats accessible through one entrance and incorporates areas or chambers for a number of essentially private activities.
"Of course, sleeping, dressing, grooming and personal hygiene are the mainstays, but increasingly, the master suite also incorporates an entertainment center, an exercise area or spa, walk-in closets specially outfitted for the owners needs, a sitting area or home library, and perhaps even a mini-kitchen. Special architectural elements are often featured, including skylights, a fireplace, large windows if the view is spectacular, chic glass block or stained glass partitions, and access to an outdoor deck or pool. In short, the master suite is beginning to rival, or even exceed, the standards of a luxury resort or spa."
"Youll be surprised at the wish lists youll develop, and theyre always great starting points for the designer," says Bernard. "After all, the idea is to design the suite to suit the individual needs and pleasures."
"Practically speaking, a smooth transition from one space to another is key to the success of the elaborate master suite," continues Bernard. "In addition, the different areas must be planned to protect peace and privacy. In other words, this is a task for professionals."
According to Oertle and Bernard, home excercise area, deluxe showers that double with steam units and body massagers, oversized whirlpools, and custom built-ins with the appearance of fine furniture are the features most wanted for master suites.
The dressing area has become very important," notes Oertle. "Today, people own lots of clothes, shoes and accessories, and they want to be able to store them properly. They also want a linen closet and a vanity that will hold grooming paraphernalia. This year, Rutt had added an elegant Queen Anne vanity to its product line-up, and it has already become a popular item for traditional suites. It really typifies the master suite philosophy: great function and beauty."
Double-duty function is advocated by Bernard. "If youre including a fireplace or entertainment center, think of building it into a partion so it can work on two sides," he says.
Allow For Fantasy
Aesthetically, Bowden loves master suites with the classic decors one encounters in English manor houses and French chalets. She and her design staff incorporate vanities that would have delighted George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton, walls of storage with the outward appearance of armoires, whirlpools encased in rich wood paneling, luxurious surfaces, and intriguing texture contrasts.
"Our clients usually want all the newest fixtures and gadgets, but they also love old-world elegance," tells Bowden. "We often design bath interiors where a Monet or Gainsborough would feel right at home. As far as the fixtures and gadgets are concerned, we tell clients to edit. You cant put everything you ever wanted in a master suite, no matter how elaborate. But I do think that the designer should always include some touches of fantasy."
11 Virginia Rd., White Plains, NY 10603 914 328 1992
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