Many a man — and woman — have spent more time in the master bathroom than in the kitchen.
That’s why the latest market for computerized home gadgetry is a dream come true. What was once a simple bathroom can now be transformed into a high-tech oasis with a shower that remembers your preferred water temperature, home theater systems and TV hidden in the mirror.
“There is so much money going into the master bath these days,” says Suzie Williford, vice president of Kiva Kitchen and Bath, based in Houston, and president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “We rarely do a bathroom these days that has a standard shower, a standard toilet and a standard sink.”
Here are some options to turn your bathroom into a high-tech oasis:
The shower as status symbol
For the high-tech bath, you can go for amazing shower wizardry. Digital temperature settings from a variety of manufacturers now let you preset water temperature for your shower — so you no longer have to fiddle with the hot and cold water knobs. “People tend to like their showers the same way every time,” says Bernice Parent, an interior designer in Fairfax, Va., who has worked with several clients adding high tech to bathroom redesign. Some showers allow you to program different temperature settings for different members of the family. Wireless networking is also now available in such shower systems as the Grohe Digital Shower Grohtherm Wireless, which allows you to start the flow of water at a precise temperature from anywhere in the house.
Spa treatments at home
Features once only available at luxury spas are now in-home. Steam showers and “rain showers” are popular and affordable options. The two-person steam shower Monza from Wasauna features built-in seats, a rain showerhead and seven different lighting schemes. Manufacturers such as Kohler now sell soak tubs that promise “a full spectrum of color lighting.”
Bathroom: the multimedia experience
Move over, shower radio. These days, your shower sound system can range from the Apple Store’s portable iHome iH20, a water-resistant speaker for the iPod, to a full-fledged, thousand-dollar built-in home theater system with nickel- or chrome-plated speakers from Kohler to match your faucets. And now that flat-panel TVs are so unobtrusive, they’ve also been making a beeline into the bathroom. Seura makes high-end televisions incorporated into mirrors. Meanwhile, manufacturers such as Wasauna and DiVapor now also make jetted bathtubs and whirlpools with built-in TVs, making it easy to keep up with the news.
Mirror, mirror in the shower
Even the bathroom mirror isn’t immune from technological improvements. Companies such as ClearMirror and MirrorMate have developed mirror defoggers and heaters that attach to the backs of bathroom mirrors to keep them dry and free of fog in the steamiest circumstances.
Some gizmos to make it hot
In cold-weather regions, you no longer need to suffer from cold bathroom tile floors. “There’s a lot of interest in radiant heat under the tile floor,” Parent says. “You can put it on a timer so that when you get out of bed, it’s already warmed up.” Heated toilet seats are also…well, hot. Kohler’s Heated French Curve seat installs in minutes, plugs into a grounded outlet and heats to 25 degrees Fahrenheit above room temperature. TOTO’s S400 Washlet combines a heated seat with hands-free flushing, and an automatic lid opening and closure.
So when you’re ready to trick out your master bath, don’t forget to bring the remote.
Image credit: William Byrd
Elizabeth Wasserman is a freelance writer and editor based in Fairfax, Va. She writes for a variety of publications including Congressional Quarterly and Inc. magazine, and she edits the online publication CIO Strategy Center.