"It's All About Wellness": Designer Allison Babcock on the 2024 Spa Bath

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"A spa bathroom should be an experience," Sag Harbor–based interior designer Allison Babcock is fond of saying. She's not wrong. The wellness wave is well-documented, as more homeowners seek to create distinct moments in their bath spaces where they can relax and unwind from the day. "It's a place that can transport you from your day into a calming environment."

Photo by Claire Esparros

Babcock has been creating these experiences for her clients for over 25 years. A nationally recognized interior design authority whose work is frequently highlighted in magazines from Ocean Home and Hamptons to Modern Luxury Interiors, Babock is known for her sophisticated aesthetic in coastal New York havens. Her designs weave modern elegance with timeless comfort. Her talent for juxtaposition is readily on display, achieving the right balance of luxurious textiles, natural materials, color and clean silhouettes. The result is that her spaces feel fresh and crisp, yet undeniably warm.

The writing staff at the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program recently caught up with Babcock to get her thoughts on where the bath-as-sanctuary design movement is currently. She shared the spa bath trends that are in and out for 2024, her No. 1 rule for creating a sense of sanctuary and which design feature she's happy to say goodbye to this year.

North Haven Primary Bath | Photo by Keith Scott Morton


Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat makes a bathroom "a spa bath"?

Allison BabcockCreating spa bathrooms is all in the design details that give the space a luxurious look and feel and provide the elements that are important to feeling relaxed. Choosing elevated materials like marble, natural stone, bamboo and wood, separating the toilet into a designated water closet as well as the shower from the tub, selecting the right faucets and showerheads, providing ample storage and lighting that is controlled in each space are essential design elements that make for a spa bathroom.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat does the 2024 spa bath look like, and how is it different from the spa bath of, say, 10 years ago?

Allison BabcockThe spa bathroom of a decade ago was thought of more in terms of opulence, extravagance and being over the top. It often was more about the parts than the sum of it all.  It was about having a space that said you’ve arrived.  In 2024, the spa bathroom is all about wellness - taking into account mind, body and soul. It is luxurious but it does not shout,  it whispers.

Spa bathrooms are all about quality materials with an emphasis on natural and organic, soft or muted color palettes – creamy whites, pale grays and neutral tones and keeping the feeling of an airy space – further achieved with fixtures in brushed nickel or polished chrome finishes and glass doors for the shower. This all works towards having a tranquil space for self-care and enhancing your mood.

North Haven Primary Bath | Photo by Keith Scott Morton

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat spa bath trends are out for this year?

Allison BabcockThe days of brightly and boldly colored bathrooms, mixing too many types of materials, and busy or textured tiles are definitely out. There is also a rustic overload, so we can say goodbye to the barn door as the bathroom door.   

NYC Marble Sink | Photo by Trevor Parker

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat spa bath trends are in for this year?

Allison BabcockThe influence of nature is gaining serious momentum. The benefits of being in and connecting with nature are really being understood and incorporated into the spa bathroom through natural elements. This includes doing it in simple ways from adding indoor plants, such as bamboo, eucalyptus or orchids, to create a clean and serene ambiance to incorporating subtle natural textures through accents, such as pebble flooring, teak wood slats on showers with window panes (without neighbors) that open up to the fresh air or even stone walls. These organic elements will deliver the soothing power of nature while enhancing the spa-like atmosphere.

NYC Primary Bath | Photo by Trevor Parker

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s your No. 1 rule when it comes to creating the feeling of sanctuary in a bath space?

Allison BabcockIf you want to have a rejuvenating, spa bathroom experience then it has to be clutter-free to give you the spa retreat feel. The first thing I tell people is to invest in storage solutions for the long term. You need to have space for bathroom essentials and they need to be organized and in a place that is easily accessible.  To do this, I recommend built-in cabinetry, floating shelves, storage cubes and baskets to stash everything from plush towels of all sizes and bath soaps and hair care products and tools to cosmetics and skin care products. Keeping surfaces clean is the first rule to having a serene luxurious spa bathroom.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat is one of your favorite recent spa bath projects, and why?

Allison BabcockTransforming a traditional farmhouse bathroom while preserving its original charm, we seamlessly integrated modern amenities and luxurious accents. Retaining the iconic freestanding bathtub and pedestal sink, while we elevated the space with contemporary touches. The mirror and vanity received an upgrade with elegant shell-shaped light fixtures and a stylish stool. To add a timeless flair, we adorned the walls with classic custom burnt red toile wallpaper, while ensuring the overall ambiance remained fresh and airy with a predominantly white color scheme.

Peconic Bay Bath | Photo by Tria Giovan Photography

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryAre there elements that you try to incorporate into all your spa bath designs?

Allison BabcockWe try to incorporate as much counter space as possible and storage options for a clutter-free and calming environment. We curate a selection of storage options customized to our client’s needs, like extra deep drawers that accommodate blow dryers and other hot tools that allow them to remain tangle-free in addition we add electrical outlets into the cabinetry for easy use.  This all is designed to seamlessly integrate into the bathroom's overall look, ensuring functionality without compromising on aesthetics. From sleek cabinets to cleverly concealed compartments, every element is thoughtfully chosen to enhance the sense of calm and relaxation within the space.

Sag Harbor Primary Bath Shower | Photo by Keith Scott Morton

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s the No. 1 design feature that your clients are asking for in their baths?

Allison BabcockFrom small jewel boxes to luxurious spa bathrooms, clients all want to incorporate smart technology. We have installed smart mirrors with hidden television monitors that are only visible when turned on to ones with built-in adjustable lighting to spa bathrooms and showers that are truly an experience with integrated Bluetooth speakers and lighting.  In some of our clients’ vacation homes, we have added a shower system that can be programmed to allow them to adjust the water temperature, level of water pressure, and even infuse aromatherapy.

NYC Penthouse Shower | Photo by Trevor Parker

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryIn terms of bath products, what’s the ultimate splurge?

Allison BabcockThere is nothing like walking into your bathroom and feeling the warmth of a heated floor. If there is room in the budget, I encourage clients to indulge in installing radiant heat for the floors and heated towel warmers in the bathroom. These are two items that are a true luxury and definitely bring the spa experience into the home.

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