Bathroom design

Updating the master bath in the
last three decades has involved much more than selecting fixtures. In the
1980s, it was all about the Big Bath, with whirlpools for two and so much space
you could practically park an SUV or two. The next big trend was the Spa Bath,
with niceties such as bubbling massages, chroma- and aromatherapy, and rain
showers. This still has traction, as the optimal ambience for the master bath
is as a sanctuary — a place to melt away stress.

But what’s influencing the
design of products for all baths today is partly due to environmental,
sociological and economic factors. At the spring Kitchen and Bath Show (KBIS)
in Chicago, water conservation and universal design were front and centre, as
much as great style, value, the high-tech and the edgy. And manufacturers
understand that not only has the economy affected the way consumers are
remodelling — researchers at Moen call it “Remodel-Lite” — they may not just
be refreshing one room at a time, but only one item at a time, say a shower
head or a new faucet.

And that’s a good place to
start. Joining low- and dual-flush toilets in the push to conserve water are
shower heads that follow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines
called WaterSense. Moen uses the term “eco-performance” to describe the
balancing of a fixture’s performance with its water efficiency. The company has
redesigned 17 of its shower-heads (even rain) so that they use up to 30 percent
less water (a 10-minute shower can use more than 25 gallons). Also, its
water-efficient faucets feature a flow of 1.5 gallons per minute — the
standard rate is about 2.2 gpm. (WaterSense guidelines for toilet flush are 20 percent
less than the standard 1.6 gallons per flush.)

Grohe’s Rainshower Rainbow
collection has a new SprayDimmer, a small lever that enables users to control
water flow with one finger. This device, its makers say, reduces volume rather
than blocking individual nozzles. In addition, one model, the Icon, a
donut-shaped hand shower, soon will be available in a rainbow of vibrant hues:
blue, purple, pink, red, orange and yellow.

For existing bath faucets, Moen
has introduced aerators that effectively save up to 32 percent more water.

In addition to concerns about
water conservation, manufacturers are turning their attention to safety and
ergonomics for all generations.

According to a report from the
National Association of Home Builders, 70 percent of re-modellers are making
universal-design home modifications, a significant 10 percent bump up from

Nearly 80 percent of baby
boomers surveyed say they plan to age in place, according to a recent study by
the American Society of Interior Designers. Living in the home safely,
independently and comfortably, of course, is a goal regardless of age or
ability level.

Consequently, safety features
such as grab bars are getting more design consideration. And they’re being
integrated in shower systems, such as one exemplary modern unit by Delta, which
also features a zero-clearance threshold (no step), built-in soap dish and a

For those with limited mobility,
there’s a new accessible bath from Aquatic. The modern design features an
easy-transfer automated door that lowers to open and rises to close. A huge
improvement over existing models is a patent-pending quick-drain feature that
empties 70 gallons in 30 seconds, allowing the bather to exit sooner.

Adding to its line of Safety
Tubs is a kid version in the shape of a fire truck (a butterfly carriage is
another option) that fits over a traditional 60-inch bathtub. It’s elevated to
a 37-inch height so that a parent doesn’t have to stoop or bend over to bathe a

Appealing to the inner child are
products that light up with LED technology — in air massage tubs, from and
around shower heads, around sinks, mirrors, set into tiles to embed on floors,
walls or ceilings, lights that glow from within (a stainless-steel cabinet from
Lasterton has decorative cutouts that reveal color on display shelves inside)
— and smart technology, with digital panels, even remote controls.

A wireless remote with a large
LCD panel, for example, operates Toto’s fully automatic combination toilet and
bidet seat, which it calls the Washlet. The company says that use of the
Washlet, which fits over existing toilets, reduces paper as well as water
consumption. Cited is an independent study that suggests the average family of
four uses 183 rolls of toilet paper per year (or 1.3 trees). One roll of TP per
day equals four gallons of water. And the Washlet uses only a half a gallon of
water per day. Features (which vary by model) include auto-flush, activated by
sensors or the simple touch of a button; automatic open/close lid; hands-free
softClose seat/lid; front and rear cleansing options; massage feature; warm-air
drying with three-temperature setting; automatic air purifier; heated seat with
temperature control.

A new controller called
ioDIGITAL from Moen sets ideal temperature and flow in the shower. An optional
remote further offers the ability to turn on the shower (or tub) from across
the room — up to 30 feet away

For consumers who prefer the
convenience of single-handle lavatory faucets, there are some elegant choices.
Kohler’s articulating faucet is a smaller profile version of its Karbon kitchen
model; there’s also a multifunction sprayhead, handy for rinsing and cleaning.

Vanities also are acquiring some
welcome features — on the inside. Robern’s first foray into this design is a winning
one, with all sorts of amenities: a night light, including soft lighting inside
the drawer when open; a hair dryer organizer that combines built-in electrical
outlets with a holster for cord management; a slim drawer insert designed to
keep smaller items from spilling into a mess; easy-to-clean, removable glass
bins; glass dividers; and electrical outlets integrated on the inside.

Besides organisational features
and ease of use, simplifying installation and making it more cost-effective is
the goal of some manufacturers. A wastewater transfer system called Bathroom
Anywhere, manufactured by Tecma, is a macerator pump capable of pumping up to
18 feet vertically and 150 feet horizontally, tying into the main wastewater
line without breaking concrete. The company claims that this system saves
between $1,500 and $3,000 from the rehab bill.

And a quick backsplash solution
is Stone Skin, real mosaic stone that is packaged in a peel-and-stick format.
The ultra thin sheets (.15 inch) can be installed over dry wall and even
existing tile.

Best of all, with more attention
focused on designing products that are green, safe, ergonomic and easy to
install, there’s plenty of style to go around.

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