“Self-care” is a relatively new buzzword, but the concept is nothing unfamiliar. To practice self-care is to take time to check in with yourself emotionally, spiritually or in whichever way — or place — you can unwind best.

Its many meanings span from mental and emotional upkeep, to physical upgrades that can benefit a person’s overall well-being for a more balanced, healthy life. If you can think of self-care as not just a headspace, but a real space, design experts will tell you it often materializes in the home as a fully renovated bathroom.

“With a new focus on health and wellness, bathrooms as sanctuary spaces have become very important,” said Caroline Harmon, trend strategy manager for Lowe’s Home Improvement. “It’s where most of the time is spent preparing for the day and unwinding at night, so there’s an opportunity to elevate the aesthetic, and turn (the bathroom) into an oasis from the hectic everyday.”

For as peaceful and relaxing as a bathroom should be, homeowners investing in one must ensure the new design meets other practical needs, like overall flow and function, increasing the home’s value and preventing mistakes or surprises in the handiwork.

Sandra Fox, founder and president of Sensory Six Architecture and Interior Design in Saratoga Springs, said those are just a few of the reasons why she and her team is involved in so many bathroom redesigns. Kevin Gutman, co-founder of Bennett Contracting in Albany, agrees. Bathrooms are among the top two renovation projects Bennett takes on at a rate of around 100 bathrooms per year in the Capital Region.

While the do-it-yourself attitude is one of the quickest ways to complete a project, both experts say bringing a professional into a bathroom remodel from the start makes for a cohesive, creative experience that’s more likely to go according to plan.

“Bathroom design and construction is complex, and DIY projects can result in costly errors,” Fox  said . “We begin our process by understanding how our clients anticipate functioning in the space.”

If Fox’s client shares a bathroom with a significant other, it’s a cue to incorporate double sinks into the design. And when there’s a lust (and a budget) for luxury, she can please a person sensitive to the cold with an upgrade to heated floors, or a news hound with a small flat screen television to watch their favorite morning show.

“Engaging a professional gives you access to some of the latest materials and technologies on the market,” Fox  said . “We can find the newest and best of what’s out there.”

Trending today is a bathroom that wholly embodies the meaning of clean, from the simple, timeless aesthetic to its ease of use.

“People want cleanliness without sacrificing style,” Fox  said. “And high-traffic areas like bathrooms are top of mind when it comes to hygiene.”

Balancing smart design with functional elements is key, such as incorporating antimicrobial fixtures with large-format tiles to reduce the number of grout lines where dirt can pile up. There are modern design elements that do double duty, like a floating vanity, which adds the look of luxury and makes it easier to clean the floors underneath.

There’s no feature more practical in a modern bathroom than the shower, though freestanding soaking tubs are often eyed by homeowners seeking the ultimate self care inspired space.

“Large walk-in showers remain a priority,” said Sarah McDonald, designer at Bennett Contracting. “We’re seeing our clients save up to go all out on fixtures and tile features in their showers, from full scale accent tile walls instead of small tile strips from the past, to adding multiple shower heads for an upgraded experience.”

At Jessica Mullen’s mid-century modern home in Clifton Park, a walk-in shower was a must after she and her husband reorganized renovation priorities. The couple scrapped plans to build a new pool to focus on what they believed would be a better long-term investment, remodeling the main bathroom and giving their home gym a face-lift.

“I wanted a concrete-looking walk-in shower, but had no idea how to accomplish it,” Mullen  said.

After doing some research, she found a contractor with experience creating the look she was going for. Much of his work was on display at the rustic and chic June Farms in West Sand Lake, so she felt familiar with and inspired by the style.

“We live in an old, funky home, and my vibe is very bohemian and modern,” Mullen said. “I wanted to take the bathroom from something you might’ve seen in Tony Soprano’s house to something fresh and clean.”

Mullen’s renovation is still a work-in-progress, but it already incorporates many of the design elements the experts say are hottest right now.

“We went with a floating teak vanity, mixed metal fixtures with champagne brass and matte black, and a bold hexagonal tile of varying sizes for the floor and the shower,” Mullen said.

Mullen enjoyed using her own background in design to work alongside a professional team that could make sure the complete gut renovation went smoothly, though that doesn’t always mean quickly. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has added weeks, sometimes months to renovation schedules due to limited supply, shipping delays and an overall increase in demand.

“With the current level of demand, be patient when it comes to a large project like a bathroom remodel,” Gutman  said. “The planning stage can take a month or two before anything is ordered, and then comes the manufacturing and delivery process.”

?-?    Antimicrobial fixtures
?-?    Floating vanities
?-?    Light therapy shower heads
?-?    White toilets, sinks and showers for a timeless (vs. trendy) investment

?-?    Bold wallpaper and tile choices
?-?    Back-lit mirrors
?-?    Classic, natural materials like marble or stone
?-?    Mixed metals and matte black fixtures
?-?    Frameless shower door

?-?    Freestanding soaking tubs
?-?    Heated floors
?-?    Heated towel racks
?-?    European style “wet room”

Gutman  said a homeowner should give themselves a four- to six-month head start from when they want the project to be done.

But once a bathroom transformation is complete, there’s no time limit to how many hours you can spend in there perfecting your self-care routine — whether it’s picking up a warm towel off a heated rack, applying a face mask in front of a back-lit mirror, or breathing a bit easier knowing your cleaning routine is simpler thanks to the upgrades you’ve made.

“The plaster, concrete-looking finish on our shower goes on in five- to six-layer increments, and each layer takes a day and a half to set,” Mullen said. “We spent a lot of time literally just watching paint dry, but my contractor loves his craft and you can tell by the quality of the work. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Taylor Rao is a frequent contributor to the Times Union. Reach her at [email protected] or @whodatgirl_2bd