By Jared Fiel
Darcy Wallshein had a vision when she convinced her husband, Nate, to sell their townhouse and move into a home she found in Fort Collins. “It was the right house,” she says. “It needed some updating. A lot of it looked like the early 2000s. But I knew it would be right. Nate wasn’t so sure.”
Darcy’s vision for updating focused on the master bathroom, which happens to look out over the nearby farm. “It all started with something I found on Pinterest,” she says. She brought the idea to Kitchen &w Bath Design Center (KBDC) in Fort Collins. “And we just ran with it from there.”
“They wanted something that was for them,” says Cathy Norman, co-owner of KBDC. “What they got was quite a bathroom.”
The team designed his and hers showers on each side of a free-standing bathtub with marble-looking tile throughout. “Nate said, ‘We don’t need two showers and the tub,’” Darcy recalls. “But I told him that even though we don’t have kids yet, when we do, we can throw them in the tub and hose them off in there.”
The design also used natural lighting, and that gives her a chance to look out the windows at the nearby farm. “The highlight is the scenery,” she says. “That landscape was what I wanted when I started this. And now I can look out and even see cows walking by,” she says.
The Wallsheins did all of this during the pandemic, a big reason why remodelers are experiencing a bathroom boom.
“People have been stuck in their homes for a year,” Norman says. “We are seeing a real shift in people just wanting to bring the spa-feel home. You want to feel pampered when you are spending a lot of time at home.”
Lindsey Ehmke, co-owner of Colorado Kitchen and Bath in Greeley, agrees that people are in the mood for something new. “People are more picky about what they want, which is good,” she says. “They see something on HGTV and they think that could work in their home.”
During the pandemic, a lot of people’s expenses went down substantially, says Austin Abla of Veron Builders of Boulder. “When you are working from home and you see the same thing every day, you just get sick of it and there is some extra capital now to do something about it.”
Abla says the finishes a client chooses can make the difference in the feel of the project, but they also are the biggest difference between a remodel that costs $10,000 to one that can be 10 times that. “We see it all,” he says.
All the designers say the key to a good remodel is communication, even if they all work differently: Some give you homework with a survey. Some want to be in the space as you plan it out. Some want to take you to different showrooms to let you feel what is possible. But in the end, everyone wants your remodel to be what you want.
“It can be really overwhelming for that first visit,” Ehmke says. “But you are the one spending the money, and you should do it how you want.”
TO TUB OR NOT TO TUB?
If you want to get a heated debate going with bathroom remodelers, just bring up if you should keep, expand or get rid of your bathtub.
“We take out more tubs than we install,” says Norman, who uses the extra space to design for extra large shower spaces and storage.
Beth Bishop, broker associate with The Group Real Estate, says she sees more homes without tubs. “Many of our newer primary bathrooms are designed with oversized walk-in showers.”
But Bishop prefers homes with one tub because they are easier for parents. “My rule of thumb for my clients that are looking to remodel is to keep at least one bathtub in the house,” she says. “Tubs can be handy for parents bathing kids, and it can still fulfill the need for a desired relaxation escape.”
“I have sold two homes recently that had removed the tub but kept the plumbing in place under the tile floor for a future addition of a tub if a new owner ever wanted it. With this open floor space, the sellers had placed a bench and a great towel storage display,” says Bishop.
The one thing everyone seems to agree with is that jacuzzi-style tubs have gone the way of the dodo. If you still have one, it’s time to make it extinct.
WILL A BATHROOM REMODEL HELP YOUR RESALE VALUE?
Remodelers and real estate brokers agree the best remodel that can affect your resale value is the kitchen. The bathroom, pardon the term, is No. 2.
Beth Bishop, broker associate with The Group Real Estate, says any remodeling can help, though. “I have seen buyers pay substantially more than a seller’s list price when homes have had some form of remodel in the kitchen and bathrooms,” Bishop says. “We all love a top to bottom remodel, but this doesn’t mean you need to spend a load of cash before placing the real estate sign in the yard.”
She suggests affordable updates like lighting fixtures, modern mirrors, paint and new hardware.
“If you decide to remodel to sell, make sure you are selecting materials that are the hot trends and styles…even if you don’t like them,” Bishop says. “Do some research and enlist some recommendations from designers. Make sure you know what colors and themes are popular.”
“If you remodel to your taste and not the mainstream buyer,” she continues, “then you have wasted your money. I have seen sellers drop thousands installing new granite prior to their sale that was out of date in styling and my buyers came in and tore it out within 30 days after closing. If you are going to take on the project, make sure the project adds value to your home.”
But what if you don’t plan on moving any time soon but want to remodel for yourself while ensuring some return on the investment when you do sell?
Designers suggest neutral colors for fixtures, vanities and tiles. For splashes of color, add items that are easily switched out or removed when you decide to sell, such as paint, towels and wall art.
“Except a powder room,” says Cathy Norman of Kitchen & Bath Design Center of those guest bathrooms without a tub or shower. “Just go crazy with bolder finishes. Nobody goes in there as much. In there, it is more for fun than function.”
MAKE PEOPLE WOO OVER YOUR LOO WITH THESE ITEMS:
Heated floors. This is Colorado. Cold winter months and bare feet are not a good combo. This is such a popular item that DIYers can find everything you need to do it yourself at your local hardware store.
Floating vanities. An engineering marvel that looks like a magic trick and really opens up the space in a bathroom, a floating vanity attaches to the wall instead of the floor.
Body jets and hand wands. There are a lot more options for your shower than that handheld thing you bought when Reagan was in office.
Touch panels and mood lighting. Just in case you want the full Star Trek experience in your bathroom.
Steam showers. This requires a new unit plus a fully sealed shower glass area, but if you are looking to recreate that spa feel at home, there are few things better.
Washlets. Kind of like a bidet that attaches to the toilet seat. Some can remember the settings for each person in the house.
A wine fridge? “We’ve only done one of them, but they really wanted a wine fridge in their bathroom,” says Austin Abla of Veron Builders of Boulder.