Showers of Luxury

Over the past few years, elaborate multihead shower systems have become a fixture in custom home master baths. Manufacturers boast an enormous array of spray devices, sleek designs and beautiful finishes combined with technologically enhanced flow and temperature controls to create a bathing experience tailor-made for each individual.

With the barrage of home improvement television shows, magazines and websites available today, consumers are more educated than ever on luxury home products. In a custom home, a single showerhead is unacceptable and a complex water delivery system is usually desired. A master bath must now include a shower that is visually appealing while offering the choice of an efficient shower, a soaking deluge, a relaxing massage or a mixture of all three. Vertical spas are completely customizable using a combination of body sprays, showerheads and hand showers. According to Mike Reffner, Moen product manager, “When it comes to vertical spas, there are three things people are concerned about: water flow, temperature control and flexibility.”

Manufacturers responded to these interests with an abundance of devices that can be mixed and matched in any number of configurations. “Typically, no design is more popular than a one piece because it provides the ultimate in design flexibility,” according to Michael Wanschneider, senior product manager for Kohler. “High-end customers are focused on the experimental side of the system. For the adventurous, there is a variety of products that allow them to create their own shower system.”

Blame it on the rain

For a real downpour, nothing beats a rainstorm. Since storm clouds aren’t available for in-home use, showerheads emulating the natural experience of rain are in high demand.

“Over time we’ve noticed a throw-back to how people remember showers. In the ’40s and ’50s, people would often flock to the beaches to enjoy the sun and surf. Many people have memories of how the vintage showerheads would wash away the sand and how the overflow from a torrent of water made them feel,” says Ramon Lopez, technical solutions provider for Santec. “People still desire that feeling, thus the size of the ‘beachheads’ [as they once were called] continue to grow.”

Kohler’s WaterTile product line now includes the WaterTile Rain ceiling panel. WaterTile’s innovative design, which is nearly flush to the wall, makes it possible to install the body sprays in a number of different ways in the showering space: on the wall, ceiling or at an angle at the intersection of wall and ceiling. The product is designed to complement both modern and traditional décor. The direction of the WaterTile sprays is adjustable to create a targeted water experience in terms of warmth and water coverage.

Moen’s new Velocity rain shower showerhead channels water pressure for a total-body, rain-soaking experience. This new 8-in. showerhead features the company’s Immersion technology — a self-pressurizing system that increases the force and flow of water delivery. The Velocity showerhead features a convenient lever to adjust the water delivery from the spray nozzles — concentrating it into 30 nozzles or expanding the flow through as many as 100.

Hansgrohe’s air-injection technology is available with the company’s Raindance AIR products. “We are unique in offering this technology, which pulls surrounding air inside the shower-head or hand shower, mixes it with the water and produces larger, more voluminous water droplets,” says Jason McCain, communications manager for Hansgrohe. “The feel replicates the feeling of natural rain, giving the water a different texture, and the sound of the air being pulled in and the water falling actually sounds like a rain shower. It is very relaxing and sensual, appealing not only to your sense of touch but also to sound and visual stimulation.”

“There’s certainly a trend toward moving beyond the tub/shower combo that has dominated American construction for so many years. As a European manufacturer, we’ve seen the trend toward more luxurious, more functional showers becoming the norm in the rest of the world,” McCain adds.

Contemporary vs. traditional

While American tastes in home design leans largely toward the conservative, manufacturers also offer contemporary and even high-tech styles for the more daring customer.

“Traditional styles are the most popular in the United States, but contemporary designs are becoming more popular with younger people,” Reffner says. “They’re becoming more popular because they can be used with other modern décor.”

Jado collaborated with designer Jean Nouvel to create a visually intriguing, technologically advanced shower system. “Convenience through electronics surrounds us in almost every room of a house and we don’t expect to trade style for technology,” says Tim Maicher, luxury brand director for Jado. “This collection from Jado absolutely delivers on both fronts. It’s aesthetic. It’s interactive.”

The 44-in. elongated shower totem is a polished chrome tube that curves and flattens into a minimalist bend at the top for the showerhead. An integrated automatic diverter controls a hand-held shower wand, popping up a spray head that retracts when no longer in use. The tub filler is teamed with a hand-held spray that has the same pop-up spray head as the shower totem. The faucet and tub filler sport sleek control options positioned flush atop the design.

ShowerArc is the latest innovation from Pharo, Hansgrohe’s international brand of luxury showering systems. ShowerArc features a delicate arch of chrome-plated brass that can be mounted wall-to-wall in a shower cubicle or in a corner of the bath. The product delivers water from three different directions — the top and each side. The ShowerArc integrates several water delivery components and controls into a single, easy-to-use and easy-to-install package that heightens both fun and functionality in the shower. The ShowerArc design includes a Raindance AIR showerhead, six body sprays and the Raindance S100 AIR 3-Jet Handshower.

