There’s really nothing as luxurious as the home spa. It’s the ultimate retreat complete with jetted tub, rain shower, steam room and…home theater? No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. While a master bath may serve as an escape from ringing phones and demanding family members, it can also offer all the best indulgences of the modern world.
There’s been a recent spate of high-tech product introductions for the bath, and odds are you’ve heard of some of the more popular ones: heated floors, compact sound systems with iPod docks, or a mirror that doubles as a TV. There might be a compact refrigerator for stocking cold beverages, a built-in espresso machine to eliminate runs to the kitchen in the morning, and even a wet bar for those romantic evenings in the Jacuzzi. But does your shower light up or soothe you with scents of lavender?
New tubs and showers employ chromatherapy—color therapy that reportedly helps alleviate stress and anxiety. Jaclo’s rain canopy has tiny LED lights to illuminate the falling water, while 21-inch-square ceiling panels from Kohler combine multiple shower tiles with colored lights, refreshing you with various hues as well as water. Aromatherapy is another spa option. Scented essential oils are dispensed in droplets from rain heads or released into jetted baths.
Pampering can be programmed in advance on many luxury tubs, such as BainUltra’s air-jet baths, that allow bathers to select the intensity of the pulsating air jets, water and backrest temperatures, choice of colored lights, and music. Four different bathing experiences can be stored. A waterproof, floating remote controls all.
Go one step further and install speakers in the shower room with Kohler’s Sound Tiles. Waterproof, attractive, and developed by Polk Audio, these are serious sound solutions that will have you singing in the shower like a pro. You can even control everything with Kohler’s DTV control system, which lets you set preferences for the audio and shower, adjust volume, and change audio sources—all without catching a chill or getting the floor wet.
You can also treat yourself to a soaker with built-in speakers. The Neptuner is an actual tub that acts as a giant speaker, using water to amplify and enhance sound and immersing the body in music for a virtual surround-sound effect.
Add a flat-panel TV or two to the experience. A TV near the vanity ensures that you don’t miss a minute of the morning news, while another over the tub lets you end the day with a relaxing bath and a late-night TV talk show. Built-in options like flat-panel TVs from d2aUSA are splash- and fog-proof. They even come with a waterproof remote control so you can channel surf while actually underwater.
Los Angeles custom installer Randy Wilson of Wilson Home Theater says not to worry about moisture affecting equipment—as long as it’s properly installed. Those who live at higher altitudes or in regions with dramatic temperature swings may want to take extra precautions by using LCD screens with weatherproof housings. There are even waterproof TVs made for outdoor use, so you can pair one with high-quality outdoor speakers for surround sound in the loo.
Wall mounting is best when putting a TV in the bathroom, and going the custom-installation route is money well spent. Ask about lifts that raise or lower the TV from a hidden recess or articulating arms that swivel and move in response to a remote-control command. Just be sure to personally oversee TV placement to avoid an off-center screen or crooked line above the towel bar. And definitely check that your local building codes allow the bathroom wiring that’s necessary for electronic hookups. Always leave electrical work near water to a professional.
But these are all individual solutions. The real treat comes when everything works together. Whole-home automation and control systems let you check on the kids, accept a delivery, or even conduct a hands-free conference call from the privacy of the bath. While some may question why they might want to do any of those things, we prefer to ask, why wouldn’t you? You may never want to leave home again.
Before you start tricking out your luxury bath, make sure the wiring is up to the task. Enlist a professional installer as well as a licensed electrician. And check with your television provider, be it cable or satellite, about getting the signal extended to another room. Bathrooms don’t typically have cable outlets, so a visit from the cable guy will likely be necessary.
Plan ahead to locate components—including the cable box, DVD player, or TiVo—nearby in a cabinet or shelving system. Settle in for a long soak and catch up on any missed programs.