A Bath for All Seasons
Here's how to make your hotel-style bath personal and serene — and easy to change when you're ready to sell.
When it comes to bathroom luxury, says New York-based designer Amanda Nisbet, you can't beat the Four Seasons Hotels. So when Nisbet was ready to renovate her own bathroom recently, she adopted many of the luxury chain's beautiful bathroom touches.
"Just like a hotel bathroom," she explains, "my own bathroom has lots of good lighting, clean lines and marble surfaces. I splurged on beautiful monogrammed towels and all my favorite creams, and installed a great big mirror, just as you would find at a luxurious hotel.
Like hotel designers, who must create spaces that are beautiful and distinctive, but not so unusual that they might be off-putting to paying guests, Nisbet wanted to create a bathroom for herself that was serene and personal — but not so very individual that it would affect the resale value of her apartment.
"This whole room is translatable to many tastes," she says. The one very personal choice she made was the wallpaper in the bath niche — Manuel Canovas's "Pali" pattern in Rose. "But that could easily be removed and the walls repainted to transform the feeling of the room," she points out.
Because hotels have to make a first impression on new guests every day, they pay extra attention to maintenance and upkeep — and you should, too, Nisbet advises. "Wallpaper can peel over time if the room does not have proper ventilation," she says, "so if your bathroom is damp, stick to paint, rather than wallpaper. Choose a favorite color that makes the bathroom entirely yours for as long as you live in your home, but can be changed easily when you're ready to put the property on the market."
Photograph by Amanda Nisbet
The Ultimate Luxury: A TV Near the Tub
One couple's master bathroom houses their favorite hotel-style bath feature: a TV next to the tub.
Fifteen years ago, designer Amie Weitzman fell in love with a hotel bathtub. "I was in Montreal on a business trip, and there was a TV right near the tub," she recalls. "I promised myself that one day, I'd have the same setup in my own home."
Flash forward a few years. Weitzman is married to a banker who travels frequently for business. He comes home from a trip and raves about — you guessed it — a TV near the tub.
"He has such limited leisure time," says Weitzman, "that the idea of watching a football game while taking a bath was just fantastic." So when the couple renovated their New York City brownstone a few years ago, there was no question that tub would meet tube in the master bathroom.
For safety's sake (and clean-lined good looks), the wiring and DVD player are all hidden in the built-in cabinetry. A travertine step makes the tub accessible for Weitzman's two children, who like to watch movies during bath time, and the Caesar-stone tub surround and rolled-up white towels give the whole space a spare, spa-inspired look.
"Hotel bathrooms are always neat and well-organized," Weitzman points out. "If you want to recreate that feeling at home, you need plenty of storage, so that surfaces can be kept clutter-free."
Photograph by Alexandra Rowley
Hotel-Style Bath With Built-In Beauty
Arabescata marble gives one family's hotel-style bath a clean, sensual style.
When the well-traveled owners of this New York apartment asked Shamir Shah to transform the previous owners' pink marble bathroom into a luxurious but practical space just like one they might find in a fine hotel, the architect responded by creating a bathroom that is sleek and streamlined, but highly sybaritic nonetheless.
The Arabescata marble that lines the walls has a clean, modern look, and the floors, in a tumbled mosaic of clean white marble in a 1" x 2" format, offer the perfect hotel combination of sensuality, style and safety. The beautiful tile's rounded edges feel good under foot, and smaller tiles, like these mosaics, provide extra traction on a wet floor. The shower includes both a rain-head and a traditional showerhead, and a hanging towel rack holds plenty of large, white bath sheets.
To bring hotel luxuries into your own home, Shah recommends under-floor heating, well-lit mirrors, lots of hanging towel space and music. If you're renovating, you can have speakers installed directly into the walls — but even if you're just making minor changes in an existing bathroom, a CD player or an iPod and speakers (placed a safe distance from the water) can provide your favorite tunes while you soak in the tub.
