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Large and Luxurious Walk-In Showers

Move over, jetted soaking tubs. Power showers top homeowners' wish lists.

In the 1980s, a decade known for excess and impracticality, homeowners installed -- though rarely used -- oversized soaking tubs. Today, homeowners are choosing more practical bathroom features. Vertical spa systems -- larger showers with rain showerheads, multiple body jets and handshowers -- have become de rigueur in bathroom renovations.

"Custom shower systems continue to outperform other areas in the bath in terms of where people are putting their money," says Mark Knurek, senior project manager at Moen. "Everyone wants a good shower."

Here are the latest trends in showers:

No Doors

A standalone shower no longer means a glass door on a track. Now it means a frameless, glass shower that virtually disappears into the room and keeps a small bathroom from looking cramped. A walk-in, doorless shower, sometimes called a wet room, showcases tile work and can accommodate an elaborate, spa-like shower system.

A doorless, curbless shower is practical as well as luxurious. "A lot more people are requesting showers they can walk right into," says Beverley Binns, of Binns kitchen + bath design in Ontario, Canada. "It's a visual design thing, but I think people are also making greater investments in their home and planning on staying in their homes longer." Showers without doors create a universal design that will allow a homeowner to continue to use the fixture as they get older and their mobility is limited.

Water Temperature and Setting Controls

Thermostatic, programmable shower technology is the ultimate in shower luxury. Systems like Moen's Iodigital system monitor a shower's water temperature and automatically adjust water flow when the dishwasher, washing machine and toilet are in use.

The Iodigital has four presets that give the user the exact water temperature and pressure desired, ranging from warm, gentle morning shower to cool, high-pressure, post-workout shower. It also features a remote control that operates from a distance of up to 30 feet. You can turn on the shower from the bedroom, and get the desired water temperature by the time you reach the bathroom. Love a long, hot shower? The unit's LED lights will flash when the hot water tank nears empty.

New Take on Rain Showerheads

Hans Grohe's Raindance Rainfall takes rain showerhead technology to a new level. The flat rectangular panel mounts flush against the wall and projects water into the shower area. The unit features three settings: the Rain AIR mode mixes air with water to create big, rain-like water droplets; In Whirl mode massages the user with two rotating jets that automatically tilt forward; and Rainflow mode produces a four-inch-wide waterfall spray.

Lights and Music

Chromatherapy, a popular choice for spa tubs, is also available for shower systems. Kohler's WaterTile Ambient Rain chromatherapy panel incorporates ambient light patterns to heighten a bather's experience. Think of it as mood lighting for the bath. A lighted square ceiling panel includes four WaterTile body sprays. The user can select solid colors or one of the preprogrammed chromatherapy sequences that range from a bright and invigorating pattern to a soft and soothing one.

Music in the bath is nothing new, but sound in the shower gets a boost with speakers designed to look like body spray tiles. The Kohler SoundTile is a high-fidelity speaker developed in cooperation with Polk Audio, a designer and manufacturer of high-performance audio products.

Water Conservation

A super shower that conserves water might seem counterintuitive, but eco-minded homeowners can have their high-end shower and be kind to the planet, too. Moen's line of Eco Performance showerheads reduce the flow of water, but still provide a satisfying shower experience. The Envi Eco-Performance Rainshower, an eight-inch rain showerhead, uses 20 percent less water than the industry standard. Another water-saving option, a three-function transfer valve diverts water from a showerhead to a handshower to a set of body sprays.

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