Designer: Malcolm Davis Architecture; Photo: Treve Johnson Photography

Designer: Malcolm Davis Architecture; Photo: Treve Johnson Photography

The bathroom is the new den.

More and more, people are going to the bathroom to relax and even luxuriate after a day in the rush-rush world, say home remodelers and designers. Homeowners are upgrading the rooms -- outfitting them with everything from soaking tubs to heated floors -- to make themselves comfortable. But peace and quiet aren't the only motivating factors. An upgraded bathroom helps sell a home and can be a good investment.  

We polled several award-winning remodeling experts around the country for their recommendations about what's on the rise. If you're mulling a remodel, here is a baker's dozen of trends to consider, both for yourself and for the market.

Large, airy showers: Showers are big, literally. In small bathrooms, homeowners are tearing out the tub to expand the shower. Not only is the stall getting larger, it's getting more airy, with much more glass. "We're going to hinged doors and heavier glass, instead of the sliding glass," says Barb Friedman, president of Oswego Design & Remodeling in Lake Oswego, Ore. Friedman calls opening up the shower "a huge, huge trend. … People want luxury in their bathrooms. They want to feel like they're going into a spa." Some homeowners are even taking out partial shower walls, or all shower walls entirely, and making the entire tiled bathroom a shower -- a European approach that requires correct drainage, says Ed Miller, president and owner of E. Miller and Associates in Cedarburg, Wis.

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Noisy Jacuzzis replaced by soaking tubs: The tub is far from dead, however; it's just changing. "The more forward-thinking clients I work with have done the Jacuzzi" and now they often want a quiet, serene experience of a soaking tub, says Richard Landon, of Richard Landon Design in Bellevue, Wash. These jetless tubs are often deep, insulated tubs like those from Victoria + Albert. Notably missing: the huge amount of decking that typically surrounded many tubs installed in nicer homes in the '80s and '90s that "you could literally kill yourself trying to get in and out of," Friedman says. 

Let the light in: "The master bathrooms, they're becoming sanctuaries," says Jerry Kuther, director of custom home sales for award-winning Sun Forest Construction, a company in Bend, Ore., that builds custom homes and developments and also does remodels. People want master bathrooms to be brighter and more sun-filled than before, say Kuther and others. That means adding windows and even skylights to a bathroom. "We took one of our bedrooms in our little cottage house and turned it into a master bath" with several south-facing windows, says Kuther.  

Steam bath: "The big thing in bathrooms is steam," says Landon. "People are discovering how wonderful it is to come home at the end of the day and de-stress." Landon favors a steam-room system by Steamist ($1,500-$5,000) that a homeowner can switch on in the garage upon arriving home (the steam room takes 10-15 minutes to heat up). The bathroom usually has to be reconfigured to include the following, says Landon:

  • a sloping ceiling to drain condensation;
  • a seat;
  • a floor drain;
  • tile or marble on all surfaces; and
  • a vapor-tight door (the steam room must be completely enclosed and insulated on all sides).

The big blow: What bathroom couldn't use better ventilation to clear off mirrors ASAP and extend the life of the finishes? Jeff King of San Francisco's Jeff King & Co. recommends a remote fan -- with a motor elsewhere, such as the attic -- because it "is about 10 times as powerful" as an old-school fan and costs only about $50 more. "They're also extremely quiet" if installed properly, King says. Also on the market are fans with humidity sensors that switch on automatically.