Photograph by Antoine Bootz
Natural Touches Bring Hotel-Worthy Luxury
You don't have to be in an exotic locale to get natural luxury in your hotel-style bath.
Having designed several spas and hotels, including the award-winning Nemacolin Woodlands Spa in Pennsylvania and the W Ft. Lauderdale Hotel & Residences, international designer Clodagh is no stranger to vacation-worthy bathrooms. In this luxury home in New York, the bathtub (shown reflected in the mirror) backs up to a waterfall — and the faucets are twin waterfalls, as well.
While these exotic-destination amenities did require major renovation and considerable expense, Clodagh is quick to point out that many of the touches that make a hotel bathroom feel like a hotel bathroom are very easy to implement — and surprisingly affordable.
"Hotels, no matter how extravagant, are all run on a strict budget," says Clodagh, author of Total Design (Potter, 2001). "So whatever your own budget, you can make your home bath feel more like a hotel's. A wonderful vase that holds just a few flowers is an affordable hotel touch," she says. "The potted tuber rose featured in this room lasts a long time and lends a lovely fragrance."
As for other inexpensive upgrades, Clodagh says, "If you can afford to switch out the vanity lights, there are great and reasonably priced ones on the market. Install elegant hooks for your robes, and have one floor basket for trash and one for the hand towels and laundry. Even your toilet brush holder should be good looking," she advises. "In a hotel — and in your own home — every detail counts."
Photograph by Daniel Aubry
Little Touches Add Up to Grand-Hotel Style
Small details make this East Hampton home's bathroom as elegant as that of a five-star hotel.
With its gleaming white surfaces and elegant accessories, the master bathroom in designer Jamie Drake's East Hampton house is a little slice of heaven. And whether you're designing a weekend getaway home or even just upgrading a rental apartment, you can bring some of Drake's vacation-worthy accessorizing details home.
"The tub tray is a classic European touch that makes bathing a pleasure," says Drake, author of Jamie Drake's New American Glamour (Bulfinch, 2005) and designer of bath accessories for Labrazel Inc. and THG. "You can just prop up a book, having your unguents and potions at hand, and have a place to put the washcloth."
When designing a bathroom, consider your comfort not only in the tub or shower, but also while you're drying off, says Drake. Next to his tub, a whimsical stool covered in fuzzy sheepskin is the perfect place to sit and dry one's toes. In an alcove, a director's chair with a monogrammed back adds charm and holds a backscratcher, shoehorn and guest towel.
"These touches are not wildly expensive," says Drake, "but they really can make you feel as if you're in a five-star hotel."
Photograph by Maria B. Sygman
Bringing Natural Light to a Windowless Bath
Designer tips for adding natural light to your hotel bath — even when you don't have a window.
Like many hoteliers, designer Vicente Wolf faced the challenge of bringing natural light into a windowless bath. And, like the growing number of hotels that install windows between the bedroom and bath to allow sunshine to filter through, Wolf installed translucent bookshelves to divide the two spaces in his own home without blocking the natural light.
In addition to making the space brighter, the filtered sunlight makes it appear larger, says the designer, author of Crossing Boundaries: A Global Vision of Design (Monacelli Press, 2006). So if you are building or renovating a space with an interior bathroom, talk to your architect or builder about translucent materials you can use to help shed a little sunlight on the sink.
Above Wolf's own bathroom sink, the large mirror adds a generous touch, and these exact Waterworks faucets are, indeed, used in several upscale hotels. Still, there's no mistaking this space for a hotel room — and that's just the way Wolf likes it. Like all of the bathrooms featured here, his goes hotel luxury one better, by adding personal touches that make it feel like home. The sink rests on an antique desk Wolf found on a trip to Burma. The toothbrushes rest in a favorite silver cup. And a special photograph leans casually on the sinktop.
"On the one hand," Wolf says, "hotels can be inspirational, giving us the feeling that we'd like to live a particular way. But even the most luxurious hotels are learning that nothing is quite as wonderful as the feeling of being comfortable in your own home."
Photograph by Vicente Wolfe