BATH of the YEAR

Picture yourself at the end of a long day. You’re driving home on Central Expressway and stuck in traffic as usual. The kids keep asking about tonight’s menu, and you realize there won’t be near enough time to cook dinner, clean up, and prepare for tomorrow morning’s meeting without sacrificing precious sleep time. As panic starts to set in, the headache you had earlier comes back. You need a break. And you can’t wait until you find time for a day at the spa or until you finally go on that weekend getaway. Now is the time to escape to your bath.

Whether you take your luxury spiritually or sensually, the bath can be a sanctuary for relaxation. You may prefer a peaceful waterfall flowing near the tub or a Japanese meditation garden right outside your bath’s patio door. Maybe relaxation for you is extreme elegance with a marble tub and countertops, gold-plated fixtures, and plush carpeting. Whatever it takes for you to escape, today’s baths have it.

Not so long ago, the bath was the tiny room at the end of the hall that mainly served as a place to, well, shower. The decor consisted of throwing up some floral wallpaper, adding a few coordinating towels, and possibly throwing down a bath mat or two. Things have changed. Today, the bath is a large, secluded, and luxurious retreat that beckons us to visit for privacy and peace at the end of a busy day. Now much more than just a place to shower, the luxury bath is complete with everything needed for a first-class time-out.

On homeowners’ bath wish-lists are radiant heated natural stone or marble flooring, glistening granite countertops with his-and-her sink areas, warm cherry-wood cabinetry, old-fashioned claw or sunken whirlpool tubs, glass block showers with multiple massaging body sprays, and even a coffee bar or under-counter refrigerator for that early morning pick-me-up. These special touches are a refreshing change from yesterday’s bland and functional bath, which was made up of harsh fluorescent lighting, cold vinyl flooring, just enough cabinet space for one, and plain hardware and appliances that offered nothing in the way of aesthetics.

“Baths today are so much bigger and prettier,” says Glen Boudreaux, ASID, owner of Glen Boudreaux and Associates and The Design Collection. “They are luxurious living spaces.”

We rounded up some of the area’s best baths and asked industry experts to select D Magazine’s “Bath of the Year.” Each of the winning baths were carefully crafted to exhibit the finest in luxury, style, and design. Rich appointments and extreme attention to detail are evident in each bath. Contest judges were Charlotte Comer, ASID, owner of Charlotte Comer Interiors, Inc.; George Lewis, president of George Lewis Custom Homes, Inc.; Massimo Ballucchi, product support manager of American Marazzi Tile; and Wick Allison, publisher and editor-in-chief of D Magazine.

The first winning bath is a product of a hefty remodeling job successfully completed by Irving’s Albertson and Company. Owner Sonny Albertson, CR, and his crew turned a Dallas home’s cramped bath-covered with old. baby blue porcelain tile and bland white cabinetry–into a handsome, spacious room geared for several users. An abundance of 18-inch by 18-inch squares of neutral limestone tile on the flooring and walls serve as a backdrop for the striking black sunken whirlpool tub and black granite countertops. A separate frameless glassdoor shower shares the same limestone tile from floor to ceiling. Cherry-wood crown molding, a faux-finished ceiling, and a built-in wall unit with warm cherry-wood cabinetry, ample storage space, and his-and-her vanity areas topped with low-voltage halogen lighting complete this “Bath of the Year.”

Another award-winning bath, designed by Cindi Cagle, Allied Member, ASID, of Glen Boudreaux and Associates, is a warm and inviting room that exhibits an Old World elegance to complement the home’s English Country manor feel. Eyes are immediately drawn to a unique iron grill placed on a glass wall over the sunken whirlpool tub. Solid dark brown marble slab graces the walls and countertops, while a patterned marble tile floor leads from the bath to a secluded exercise and dressing area. Striking decorative accents include ornate custom cabinetry, two skylights, a crystal chandelier, and a see-through cast stone fireplace to the master bedroom. A television, juice and coffee bar, and refrigerator add to the bath’s luxury. “Baths should be an environment, rather than just a room,” Cagle says. “They are as pretty as they are functional.”

Sheer drama is the best way to describe the third “Bath of the Year.” Designed by Joanie Wyll and Associates, Inc., this bath’s design truly enhances die room’s striking architectural features, such as the soaring ceiling with a unique multi-level treatment. Natural materials-such as slate on the flooring, shower, and walls and pear-wood on the long vanity-provide a subtle contrast to the sleek black granite countertops and black sunken whirlpool tub. Strategically placed soft lighting is dramatic as well as functional, and an abundance of natural light shines in through glass block windows. A different design touch to this bath is the interesting use of sculpture and accessories, which complement the room’s daring architecture.

These “Baths of the Year” are proof that baths have changed as people’s needs have changed. Always synonymous with privacy, the bath has become the only room where you can truly relax and get away from the stress of a busy day or the chaos taking place in the rest of the home. It is also the only room where someone can find spa-style amenities without leaving the house. To make the bath a special place geared for complete relaxation-as well as function-more homeowners are remodeling their existing baths or building baths in a new home that reflect the ultimate in pampering.

