Three local designers bathe in the spotlight of bathroom design. | Step Inside

michael jhon

The hashtag #bath now pulls up 8.3 million posts on Instagram while #bathtime pulls up 6.1 million. “Baths are the coffee of the evening,” writes pop-culture blogger Leandra M. Cohen in Man Repeller, “and more people should take them.” The wealth of proven benefits of an evening soak or a […]

The hashtag #bath now pulls up 8.3 million posts on Instagram while #bathtime pulls up 6.1 million.

“Baths are the coffee of the evening,” writes pop-culture blogger Leandra M. Cohen in Man Repeller, “and more people should take them.”

The wealth of proven benefits of an evening soak or a hot shower includes everything from improving sleep and circulation, to relief from back, joint, and muscle pain, to strengthening the immune system and spiking serotonin levels. So when it comes to designing a room devoted to the “renewal” of self, local arbiters of taste, trends and blue-sky thinking — Susan Bradford, Elizabeth Henderson, and June DeLugas — work closely with clients to create the perfect sanctuary.

“I begin with lots of questions about the homeowners’ current lifestyle and their needs,” says Susan Bradford. “Being a good listener is key. My clients have to trust me.”

While Bradford always creates designs that reflect her homeowners’ requests, she often throws out what she calls a “wild card;” something completely different that still achieves what her clients want but in an unexpected way.

“More often than not,” Bradford says with a smile, “the wild card is the design they select.”

As stunning as these bathrooms can be, designers still have to collaborate with other creatives, as well. Working with architects, builders, and interior designers on her latest design project, Bradford used what she calls a “storyline” approach to colors and style to ensure a consistent theme throughout the house.

Collaboration is also the name of the game for designer Elizabeth Henderson. Her team approach to each project starts with finding that statement piece that resonates with her clients, and then working to build a theme around it.

Typically, it’s the soaking tub that plays the starring role in bathroom design. I mean, what could be more romantic than an old-fashioned French copper tub? Or more chic than a modern tub that promises a serene escape at the end of the day?

Even so, Henderson’s latest design project with architect Mark Shaver proves that it’s a bath with a view that remains the Holy Grail of tubs.

Taking full advantage of the scene-stealing character of Shaver’s bay window in the bath, Henderson’s shimmery choice of “watery blue” brick tiles dance in the luxurious amount of natural light that floods the room during the day.

“My clients lived near the water in Connecticut before coming to North Carolina,” says Henderson. “I thought they might enjoy having a part of their past in their new home.”

When space won’t allow for both a shower and a tub, designer June DeLugas has noticed that some of her clients are ready to give up the centerpiece of the master bath in favor of a luxurious spa shower — “complete with double shower heads, body sprayers, and hand-held shower heads.”

Like her contemporaries, DeLugas understands that bathrooms have come a long way from being merely functional, and working with clients to come up with luxurious ways to cater to very basic needs seems to be the new normal.

“Luxury has become essential,” DeLugas says.

Whether you’re planning to install a brand-new bathroom or update an existing one, the list of design choices can be endless. Of course, there are the basic elements: number of sinks, bathtub versus shower or both, toilet exposed or enclosed in a water closet, the occasional bidet; the list goes on. And while design is often dictated by architectural plans or existing conditions, the possibilities are truly endless.

Bathrooms are such personal spaces, and master baths are private sanctuaries. At the end of the day a bathroom can serve as a retreat, a place to restore your-self: mind, body, and soul. And in these times, cultivating a feeling of healthy detachment may make all the difference in the world.

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