“As a European manufacturer, most of our products offer a clean design,” McCain says. “Even on our traditional products with traditional elements, we don’t overdo it with superfluous ornamentation. Many of our products, like Clubmaster, Croma and Aktiva, have a familiar look and feel to what you may expect a shower product to look like, and they are perennial best sellers.”

Paul Patton, senior product development manager, Delta Faucet Co., adds that brushed nickel and stainless steel are very popular. Rustic, old-world finishes like Venetian bronze also are popular as they tie into larger trends where consumers are looking to carry out design-themed environments and want to carry that into plumbing fixtures.

“We’ve done really well with the oil-rubbed bronze finish. It’s distressed so you get different colors and tones within the faucet,” Reffner says. “And of course brushed nickel has been popular for at least three or four years and demand is still high. Currently, we are looking at many other finishes, which are still in development.”

Two heads better than one

Another master bath luxury rising in popularity is the two-person shower. “A two-person shower is a time-efficient luxury,” Wanschneider explains. “It’s based in both experience and convenience, allowing both people to use the shower at the same time.”

Lopez also sees the growing trend for two-person showers. “We’ve definitely seen an upsurge in the requests for the couple experience. People are increasingly purchasing two sets of systems for their shower enclosures,” Lopez adds. “There’s nothing more personal than your shower experience and nothing more exceptional than sharing it with that special someone.”

According to Al DeGenova, director of advertising and new media for Grohe, large showers are focal points rather than whirlpools in high-end custom homes. “It is important to keep in mind that a shower this large requires multiple valves and drains,” DeGenova cautions. “A high-flow thermostatic valve is at the core of any shower this large. I can’t emphasize this enough; the shower outlets are the experience, but without a valve that controls the water temperature precisely and flows enough water, the custom shower can be an expensive disappointment.”

Taking control

To allow the end user to truly take charge of the showering experience, manufacturers developed some exciting new devices to enhance comfort, control and power in the bathing experience. “In many instances, the more control you want over your shower, the more outlets you’ll install,” Wanschneider says.

To facilitate this control, Kohler recently launched the DTV custom showering product featuring a thermostatic valve and digital interface. The DTV (digital thermostatic valve) utilizes multiple showerheads, hand showers and body sprays — all controlled with a touch of a button. The DTV’s preset hydrotherapy experiences include up-massage, down-massage, wave-massage, as well as temperature therapy that can either run from hot to cold or vice versa.

Moen now offers the new ExactTemp 3/4-in. thermostatic valve allowing the user to continuously adjust the force and flow of water to where it’s wanted — the showerhead, the body sprays, the hand shower or a combination of any of these. ExactTemp allows more or less water to be directed to each element for the perfect, custom shower. The product allows shower users to dial up their own personalized water temperature for a comfortable, consistent shower. Precision thermostatic control ensures the same water temperature day after day, while a temperature memory can stay in a set temperature position and quickly return to that preset number.

“Many prefer the drenching rain showerheads,” Patton says. “Consumers equate size with performance, so it’s important to balance ways to use water more efficiently with the growing shower head size and the 2.5-gpm restrictions. Therefore, Delta is always looking for innovative solutions to incorporate technology and water conservation properties into the design of our products.”

Delta offers H2Okinetic Technology on the company’s Vesi custom shower system from Brizo. H2Okinetic technology delivers a 36 percent savings of water while still providing a warm, drenching shower experience. H2Okinetic technology offers greater control over the showering experience by managing water droplet size and velocity, spray coverage and thermal dynamics. The product uses only 1.6 gal. of water per minute as opposed to the standard 2.5 gpm, while still delivering a superior shower experience. H2Okinetic technology is included in the Delta Monitor 1800 Jetted Shower Series and the 1900 TempAssure thermostatic custom shower systems, and complements existing shower products such as hand-held showers and showerheads.

Delta’s MultiChoice universal valve is designed to simplify the installation of tub/shower systems. The MultiChoice universal valve offers three function options: single-function pressure balance, dual-function pressure balance, and a new dual-function thermostatic valve cartridge. The MultiChoice universal valve allows for easy shower upgrades, eliminates the possibility of the wrong valve from being installed and utilizes existing Delta brand trim packages.

Grohe’s Aquatower 1000 shower system is designed as an easy shower upgrade featuring a hand shower, two body sprays, a thermostatic valve and a shampoo/accessory tray in one unit. The product utilizes Grohe’s Dreamspray technology to deliver equal amounts of water at equal pressures through each nozzle.

In custom homes, there is no such thing as a typical master bath. With rain showers, improved aesthetic appeal, temperature control capabilities and larger bathing areas, the market is virtually saturated with possibilities.