Settle in and have your achy muscles caressed. Breathe fragrant aromas of eucalyptus, lavender, sandalwood or grapefruit. Listen to Bach, Beethoven or cool jazz, and melt away stress in a steam shower.
Pamper yourself. You know you want to, and there's no need to travel to an exotic location. Today's luxe bath can be your own personal spa and so much more.
Like uber thread counts that determine a bed sheet's degree of luxury, the number of jets and how many nozzles control the dance of water now are deciding factors in upgrading showers and tubs.
Even the lexicon has changed. Today's home spa emphasizes hydrotherapy, and there is nothing ordinary about it. The water is healing and magical because of amazing technology.
"It's all about de-stressing," says Ann Roever, senior product manager, bathing products for Kohler.
Consider how soothing or invigorating a massage you want. Then think about adding chromatherapy, which allows bathing in a pool of changing hues, or aromatherapy in a range of scents.
Showers simulating rain that virtually massages the body were a novelty a few years ago, but today most manufacturers offer at least one model. The German manufacturer Dornbracht offers a large rectangular rain shower that recesses into the ceiling and adjusts from the equivalent of a drizzle to a tropical downpour.
Hansgrohe's Raindance Rainmaker features a "three-whirl massage" that goes from droplets to intense spray, plus four mood lights and two air-spray modes. It sells for just under $3,100.
There now are WaterTiles, a Kohler trademark, which come in fetching square or round shapes, recessed for a cleaner look. Some are even directional, allowing adjustment of the spray to targeted areas. One of Kohler's newest products is a sexy shower wand that provides a rain-like spray.
Like other bathroom hardware, showerheads also are available in a range of finishes, including polished and satin nickel as well as oil-rubbed bronze.
With so many body sprays, the inside of a shower these days may resemble a car wash. It's not surprising that there's a trend to open up the space and make it unencumbered even by glass doors. One of the more elaborate shower towers, the Waterhaven by Kohler, features seven water "ports," a two-arched telescoping shower head, four movable body sprays and one handheld shower wand for $7,260.
Methven, an Australian company, is introducing a spa experience called "shower infusions." The infusions come from a small cartridge that fits into the base of a handheld shower wand, permeating the space with aromas as it hydrates.
Another company, Mr. Steam, offers in-shower music therapy speakers, aromatherapy and mood lighting.
The tub, as well as the shower, is not lacking bells and whistles. There's the air bath that offers the champagne equivalent of tiny bubbles, which creates a soothing to invigorating massage. Or you can choose a soaking tub, a deeper tub also known as a Japanese bath.
Freestanding tubs in the middle of a room add a new dynamic to the bath. With crisp, angular lines or sculptural curves, these baths are showstopping centerpieces. One design from Agape resembles an enormous shallow bowl.
In an effort to stimulate the senses, MTI Whirlpool's Stereo Water is an invisible audio system that delivers sound through the tub. State-of-the-art speakers are acoustic "transducers" applied to the bath shell's exterior surface near the waterline. The sound is evenly distributed within the tub.
Many tub extras can be monitored with the touch of a button on a control with digital readout. Some companies even offer remote controls that are submersible. Perhaps even more welcome are devices that baffle the sound created by whirlpool jets.
Of course, there are dozens of spa bath accessories, including ergonomically designed backrests and armrests, some heated to soothe tired muscles, neck massagers (Jacuzzi's Fuzion 7242 whirlpool offers a cascading neck-massaging waterfall), heaters in tubs that keep warm water at a constant temperature, anti-fog mirrors and towel-warming drawers. Even pet spas manufactured by MTI Whirlpool are part of the mix.
SilverTag provides a computer-controlled environment with 18 showerheads and 30 shower frequencies, programmable with a touch screen. The price is staggering; it sells for about $100,000.
"With a day at the spa costing $400 or more, you can invest this money in your home and benefit over the long haul," says Kohler's Ann Roever. "We think of the home spa as a place to relax, refresh, rejuvenate and retreat."