These before-and-after shots show how the installation of a glass shower elongates sight lines, cre- ating the illusion of a larger room. The privacy partition in the "before" photo shortens the room.

Bath trends

* Soaking tubs
* Under-mounted sinks
* Quartz countertops
* Marble tile
* Subway tile
* Double vanities
* Higher vanity countertops (38 inches as opposed to 36)
* Chrome or rubbed bronze fixtures
* A framed mirror above each sink (not plate mirrors)
* Walk-in showers with shower benches, jets, body sprays
* Waterfall tub faucets
* Rainfall shower heads
* Thermostatic shower panels to adjust the water's heat
* Steam showers

If there was anything visitors to last month's Tri-State Home Show observed, it was this: Outdoor living spaces and walk-in glass showers are two must-haves in homes today.

Bath renovation, in particular, is the hallmark of baby boomers who are either updating their homes to age in place (aka stay in their homes as long as possible), renovating their homes in preparation to sell or who have downsized and are trying to make maximum use of a limited amount of square footage.

In conjunction with this remodeling boom, every aspect of bath design -- from sinks and color schemes to tubs and tiles -- is seeing some type of upgrade, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

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Homeowners with the luxury of a spacious bath are adding freestanding soaking tubs to complement glass showers.

Bath design is moving toward the simplicity of clean lines, modern updates that keep a traditional vibe. Which fits perfectly with the sleek chrome fixtures, under-mount sinks, white counters and tiles displayed in Home Show booths. Glass is also important to this look because it elongates sight lines, giving the illusion of greater space without a shower curtain or partition to segment the room.

"About 50 percent of all our installations are tub-to-shower conversions," says Nelson Wong, president of Re-Bath of Chattanooga. "With boomers getting older, it's becoming more popular because a walk-in shower decreases the risk of injury stepping in and out of tubs. We don't take the time to soak in a tub anymore. We're always in a hurry."

Replacing a tub with a shower is also more environmentally friendly. A shower with a water-saving head uses about 2.5 gallons of water per minute while a bath can consume 40 or more gallons.

There are three types of glass shower doors with which consumers should become familiar before starting a renovation. Kohler's website gives a description of each and where they work:

* Bypass (or sliding doors): Two overlapping panels that glide back and forth that offer ease of installation. They are practical space savers for small baths as well as able to accommodate showers wider than 48 inches. Available in frameless and framed models.

* Pivot: Doors that swing open, usually made in a heavier glass for structural integrity. They come in framed and frameless models and adapt to a variety of shower configurations. Wong, of Re-Bath, advises that pivotal doors require professional installation, whereas sliders can usually be installed by do-it-yourselfers.

* Steam: These specialty shower doors help transform the bath into a home spa, efficiently sealing the shower for management of steam. They are available in pivot and bypass styles, and some select models include an adjustable top panel (a transom) to ventilate the shower.

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New bathroom technology 1. The Vola freestanding shower system with thermostat is a slender, sculpted design with a modern shape. It mimics natural rainfall with 120 jets, but the intensity and temperature of the water can be easily adjusted. 2. The ThermaSol steam shower offers patented FastStart technology to make steam in seconds and SmartSteam technology to store your ideal steam room temperature. It is equipped with Bluetooth technology. 3. Watermark's Elan Vital collection combines industrial design with the ability to customize the shower.

Brian Brock, manager of Hullco, also sees baby boomers going from a tub-and-tile surround to a glass shower that is easier to get into, more efficient than a bath and easy to clean. He's finding new empty-nesters decide they no longer need or want a tub when their grown kids are out of the house.

"Nobody there is taking a bath, and they are converting to a shower. We are also seeing people wanting to move away from heavy-duty cleaning. So we are tearing out a lot of tile and fiberglass and going back in with acrylic, which is antimicrobial and easier to clean," says Brock.

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A glass shower's spacious feeling balances the furniture piece used for the bath vanity and a soaking tub, partially visible at right. Design by Jonathan Gilreath-Harvey, interior designer with Yessick's Design Center.

Homeowners who do have the luxury of a spacious bath are adding freestanding soaking tubs to complement glass showers. The National Kitchen & Bath Association suggests there be "clear floor space at least 30 inches wide extending the same length as the tub" to be installed.

"Customers want freestanding tubs with air jets as opposed to a whirlpool. People are actually going back to the claw-foot tub," says Jonathan Gilreath-Harvey, designer with Yessick's Design Center. "It gives it that retro feel. Everyone is wanting that vintage traditional look."

Air jets are also in demand for walk-in tubs. Wong debunks the idea that walk-in tubs only accommodate senior adults with limited mobility.

"We have a lot of people, younger adults, with athletic injuries who want them for therapy. Walk-ins have water jets, air jets, built-in seating," says Wong.

The National Kitchen & Bath Association predicts gray will be the leading color choice in bath designs this spring. But Southern women love their bright colors. Gilreath-Harvey says paint colors in blues and reds -- particularly marsala, that brown-red hue that is the Pantone color of the year -- are popular local choices.

"The taupe-colored wall lingers, but we're getting more into traditional earth tones," he says. "And we're going back to a lot of wallpaper, especially in master baths. Again, that's part of returning to the traditional look."

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.