When it comes to faucets, Ellen Gilday Witts says that low-maintenance chrome and brushed nickel remain the most popular. Warm antique brass is gaining traction, too.
Carolyn Thomas is seeing more interest in chrome and polished nickel: "Chrome has come back with a vengeance.
SCULPTURAL SINKS, TUBS, AND TOILETS
"What I've seen in the past two years is a real movement toward a sculptural sense in the bathroom," Thomas says. "Each of the things in the bathroom has a curvilinear feel."
And people love polished nickel--it has a beautiful color and beautiful shine."
A vanity or toilet with a sculptural shape might be suspended from the wall, almost floating in space like art. "And a lot of times when people have room for a tub, they're putting in a freestanding, sculptural piece that's sitting off by itself," Thomas says, "sort of the way in the Victorian period you had clawfoot tubs that sat in the middle of the room. But these are very contemporary-looking."
As for cabinet finishes, "black stain and natural maple are in," says Jason Holstine of Amicus Green Building Center. "They can be put into a variety of styles. Flexibility is a big factor these days as people think more long-term."
Likewise, flat-panel and Shaker-style cabinets are popular, he says, because they're "less trend-sensitive."
Glass tile is still very popular. "Glass tile has a clear, cheerful look," says David Bartley of Bartley Tile Concepts in Bethesda.
Companies such as Oceanside Glasstile and IceStone sell tiles made from shards of glass and other recycled products for a "green" choice that's also stunning.
"It used to be that many homeowners viewed the use of reclaimed material in a newly built, custom space as undesirable," says Shannon Kadwell. "But now I have clients with luxurious walk-in showers or tub surrounds with glass tile made from old beer bottles, and it looks fabulous."
Another trend is mixing tiles--particularly glass and stone--to give a room texture. Having different surfaces, Thomas says, is "much more interesting than all glass or all stone. I'm also seeing natural stone mixed with wood when not in a wet area. That's what you find in nature--stone and wood."
Homeowners aren't always embracing all things natural. Thomas is seeing more people opt for engineered materials on countertops because they're easier to care for than natural-stone tile, which has to be sealed.
Classic honed marble and limestone floors will never go out of style, says Ellen Gilday Witts, but today's homeowners have lots to choose from when it comes to flooring.
"Our customers are moving away from the rustic look of tumbled stone and instead selecting marble, limestone, and slate with straight edges in honed, patina, or gloss finishes," David Bartley says.
Bowa's Josh Baker has seen many clients steering away from polished marble and gravitating to warmer finishes.
"We use a lot of matte finishes so that it feels like it's been there a long time," says Witts. The main difference between matte floors then and now: Today's marble and stone floors often feature radiant heat.
Those with maintenance concerns sometimes opt for easier-to-care-for porcelain flooring made to look like stone. Experts suggest choosing a style with natural variations for a more realistic feel.
Carolyn Thomas says customers are opting to mix various sizes of tiles: "Patterning on the floor seems to be a big thing. One section of the floor will be small tiles, almost mosaic-size, with larger tiles next to them. But it's all the same color. Changing the scale of the tiles gives interest to the walls and floors."
Another choice gaining favor is cork. Although it's a relatively new player in bathroom flooring, the use of cork dates back more than 100 years, Jason Holstine says. The material is warmer and easier on joints than harder surfaces, plus it's antibacterial.
Its low ecological impact gives it appeal among the eco-minded. "Cork comes from the bark of a cork-oak tree every nine years," says Holstine. "Trees can still produce when they're 200 years old, which makes them extremely environmentally sustainable."
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.