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Return on investment
Will a new spa-style master bath add to a home’s resale value?
That depends.
Next to kitchens, the master bath is often the most important feature of a home, says Lou Salge, vice president of Four Seasons Design & Remodeling in Angola.
Nationally, an upscale remodel for about $51,000 will recoup about 60 percent of the investment at resale time, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2014 Cost-vs.-Value Report. An average mid-range remodel for about $16,000 will recoup even more – nearly 75 percent.
The cost is about the same but paybacks aren’t quite as great in the mid-central region that includes Indiana – about 54 percent and 56 percent.
Salge says that shouldn’t deter homeowners who want a spa master. It just might make for a quicker sale, he says.
“Any new home you have now has an en-suite for the master. It’s kind of a standard thing,” he says. “And, people really like that spa look.”
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Steve Neeley owns Serenity Kitchen & Bath in Fort Wayne, which keeps busy on the tile and fixture upgrades that give homeowners’ bathrooms an upscale spa feel.

Creating a spalike haven

Master bath remodels add space, luxury

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Tile shower surrounds are a popular detail in remodels – one that some homeowners want to show off.
Courtesy Cindy Friend
Some master suite remodels create a separate room for the toilet.
Courtesy Cindy Friend
Popular trends in bathroom remodeling include a soaking tub, frameless glass low-lip shower and double vanity.

Don’t have time for a day out at the spa? How about bringing the spa into your home?

Call a spalike master bath an antidote to today’s 24-7 world, says Steve Neeley, owner of Serenity Kitchen & Bath in Fort Wayne.

He says his 8-year-old company has been busier than ever, in part because of requests for spa master baths.

“People are on the go so much, and families are running kids here and there so much, that that (bathroom) time is the only time they get to themselves anymore,” Neeley says, calling a spalike master “a haven within the home.”

Adds Cindy Friend, designer and owner of Cindy Friend Boutique in Covington Plaza: “People want their master to feel like a place in their home where you can get away and relax and feel like you’re at a spa or at a resort on vacation.”

That said, what turns an ordinary, utilitarian master bath into a spa?

First, more space – or at least a different use of space, says Lou Salge, vice president of Four Seasons Design & Remodeling in Angola.

“Usually, when they remodel, they want their master bath about three feet bigger in every direction,” Salge says.

“We (contractors) are usually looking for more space, either by converting adjacent rooms or closets or … creating additional space with new construction.”

But, Neeley counters, often extra room for more luxury can be found within an existing master’s footprint.

“What we’re finding is we’re taking out a lot of the big whirlpool tubs that people did back in the ’80s and ’90s and now get used as clothes hampers and people tend to have to dust them out because they don’t use them much,” he says.

Neeley says that space-gobbling platform surrounding an old, garden-style tub – or even an area with a shower-tub surround – can yield enough room for a spalike curbless walk-in or low-lip shower now in vogue.

The walk-in can be outfitted with an interior tile bench and one of a variety of showerhead styles – a ceiling-mounted rainfall type, a hand-held with an adjustable height mounting, or a more conventional fixed head. He’s even installed his-and-hers showerheads – two identical fixtures side by side in the same shower.

More traditional showers can be made spa-like with a frameless, trackless glass door leading to a new stone-like ceramic or porcelain tile surround, Friend says.

“I call it a show-off shower,” she says. “They (clients) like to have it look something like a piece of art. They want a glass door so you can see in and see all the beautiful tile work.”

When budget allows, she says, both a shower and a trendy item called a soaking tub can fit in a revamped or expanded space.

Indeed, says Robin Yoder, showroom manager of Lee Supply Corp., a plumbing fixture company at 3420 Congressional Parkway, who calls the tubs one of that business’s most popular items.

“We are doing a lot more freestanding tubs. People think of the claw-footed kind, but they make them now with what we refer to as a pedestal foot as well. And there are products that have all different types of shapes, interesting ones,” she says.

Some are enhancing the soaking solace of a tub with add-ons. For example, an “air bath” tub has a series of small air portals around the base of the tub, Yoder says.

“You have heated air forced through them that gives you movement through the water, but it’s not like a whirlpool tub for sore muscles. It’s more based on relaxation – like you just had a deep-tissue massage,” she explains.

Meanwhile, Kohler, the bath fixture manufacturer, recently introduced a soaking tub with a series of speakers in the sides. They play music that forms sonic vibrations that ripple through the water.

“The total experience is to listen to it with your ears underwater,” Yoder says.

But most people are looking for “a design statement” with a freestanding tub, Friend says.

“It’s more like a piece of furniture, so it’s more visually appealing,” she says. “And you can put it on an angle, which you can’t do with a regular tub surround.”

Salge says Four Seasons “almost never” puts in a tub surround for a master bath. “We haven’t put in a garden tub in about four years,” he says.

One feature that hasn’t gone out of style in the new spa styling is the dual-sink vanity, says Anita Martin, designer with Country Mill Cabinet Co. in LaOtto, a maker of bathroom cabinetry. But vanities have gotten taller, she says.

“Traditionally, they were right around 29 or 30 inches tall, and now they’re about 4 or 5 inches taller than that. I think we’re just physically larger, and we’re finding that people want their bathrooms more kitchen-counter height.”

While many searching for the spa look want something with modern, clean lines, a vanity that “looks more like furniture,” with legs or feet and a curved front, is also popular, Salge says.

Spa luxury also often means heated floors, which “are all the rage right now,” Salge says.

And layered lighting – can lighting for the ceiling, ambient or up-lighting from sconces or pendants, task lighting for the vanity and even under-vanity night-lights – sets a spa mood and is practical, he says.

The icing on the cake comes from a color scheme that can be a variation on the gray scale or earthy neutrals; soothing blues and greens; or white or cream, Yoder says.

The keys to a personal spadom come from a clean and uncluttered look and pared-down accessories, she says.

Folks are striving for “relaxation or a Zen-like sensation,” she says.

“They look to their bathroom as a special place – not just to bathe or take a shower but to clear their thoughts and start fresh.”