If living large is the penultimate expression of luxury, then the master bath is measuring up to that sentiment in spades – and sprays. Indeed, these suites, and baths in general, are becoming larger and offering more opportunities to add bells and whistles in showers that fit consumers' personal style.
Manufacturers surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News are also seeing a rise in enclosure materials that bring the outdoors in, providing the tranquility of nature.
As a result, today's consumers are enjoying a nearly endless array of choices for stylizing their baths, from the deluge of decorative finishes and dynamic choices in materials and shapes in tubs and showers to the multitude of add-ons available in shower systems. And personalization remains the order of the day – especially when it comes to shower systems, tubs, bath enclosures and surrounds that dominate these most personal of rooms.
The shower is the belle of the bath these days, and most manufacturers would agree that consumers' hectic schedules are a driving force in this trend away from tub-soaking. "Years ago, everyone had to have a whirlpool bath," says Jeff Carney, v.p./sales and marketing for Grohe in Bloomingdale, IN. "Today, I think, the shower is a more important feature in a bath."
"[Indeed], people want a separate shower for a number of reasons. One of them is instant gratification. If you use a tub, you have to fill it up, [which] takes a little while. You must maintain the water temperature with a regulating pump and some sort of heating system. With a shower, you can hop in, get instant hot water and stay in it as long as you want," contends Paul G. Williams, v.p./sales and marketing for Basco Shower Enclosures in Mason, OH.
While most agree that with a shower one can accomplish a lot more in less time, many manufacturers see the trend toward stand-alone showers as a complex issue. "The bath is the last sanctuary where you can control your environment," comments Lou Rohl, COO for Rohl, LLC in Costa Mesa, CA. "And you have a lot more control with a shower system than you do with a tub. You can start with a steam, then cool off with your showerhead and, at the same time, [get clean], too."
If part of reducing stress is feeling in control of one's environment, then the personalized water controls available in today's shower systems are going a long way toward helping consumers achieve that stress-free sanctuary. As hand-held sprays, multi-function showerheads and thermostatic controls begin to sprinkle across the mid-level market, manufacturers are answering with a surge of even more unique options for the high-end bath. "We have a wide variety of shower products that allow the consumer the ability to personalize his or her shower experience," reports Rohl. "Obviously, thermostatic control is important, but what we're seeing now is multiple valves, rather than having just one valve. On one side, you have "Her" controls, with her shut-off valves and volume controls, and then, on the other side, you have "His" controls. In addition, you can actually shut off your body spray at the point, versus at a separate volume control."
All-in-one shower panels with up to four body sprays are a growing, mass-market trend, assert manufacturers surveyed, because they make for an easy retrofit into existing applications. "In the premium segment," says Carney, "we're offering an 'all-in-one' glass shower panel [in] either frosted or clear. It's a category that's growing, [and] very new."
In meaningful connection with the outdoor kitchen trend of years past, Rohl sees outdoor showering as something to watch for on the horizon. "If you think about it from a spa experience, one of the things people are drawn to in spas is that open and airy feeling, where you feel like you're outdoors. To be able to create that at home is the height of luxury," he explains.
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