Each Friday on the Bathonista Blog, we'll ask a designer five questions about bath design tips and trends. If you have any questions you’d like to ask one of our designers, just send an email to email@example.com with “Five Questions” in the subject line. To get things started, this week we chatted with Susan Serra.
Susan Serra is a Certified Kitchen Designer and member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association as well as the U.S. Green Building Council. Susan does simple consulting work for clients as well as complete projects. Her design work has been widely published in national shelter magazines over the years. Susan writes regularly in her blog The Kitchen Designer and speaks on kitchen and bath design. An award winning designer and an enthusiastic attendee at many design shows and exhibitions, Susan loves keeping abreast of what's happening in the world of kitchens and baths. She most recently began work as the U.S. Representative for Hansen Kitchen, a collection of ecofriendly freestanding kitchen and bath furniture. Please visit Susan's website or email her for more information.
1. You've been designing spaces in NYC and the NYC metropolitan area for quite a few years now. What have been some of the most drastic changes in bathroom design style you've seen over the years you've been designing?
It's very exciting that my clients have moved more toward, and understand, the "less is more" concept, which is often a good design fundamental to be aware of. Since, of course, bathrooms are usually a relatively small space, it just makes sense that the space flows in a calm and easy way. That said, the opposite is often true for the powder room! But in regard to the master bath, my clients are wanting to ease into, and out of, the day by having this space be one of calm and a simple elegance, whether traditional or modern in design theme.
2. Your Web site includes a fairly eclectic mix of bathrooms that you've designed. Which project was your favorite and why?
Definitely the "Mill Neck" bathroom. So simple, clean, and lovely. However, I wish I had my own master bathroom on my website! That's my favorite, and I'd like to describe it. It was done on a budget, as we were selling our house, but it had to "read" quality for that reason. It's a very small space, about 4x7, I have designed the floor and 2 1/2 of the walls in 13x13 tile, which is much larger than conventional wisdom recommends for this size space. The tile is heavily textured but not rough to the touch (it's actually a flooring tile) and the other walls are painted a soft, very muted, shade of green/turquoise/gray, a shade that is in the tile, and a darker shade than one might select in this small space. The shower doors are frameless glass. There is a very oversized (in height) recessed medicine cabinet. The fixtures and trim are white. The feel is spa-like, soft, yet visually interesting with texture only in a few areas. I believe these mid-to slightly darker tones work very well for two reasons...there is more than adequate lighting (on a dimmer) designed into the space. The oversized mirrored medicine cabinet creates expanded dimension to the room. It feels good!
3. Clearly the economy is on people's minds if they are considering remodeling or updating a bathroom. What are some affordable design ideas for the bathroom that can give people an updated look on a fairly limited budget?
Tile can be incredibly inexpensive. Go to your tile store and ask for close-out tile bargains. There are often fantastic styles to choose from. Paint can instantly add elegance, sophistication, nuance to a space, especially if chosen carefully. Always get samples first! Think in "simple" terms for the design of the bath. Simple can read as spa-like and elegant, if the space is designed thoughtfully. Take your time, as you consider products. One great idea that is not expensive is to replace the moldings/trim with, say 3-3 1/2" flat stock and a simple backband molding around the outside edge. This will look "large" and luxurious but is an easy DIY project with great impact.
4. Your blog has a pretty dedicated readership; have you learned anything about people's design tastes that you wouldn't have discovered without your blog?
It's about confidence! I've never seen this high a level of confidence in the taste of homeowners I come across online as well as my own clients, in regard to their personal style. Homeowners now have confidence in expressing their own personal style rather than to study and follow the trends as once was the case. This is what makes my job so fulfilling...to help guide my clients toward finding their inner style, to help them express themselves in their own space. Once you live surrounded by your personal style, a space just feels right. And, that is what the home should be about...comfort on one's own terms! As a designer, I can offer a wide variety of choices, once I fully understand where a client wants to go style-wise. As a result, being a designer during this period of time is the most fulfilling for me.
5. What new bathroom design trends do you see becoming more prevalent within the coming year?
Definitely an eye toward water and energy conservation. While more lighting is becoming more important in the bathroom, and rightfully so, one can explore energy saving bulbs and LED accent lights. Oversized mirrors are coming on strong as well as larger windows, another nod to catching daylight, rather than artificial light. Natural materials continue the movement toward a green point of view in regard to styling and using sustainable materials. Alternative products, such as reused furniture or antique dressers will add warmth to the bathroom. Freestanding baths are a fresh look and can read as a sculpture or can be designed with wood surrounds for a warm, classic, look. It's not all about white! Deeper shades, even in small baths, will create more of a "living area" feeling as opposed to a strictly utilitarian feeling. To that end, I say, bring in the artwork (but use the fan for steam removal!) It's really all about you!