Wearing sweaty spandex and helmet hair, I toured the overly opulent castles of the headless royals and other aristocracy, which showed me why the commoners of France were revolting, and how far the baths could reach.
As I walked through the dozens of lavish bedrooms and lounges furnished with exquisite furnishings, painted portraits with gilded frames, carved marble fireplaces, and ornate ceilings, I did not see a single bathroom—because there were none.
There is no royal flush, for sure. Even the Palace of Chambord, the largest palace in the valley with 426 rooms, had no bathrooms. So, imagine the residents throwing a lavish dinner party with the guests all decked out in furs, pearls, and silks sitting around an ornate dining table, so, God forbid, one of the guests needs to powder her nose?
I’ve seen a chair with a built-in room bowl.
Fortunately, French baths today are popular, but they still fall short of American standards. While I find a lot to love in France – food, fashion, perfume – I have nightmares and a day of falling into one of their public bathrooms. Toilets do not have seats. The lights turn off automatically when this is not appropriate. The floors are often wet and uneven. Windows seem to be forbidden, and ventilation has not developed since the Middle Ages. Whenever I come back from there or from any foreign country, I thank heaven for American plumbing.
Don’t take it for granted.
By chance, I came home to find that Houzz, an online home design platform, had just released the 2022 United States Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, which collected data from more than 2,500 homeowners who recently completed or were in the middle of a bathroom remodel. Participants, with an average age of 57, answered a range of questions about finishes, fixtures, colors, costs, and more.
The neighborhood of Howes that counts homeowners installing anti-fog mirror systems and double shower heads while I had just watched how the richest French kings and queens took weekly baths from buckets was not lost on me. We all live better. I’d have an en suite bedroom over a castle without a bathroom any day.
The report also confirmed that American bathrooms, which I dare say are among the best in the world, are improving. If you’re looking to improve your data, trend data is important. Because when you embark on home improvement, you want to not only make your life better but also enhance the value of your home, which will not happen if you are not aware of market trends.
I took a look at the 32-page report, then called Hus economist Marin Sargsyan to walk me through the findings. But at first, I had to ask: “What’s wrong with the baths outside?”
“In other parts of the world, people tend to regard bathrooms as purely practical, while Americans think of them as a place to de-stress and relax,” Sargsyan said. “But you’ll be happy to know that bathroom remodeling is the most popular project not only here but internationally as well.”
thanks God. Here are more results:
• Biggest surprise. “Wood takes the place of white,” Sargsyan said. “For the longest time, white has been the dominant color in bathroom and kitchen cabinets, so we were very excited to see wood-colored cabinets, for the second year in a row, trending up, along with other colors.” While 32% of respondents chose white, 30% chose wood (mostly medium in color), followed by gray (14%), blue (7%), black (5%), and green (2%). “We still see white in bathrooms and on walls, which gives the look of cleanliness people want.”
• main motive. The number one reason homeowners renovate bathrooms is because they are tired of their old style (48%). The second biggest driver (33%) is that the old room is crumbling.
• average price. Average national spending on bathroom remodels jumped 13% from last year to $9,000, according to the report. The cost of the largest 10% of projects rose 17% to $35,000 or more.
• popular movements. Replace over 80% of remodels of faucets, floors, showers, lamps, and wall finishes. More than three-quarters (76%) have replaced vanity. Most (59%) chose white counters. The majority (53%) chose natural stone such as quartzite, marble, or granite, while 40% chose engineered quartz, which is man-made, and the less expensive semi-quartz.
• style direction. This year, transitional style (a mixture of traditional and contemporary or modern) has overtaken modern and contemporary styles as the preferred design style. Now at 25%, transitional looks have been growing exponentially over the past four years. Modern and Contemporary styles declined to 16% each. Conventional produce came in at 11%, and the farmhouse appears to be flat at 5%.
• Touchless technology. Sargsyan said that motion-activated toilets and hands-free faucets are not intended for airports anymore. Half of the respondents installed one or more high-tech features in their remodeled bathrooms. Nearly two in five added a high-tech toilet feature, with notable increases in toilets (24%), self-cleaning items (17%), heated seats (15%) and built-in night lights (13%).
Many have also installed tankless water heaters, radiant heated floors, and anti-fog mirrors.
• Professional help. Recognizing that bathrooms are complex spaces, 85% of homeowners have hired a builder, and 13% have hired a designer.
• Most Important Promotion: If you can’t afford an entire bathroom remodel, start with systems. “The average home life in the United States is 40 years, which is why our survey shows 62% of homeowners have upgraded bathroom fixtures and vents,” Sargsyan said. “If the systems aren’t working, no amount of design will help you enjoy the space.”
Marnie Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including What To Do With All You Own To Leave The Legacy You Want, Downsizing The Family Home – What To Save, What To Leave, and Downsizing Blended Home – When two families become one. You can access it at marnijameson.com.