All About Performance

Two parts performance, one part art is an apt description for the latest and greatest shower systems. Clean lines and striking finishes accentuate luxury shower systems that offer plenty of bells and whistles ­– from drenching, multi-directional body sprays to built-in music, mood lighting and even sun tanning capabilities.

Green performance is also a hot issue right now, with many showerheads incorporating technology that uses less water while still creating a full-bodied –­ and body – shower experience.

Likewise, soaking tubs are being re-engineered to offer full immersion while using less water. And these tubs also offer a host of spa-like amenities, from chromatherapy and aromatherapy to vibration therapy.

These are just a few of the hot trends noted by shower system and tub manufacturers recently interviewed by KBDN.

Personalization remains key. Indeed, with both shower systems and soaking tubs, the spa trend continues to drive interest in customization. As Dale Carruthers, product marketing manager for the Chino Hills, CA-based Jacuzzi notes, “Customers are seeking customization in their bathrooms and especially in their showers. It’s clear that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it comes to the American family.”

Beyond Basic

Consumers at all price points are seeking shower systems and soaking tubs that provide a soothing and luxurious water experience, with plenty of bells and whistles.

According to Rob Larson, director of new business development for the Woodridge, IL-based Danze, even in a more challenging climate, consumers want showers that go far beyond the basics. He explains, “Discriminating consumers shopping for a new shower want an enhanced hydrotherapy experience – they want more than a basic shower. Their shower has to be versatile, safe and comfortable, but also fun, invigorating and relaxing.”

Lou Rohl, COO/managing partner for the Irvine, CA-base Rohl agrees: “Options are important, and built-in seats, steamers, shelves and decorative grab bars are [increasingly] common.”

Rohl notes that two-person showers are also growing in popularity. “Consumers prefer the flexibility if the space permits. It’s a chance for couples to reconnect during these hectic times and save time since there’s no waiting for the shower. It also allows for different showerhead preferences all in one shower.”

Carruthers agrees: “Many upscale master bathrooms are being designed to accommodate two people who can bathe or shower at the same time.

Jason McClain, marketing communications manager for the Alpharetta, GA-based Hansgrohe also sees the two-person shower as a hot trend. “We do an entire training session [for our dealers] built around custom showers, and the most requested product by far is his-and-her showers with the showerheads on opposing walls. Consumers usually choose the hand shower option to go along with that so they have the showerhead and the hand shower or the body sprays. Our sales trends over the past year and a half show the body sprays are really popular.”

Of course, the key is to personalize each experience. According to Alex Oorin, v.p./sales & marketing for the Anthem, AZ-based Methven, “With the dual-person shower with multiple showerheads and valves, a lot of people do thermostatic valves so they can set one temperature for his side and another temperature for her side. They will also put showerheads at different heights for the same purpose: the lady is shorter, the husband is taller, [so neither needs to reach].”

He adds that a common request includes “a hand shower and a bench on her side, body sprays on his.”

Rohl notes that the wellness trend continues to impact shower design. For example, “Showers are utilizing safety features that didn’t exist 50 years ago,” he states.

Larson agrees that “innovative seating and safety products are being installed in more showers than ever before as an extension of the Universal Design concept.” Other hot trends he cites include minimalist styling, larger enclosures, overhead showers and handshowers on slide bars, frameless glass enclosures, doorless enclosures that are not only accessible, but show off the luxury of the shower interior, and 3/4" thermostatic and digital mixing valves.

Shower Innovations

Just when you thought shower amenities couldn’t get more innovative, the St. Petersburg, FL-based ProSun SunShower introduced its SunShower tanning panel, which can be installed in any walk-in shower to allow users to get an all-over tan while they shower.

According to public relations and marketing manager Mireille Doffegnies, while people tend to look better with a little color, it’s not just about the aesthetics; sunlight is important in ensuring people produce enough Vitamin D. The SunShower can help with that, she notes, and can also be a valuable asset for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, particularly in winter months when sunlight is in short supply.

For those who eschew direct sun to avoid premature aging, the tanning lamps in the panel can be switched to LED lights, which Doffegnies says help rejuvenate the skin. “It doesn’t tan you at all, but it helps with the production of collagen. So within a few sessions you’ll start to see the wrinkles diminish and other skin problems you may have, such as brown spots, crow’s feet, psoriasis or acne [start to improve].”

Another shower innovation designed to help improve skin quality comes from Methven; the firm’s Satinjet Maia Beauty Shower, created under the guidance of an MD, includes a vitamin C cartridge designed to eliminate chlorine, purify the water and prevent the weakening of the skin’s protective barrier and the dehydration of hair.

Going Green

While consumers say they care about water conservation, in the shower, many still want a luxurious water-drenching experience, with multiple body sprays and showerheads. Reconciling both sets of needs can be a challenge.

