Turn Your Shower into a Spa Retreat
Unlike your bathtub, typically used for only the occasional soak, your shower gets a workout every day. So, both designers and consumers are looking to intensify the daily shower experience with innovations such as steam showers, chromatherapy and multiple showerheads that can massage you like a soft summer rain or a Swedish masseuse on steroids. Here's an array of innovations that will make you never want to leave your shower.
How you enter it is the first thing to consider. A frameless glass door is one new option, where the glass seems to float without support. Tempered safety glass in either 3/8- or 1/2-inch thickness gives an airy, open feeling to the space — great for a small shower. For a larger space, you can dispense with a door entirely. Put a curved tile wall or an L-shaped glass tile space that won't fence you in but will contain the water. Clarke's Iridess shower has a curved acrylic wall in four glowing colors, pearl, sea spray, azure and orchid, with 16 color choices for the floor. Another new shower enclosure material is metal — Frigo Design does them in either their exclusive fingerprint-free stainless steel or copper with a non-tarnishing sealer. Tell them your shower system and dimensions, and they'll fabricate it to your specifications.
The heart of the shower is the showerhead, with enough choices to make your own head spin, from custom shower systems to a regular showerhead with not-so regular features. A number of manufacturers, such as Kohler or Grohe, let you design your own shower system. This means choosing how many showerheads and body sprays — wall-mounted sprayers that are aimed below your shoulders — and perhaps a hand-held sprayer. The heads can be installed in wall tile or on a metal tower for acrylic surfaces. You can have almost as many sprayers as you have wall space, but as few as two are enough for some people. Hedonistic water babies could go up to 14. Kohler's WaterTiles can be custom designed. These square sprayers can be mounted on the wall or ceiling. You can choose from 22- or 54-nozzle body sprays and a 54-nozzle showerhead that can be aimed — despite its square shape — anywhere.
With all that water everywhere, you'll need to make sure your plumbing is up to the job. A standard showerhead uses about 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM), a shower system may use up to 12 to 15 GPM. Make sure you've got a hot water heater that won't leave you in a cold shower. And check to see if your water pipes are wide enough; half an inch is standard, but you may need three-quarter inch or even an inch to handle water for a custom shower system.
If you're more of a shower minimalist, a single showerhead can still pack some punch — with massaging jets or various other pampering pluses. Many have a self-cleaning mechanism, which means that you never need to worry about calcium deposits ruining your spray arc or power. Hansgrohe's Downpour Royale is one such showerhead, and in 7-, 10-, and 14-inch sizes, you can take your pick. It injects air into the water spray, which — especially if you're underneath the 14 in. model with 225 sprayers — lets you sing in the rain while you shower. And "Tiny Bubbles" isn't just a Don Ho song.
Some showerheads, such as Rohl's 3-function model, give you a choice of rain, mist or massage sprays.
Beyond the therapeutic effects of water and massage, add the holistic art of chromatherapy — using colored lights to energize or relax — to your shower. Ondine's Electric Light System (or ELS) pours light and water from each of its 270 nozzles — a combination of fiber optics and halogen lights. And for more of a therapeutic punch, add the healing power of crystals with Ondine's Krystal ELS boasting Swarovski crystals around the perimeter.
If you like a downpour instead of a drizzle, check out Kohler's Waterfall, which is part of its BodySpa line. BodySpa shower enclosures have a high-walled bottom section and a pump system to reuse the water. After your waterfall (and/or multiple body spray) massage, you can turn off the pump and open the drain to take a regular shower.
You can also choose between a regular shower and a steam bath in a steam shower unit. This shower is totally enclosed to keep the steam in — so you not only get its full benefits but don't grow biology experiments in your bathroom — and many models have massaging body-spray systems as well. You can add a steam-producing unit to your own shower, but make sure that it's completely enclosed and has waterproof walls, ceiling and door. A steam shower's ceiling should also be curved so that cool water droplets condensing there will run down the sides instead of dripping on you.
With any of these new shower accoutrements, that daily shower can turn into a daily spa retreat.
Clark Products, www.clarkeproducts.com