“Master suites are very big right now, and a more luxurious bath is just part of it,” says Chris Miles, president of the NARI Greater Dallas, Inc. “With both couples working today and taking care of the kids, the master bath has become a complete retreat for couples. It’s a place they go to talk privately or catch up on the day without interruption. We are really beginning to cocoon ourselves, and the bath is becoming the place for that.”

The intriguing ideas for the sumptuous amenities found in many of Dallas’ most luxurious baths are actually taken from some of the most exclusive hotels around the world. John Mans. ASID, owner of John Phifer Marrs Interiors, Inc., says more people are traveling today than ever before. They have become accustomed to sheer luxury in hotel baths and want to copy their experiences at home.

“They get used to the marble tubs, televisions and phones in the bath, towel warmers, and heated floors,” Marrs says. “They are surrounded by luxury and want to bring it home.”

To maximize privacy in a bath, Marrs often installs upholstered walls and thick carpeting to help quiet the sound coming from the rest of the home. Even though carpet does the trick for sound-proofing, many home owners prefer marble or ceramic tile flooring that emulates the look of natural stone. Neutral stones, such as limestone, are top choices in bath tile, and most people request oversized pieces at least 13-inches by 13-inches. A favorite tile at the Ceramic and Marble Tile Outlet in Irving is the Ravell Ocra, an Italian tile that is golden in color to complement today’s neutral bath colors. Also popular in Dallas is any style of ceramic tile that looks like old cobblestone.

“Many people are taking the same tile used on the floor and incorporating it onto the wall, but in smaller pieces,” says De De Dunn, marketing director for American Marazzi Tile in Sunnyvale. “A lot of people are using tile in corresponding styles and contrasting sizes to look like a wallpaper and border effect. By using tile, they are getting a wall covering that is much more durable and long-lasting.”

No luxury bath is complete without a spa-style tub or shower. Experiencing the warmth and feel of a Jacuzzi-complete with bubbles and massaging water jets-is possible with sunken whirlpool tubs. Roman soaking tubs made of marble are also popular, as are the old-fashioned claw-foot tubs from the 1920s.

“I have customers who are gutting out their brand new bathrooms just to install a claw-foot tub,” says Tom Parr, Hardware Plus department manager at Elliott’s Hardware in Dallas. “They want the tub to look just like it did in the ’20s with the rings and pipe and lace shower curtain around it.”

The surroundings are just as important as the tub itself for achieving complete relaxation, designers say. For a dramatic touch, designers often install fireplaces near the tubs or situate tubs near a window that offers a view of a pretty, yet private, courtyard or garden. Although windows are a great way to allow natural light into a bath, designers suggest using glass block windows in areas where privacy is a concern.

Today’s luxury baths are usually equipped with a separate tub and shower. Designers rarely consider using shower curtains, which have been replaced by wraparound glass block or glass doors with decorative etchings. Many luxury baths feature oversized, glass enclosed marble showers with dual shower heads and multiple pulsating body sprays that can be set for different heights and pressures. Spa-style steam showers with built-in shower caddies and benches are also popular.

Imagine pulling up to the driveway knowing that a steamy shower and soothing music await you inside. Technology, combined with the demand for luxury, has made this possible. Some showers now come equipped with a computerized control system that can be programmed to turn on at a desired temperature and time. The system can also turn on a towel warmer, radiant heated flooring, and an in-shower CD player.

No sink, tub, or shower is complete without eye-catching faucets and fixtures, and the choices today are endless. Gold-and silver-plated fixtures, as well as models with a mix of copper and stainless steel, are found in many high-end baths. More exclusive faucet lines have models embedded with cubic zirconia or genuine sapphires and emeralds. Several designers favor waterfall faucets on sunken soaking tubs, where the water flows into the tub in I sheets from a wide faucet, creating a soothing waterfall effect. Pedestal sinks in powder baths are a great way to show off unique facuets, as are the new “salad bowl” style-or vessel-sinks-which sit above the counter.

“So many beautiful facuets and fixtures are out there today to complement all the pretty sink styles,” Marrs says. “They are so lovely. My clients and I spend an entire day shopping for fixtures.”

To keep a bathroom from looking too functional and more like a comfortable room geared for relaxing, many designers are borrowing furniture and decorative items from other areas of the home to use in the bath. A sitting area with overstuffed chairs or chaise lounges is common in luxury baths, as is displaying dramatic sculptures and artwork throughout the room. Beautifully framed family photos, scented candles, and fresh flowers all add a personal touch.

Joanie Wyll, ASID, owner of Joanie Wyll and Associates, Inc., likes for a bath to look like an elegant showroom, complete with tall ceilings with unique treatments and faux-finished walls. Everything functional, such as toothbrushes or other personal care items, should be hidden. Wyll says you should display only decorative items that complement the bath’s architecture or style and blend in well with the marble flooring or granite countertops.