Eric Moore, interior designer at the Kohler, WI-based Kohler Co. explains, “When you get all of these bells and whistles, that can be a lot of gallons a minute, but Kohler has introduced showerheads and hand showers that instead of the normal 2.5 gallons per minute deliver 1.75 gallons per minute. So if you don’t want all of the body sprays, you can still be efficient with water with some of these ‘eco-ficient’ showerheads or hand showers.”

Oorin believes that “consumers want to be green and save money, but they don’t want to feel like they have to stand under the shower twice as long to get the same performance.” He adds that Methven has a certain advantage: “Based in New Zealand with a huge market share in Australia, [we’re used to producing product for] places surrounded by nothing but salt water – places that have been under their own 100-year-plus drought and have been green out of necessity for decades.”
He notes that the company’s Satinjet technology uses twin jets that send the water out at angles, intensifying the pressure through the way the holes are cut on the inside of the showerhead.

He adds, “The nerves and sensors in our skin react to touch, feel or impulse, and then react again every .3 seconds. When you have just a showerhead or a stream of water with a needle-like spray, and it’s hitting the same spot on your skin, it can actually numb that part of your skin to where it no longer reacts. If you have over 3,000 water droplets hitting you at different points of your body and the skin reacts, and then reacts again .3 seconds later, and so on, it feels with 2.5 gallons as if you’re getting 5-6 gpm.”

But water conservation isn’t only for the shower. In the tub arena, clever designs help to create immersion depth while using less water. Moore notes, “We’ve created a tub line called Archer that has comfort depth. So instead of the normal 20" height it’s 19", which makes it easier to get in and out. You still get the water depth of 20", because of the overflow design. It’s slotted so you don’t have to fill up as much water to get that depth.”

Tub Appeal

While showers certainly remain popular, consumers are still attached to their tubs.

Chet Miolerd, executive v.p. for the Temecula, CA-based Home Living Solutions explains, “It’s a whole new world of bathing – the evolution of bathing basically. And there are just so many people out there who want to take a bath. They like the soaking, they like to sit in the tub, they don’t want to stand and take their showers.”

This is particularly true in the case of the elderly who may have trouble standing for long periods of time, or those who have back or neck troubles. For them, he says, a bath is safer, more relaxing, and easier to use – especially for those who need help from caregivers. And walk-in tubs make bathing accessible to a greater diversity of people, he notes.

For those who want the best of both worlds, he notes that, “With walk-in tubs, you can have a slider next to them so users could have a handheld shower if they wanted one.”

Of course not everyone wants a walk-in tub. However, the idea of wellness as a trend continues to permeate the entire tub market, according to Moore, who says, “Wellness is definitely a key feature.”

But even when relaxing, consumers still like to multi-task. For that reason, soaking tubs not only feature simple soothing properties, but also incorporate such extras as chromatherapy, aromatherapy and integrated music, to create a whole soaking experience. Music, especially, is making its way into the tub as part of the whole soothe-and-relax movement.

As David McFarland, director of marketing for the Anaheim, CA-based Lasco Bathware explains, “Music is an interesting new addition to the bathing experience. We have a new sound option available in some of our high-end tubs called SonicSplash, whereby the tub itself becomes a speaker. You don’t have to mount electronic components (speakers) into a wet environment; rather, there are custom-tuned, digital components mounted underneath.”

He adds, “I think we are only at the tip of the iceberg as far as consumers looking to incorporate music or other ‘experiences’ into the design of their bathroom.”

Moore adds, “We have a lot of tubs that have chromatherapy lights as an option. Our newest tub is all about experiences. It’s called the Fountainhead tub with VibrAcoustic technology. It synchronizes vibration, music and light in the water so, as you’re in the tub, there are transducers in the tub playing music and sending the vibrations from the music throughout the water so you can feel the vibrations through your body. It slows your breathing and heart rate down.” Providing both a tactile and audio sensation makes the tub experience truly unique, he adds.

Size Wise

For McFarland, “Soaking tubs are getting smaller, though this is driven less by water conservation issues and more by space constraints in newer and remodeled bathrooms. The ‘McMansion’ movement associated with urban sprawl has given way to a new urbanism that is focused on the redevelopment of city centers.”

He adds, “Less available land at the city center will translate into smaller living spaces. People will still want luxuries, so manufacturers will need to add deep soaking features into a smaller footprint.”

Miolerd notes, “We actually have one of the highest soaking depth tubs. That’s one of the misnomers about walk-in tubs. There are a lot of different sizes. We keep ours at a 17" ADA-compliant seat height, which makes it easier for the older generation to get up and sit down, and even for the younger generation with [aches].”

Moore believes that tubs aren’t changing in size as much as in shape. He says, “We’re still staying with the normal sizes (60", 66" and 72"), with depths ranging from 21" to 26", but the trend is more about the cleaner, more organic shapes.”

And these cleaner shapes mesh well with such popular finishes as satin nickel, polished nickel, chrome, English bronze and Tuscan brass. Rohl concludes, “Transitional design is in demand, but clean, classical designs that defy time periods will always be in demand.

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