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Fall is prime renovating season, but an influx of exciting new products and the 2009 federal renovation tax incentive make this autumn an especially good time to tackle the bathroom. Here are what some of Canada's top experts in the field are citing as the hottest trends for powder rooms, lavatories and spas.

Cheap Chic

Yes, people are still wary about spending great sums of money, so easy bathroom updates such as replacing old faucets, handles and drawer pulls with trendier, more contemporary versions will be a popular way of adding oomph to a tired loo, says Calgary-based interior designer Alykhan Velji, who is currently starring on TV's My Rona Home , a reality show about home renovations.

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He also suggests getting creative with tiles. "The layout of a tile - even a simple, inexpensive style - can really add interest to a space. Try random patterns or variously sized tiles. Alternatively, lay down larger, 12-by-24-inch tiles in a stacked pattern for a linear look that isn't terribly costly and can go a long way toward making a small bathroom feel bigger."

Patterned tiles

Reflecting the recent appetite for "decorated" loos, ceramic tiles sporting faux wood grain finishes or ornate wallpaper-like patterns are proving popular with renovators seeking to connect their bathrooms with the rest of the house. "These tiles, which are available at a wide range of tile and stone stores, are a great way to create visual flow in a dwelling," says Karl Lohnes, home and decor expert for CTV's Canada AM . "Bathrooms often break up the decor flow in a home by having a cold, antiseptic feeling, but now an entire house can have a uniform appeal."

A soft, dreamy look

Modern life can be hard, so a soft, dreamy retreat defined by rounded edges and literally cushy surfaces holds a lot of allure these days. For North America's first Dove Spa in Oakville, Ont., designer and TV personality Ramsin Khachi created an otherworldly grey/white space with understated lighting and almost no square corners.

"My inspiration was heaven, clouds, softness," he says. "The lighting is subtle and disappears into drywall; the walls and fixtures have rounded edges. Even the flooring is soft: I used a liquid vinyl to create a cushioned floor. And I'm now transferring a lot of these elements into many of my residential projects."

Urban Dandyism

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Angular lines, handsome wood finishes and furniture, colours such as flannel grey and chocolate brown. Imagine the elements of a chic gentleman's study transferred to a bathroom and you get an idea of a trendy look for loos this fall. "I'm loving the look of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tile in browns, greys and other earthy shades," Vancouver-based designer Erik Lauzon says. "This simple palette balances the sheer amount of tile. Sharp-edged showers, sinks and cabinetry also reflect a more male-oriented look."

Unless you're a committed bachelor, though, such an overtly masculine aesthetic is best tempered with a few feminine elements, such as an ornate chandelier or a curvy mirror, Khachi says. "Many clients are looking for a masculine-feminine combination," he adds. "My wife liked this [tension]so much that we incorporated it into our own bathroom."

Gold fixtures

Sure, silver-toned fixtures will always be in style, but many designers agree that matte or weathered gold finishes (forget shiny brass) are one of the biggest trends in bathrooms in a while. Proof was offered during a recent visit I made to Kohler headquarters in Wisconsin, where the kitchen and bath company's 36,000-square-foot design centre showcased a massive selection of gold fixtures and accessories. Shade options range from Moderne Gold to Vibrant French Gold. Kohler attributes the "warmth and richness" of the hues to their resurgent popularity.

Stylish sustainability

Beyond the heightened eco-awareness of consumers these days, bathroom elements that conserve water or energy also reduce household bills, making them especially popular this fall. But decorators still want them to look good. "Conservation isn't about doing more with less," says Donna Church, manager of marketing and communications for Kohler Canada, which offers a wide array of dual-flush toilets and water-saving showerheads as sleek as they are eco-friendly.

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It isn't just faucets and toilets, however, that are getting the enviro-chic treatment. To the delight of semi-gloss-hating designers everywhere, a number of paint companies have introduced matte-finish paints that are both eco-friendly and moisture-resistant. Benjamin Moore's Aura Bath & Spa line, for instance, offers options low in volatile organic compounds that retain their colour integrity in even the steamiest conditions.

The allure of orange

After years as a hot accent colour in living rooms and dens, orange is making its way into bathrooms, although it's not the Day-Glo orange of the 1970s. "We are seeing a lot of beautiful, soft oranges," says Sharon Grech, colour and design manager for Benjamin Moore. "It's a perfect complement to every skin tone, making it an ideal colour for the bathroom." Note to those who can't get enough of fall: It's also a great way to maintain that autumnal feeling all year long.

Interior stylist Janette Ewen ( is a regular contributor to TV's Cityline.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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