By David Bradley
AP Weekly Features

Borrowing from decor themes throughout the house, baths continue the ascent from bland, necessary rooms to stylish, relaxing comfort zones.

The influence of furnishings, amenities and collectibles will be felt this year and beyond in bath makeovers and renovations.

Clearly, baths have transcended strictly utilitarian functions. Interior designer Robert Schoeller says the overall direction for upscale baths "is to make more of a room out of it rather than just a bath."

Diana Schragi of the Kohler Design Center says consumers "give as much thought and budget to the bath as any room in the home." Kohler research shows homeowners spend as much as seven years of the average lifespan to scrub, relax and soak in the bathroom.

To kick off this design transition, many stodgy counters are replaced with cabinet-like woodwork. If room allows, it’s not unusual for Schoeller to haul in dressing tables or collections of Staffordshire china or figurines to lend a homey air to the bath.

More adventurous designers plop stand-alone basins of tinted glass, hand-wrought brass, ceramics, crystal or fine hardwood atop counter surfaces sized to match the scale of the basin. The cost of dramatic designer basins can easily top $1,000.

Imaginative spigots, often crafted from sand-cast metals, jut from walls or mirrors to stylishly cascade water to the bowl. Schragi has seen a shift from standard-height vanities to variable height to accommodate the differing needs of men and women. Users gain privacy when vanities or counters are separated into his-and-her zones.

The standard tub, once a dominant feature, is now upstaged by large, two-person walk-in showers or megatubs spouting spa effects. A single head shower is passe; multiple chrome, copper or brass heads above and below the occupant soothe as much as cleanse. Shower tiles, or fixtures crafted to fit within a 4-inch-by-4-inch space of a ceramic tile, are in vogue.

Schragi says homeowners are mixing the look of handles, faucets and other fixtures to express their personality. "We used to match furnishings in rooms, but that’s no longer the benchmark for sophisticated bath design," she says. Brushed chrome works well adjacent to polished metals.

Even the toilet is in for an upgrade. The devices can be hidden behind a small bookcase or wall with hanging art. "The toilet shouldn’t be the first thing you see, and I dislike rooms that look like you put a toilet in a telephone booth or a small cubicle," Schoeller says.

There is added emphasis on bold colors and wall treatments in the bath. Wall papers with splashy designs are excellent additions to bath decor because "it takes your mind off the equipment (i.e., toilet) and makes the room more interesting," Schoeller says.

Furnishings resurface in lighting. Gone are typical garish lights including track lights. The shift is towards other forms of indirect lighting often adjusted on rheostats. More owners are installing wall fixtures with silk shades for a warm, finished look. Don’t forget stereo systems and flat-screen TVs. Both are standard in today’s high-end bath.

But the upgrades and improvements come at a price. Schoeller says "people don’t bat an eye at routinely spending $30,000" on bath upgrades.

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January 5, 2006

12 Months Of Tips

Making And Keeping Your Home Beautiful And Enjoyable Year Round

January: Now that the holidays are over, be sure to clean up and store all seasonal paraphernalia in an organized fashion ready for re-use next year. Now’s the time for major renovation plans, as well. Look for outdoor furniture sales.

February: It’s a good month to keep the house warm and cozy for you and your guests; fireplace ablaze, afghans and throws readily available, a good book handy, kitchen inviting with the delicious smells of something warm and nourishing. Curl up and enjoy winter on LI. Check out white sales.

March: This is definitely the month for spring cleaning of closets and cabinets, re-organization of bookshelves and planning for warm-weather renovations and redecorating projects.

April: New gardening projects (outdoors or in) should be the forefront of your home planning, as well as plumbing and repair work. Color changes can make a big difference. Paint is the least expensive decorating tool with the most impact.

May: Outdoor rooms, patio furniture and general replacement of old and worn furnishings can prepare you for summer fun without hassle if you start early enough. Check sprinklers and air conditioning. Is the pool ready to be opened and the lawn furniture cleaned?

June: If you plan your vacation in this month, make sure your home is secure. Are fire and burglar alarms working, has mail been rerouted and are your sprinklers set so you don’t return to a brown lawn?

August: Take a weekend "antiquing" on LI and find a unique and special something to enhance your home. Also shop the white sales for great bedding buys.

September: Once the kids are back to school and the golf clubs and tennis rackets are almost put away, think about the fact that Thanksgiving and the holidays are only eight-plus weeks away! Pre-plan for home renovation and decorating projects now.

October: Decorating for fall is in. Do your porch with bales of hay, pumpkins and scarecrows, gourds and mums. You’ll smile every time you open your front door.

November: Your holiday shopping list should be dwindling by now. Treat your home to a holiday gift (new TV, mattress, closet organizers, new set of kitchen dishes, bath accessories) that your whole family can enjoy.

December: This busy month takes you outside your home a great deal. So enjoy it when you’re there with friends and family or alone by filling it with light and love. It can be your safe harbor from the busy world outside, if you take the time and effort to make it so. Get rid of the clutter and put "stuff" where it belongs. Bring home a bouquet of flowers, some new throw pillows or floor runner. Treat you home as an extension of yourself.

Natalie Weinstein has been president of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates, a leading interior design firm, since 1973, and is president of the Natalie Weinstein Home Decorating Club, located in the St. James Vaudeville Theatre, 176 Second St., St. James. Call 631-862-6198, visit or e-mail [email protected] For design help and more in-depth information on how to implement your design project like the pros, visit

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