“Baths today are very decorative,” Wyll says. “If it’s not pretty, you’re not going to be happy with it. I like to use a lot of artwork and sculptures with strategic art lighting to enhance them. Baths today are actual living areas, rather than a functional place.”

One of the most dramatic changes in baths is lighting. Sharon Flatley, ASID, owner of Sharon Flatley Interiors, urges her clients to install more sophisticated lighting, such as sconces, in their baths for an instant update. She suggests removing any glaring lights, such as the once popular Hollywood-style dressing room lights above the mirror. Natural lighting from skylights or glass block windows is another way to brighten up the bath, especially if dark granites and marbles are used on the countertops and flooring.

“People tend to forget about lighting in the bath,” Marrs says. “Ironically, lighting has almost everything to do with getting ready in the morning. Really think about it, and don’t put two cans above the sink just to get the job done. Try sconces on either side of the mirror at face level with some soft lighting from behind to eliminate shadow. You’ll notice the difference.”

To turn an average bath into a luxury bath, designers and contractors say homeowners should be prepared to spend both time and money. A typical bath remodeling job could take anywhere from three months to over a year to complete, depending on the materials used. Many of the more exquisite marbles and tiles popular in today’s baths must be imported from as far away as Italy, so gathering and shopping for the materials takes time. These often-requested materials are also typically the highest in price. It is not uncommon, Miles says, for homeowners to spend $30,000 or more on a luxury bath.

However, creating a spa-like atmophere right in the comfort of your own home is worth the price, designers say, especially on those long, hectic days when you realize your next scheduled vacation is still several months away.

“The bath is an escape,” Marrs says. “It is a retreat. Think about it. Nothing is more relaxing than a nice soak in the tub.”


Master suites are very big right now, and a more luxurious bath is just part of it. With both couples working today and taking care of the kids, the master bath has become a complete retreat for couples. It’s a place they can go to talk privately or catch up on the day without interruption.


With Americans spending about $120 billion a year on home improvements, the need for expert help on any remodeling job is becoming essential to ensure a successful project. Plenty of remodeling contractors are in business to provide this assistance, but industry professionals warn that it is necessary to first check a contractor’s credentials. One of these important credentials to look for is a membership to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI.


Only full-time, professional remodeling contractors are eligible for certification by NARI. To be affiliated with NARI, contractors must be in business for at least five years, meet the NARI Certification Board’s strict standards, study a broad range of critical industry issues, and succesfully complete a comprehensive written examination covering critical subject areas, such as knowledge of building codes, construction law, and safety.

NARI members must also meet annual recertification requirements involving continuing education and industry-related programs. Chris Miles, president of the NARI Greater Dallas, Inc., says as more professional NARI members are hired for remodeling jobs, the more likely the public’s view of the typical remodeling contractor will fade.

“People have this image of a remodeling contractors that isn’t very professional,” Miles says. “They’ve seem them portrayed on television as being in the business just to come into your home and rip you off. When a contractor is affiliated with NARI, you can be assured they are a professional who works under the highest of standards.”


With NARI members doing about $70 million in business annually in Dallas alone, Miles says the demand for quality remodeling contractors here is high.The desire in Dallas for older homes increases each year, as does many families’ unwillingness to move from a longtime home.

“In Dallas, people really like where they live,” Miles says, “They like the schools their kids are in, and they like their neighborhood. Also, people get used to living close to where they work. If they want to buy a brand new house, they are going to have to move farther oui, which means a longer commute, If they remodel their existing house, they can stay in their homes, but still have the kitchen or bath they’ve always wanted.”

To keep from moving, many home owners tackle several extensive remodeling projects just to keep their house modern looking through the years. Miles has longtime clients who are on their third remodeling project, even though they realize they’ll never get their money out of the home if they ever sell it. “They don’t care.” Miles says, “They love their home, so they just keep remodeling.”

CHECK QUALITY BEFORE PRICES Just one remodeling job’s cost can quickly add up. Too often, homeowners don’t want to pay the high cost of tackling a hefty remodeling project and turn to the most inexpensive contractor they can find. Miles says that although some NARI professionals may be more expensive than non-members, it is important to find a contractor who will offer the best quality, Quick or cheap jobs typically dont include high-quality materials, which means the work done probably won’t last long or look the way it was first envisioned,

“If you get the lowest price, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get the best deal or service,” Miles says. “However, a significant amount of responsibility does exist on the homeowner’s side. A homeowner needs to educate himself before a contractor is hired. Know what you want and do some research,”


Understanding a remodeling contract can be a tough job for a homeowner who is considering a first-time remodeling job. Look for contractors who work with quality vendors and who present detailed contracts that provide you with liability insurance. “A clearly written contract prevents misunderstandings so both the remodeler and the homeowner know the entire scope of the project from start to finish and in dollars and cents,” Miles says.


To find a certified local NARI member, visit the Dallas chapter’s web site at or call 214-943-NARI to request a handbook or get a referral of a contractor in good standing with NARI.




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