There's clean, and then there's luxuriously clean.
The kind of squeaky clean you get inside a shower the size of a small room with jets pulsing from all sides and marbled veneers softly lit with a complexion-friendly glow.
"People are really stressed out," said Joan Barton of Los Angeles-based Dirty Girl Construction, "the bedroom used to be an important place to relax, but now the bathroom has become a relaxing living space. We're putting kitchenettes in bathrooms now."
Barton said bathroom-sized wine bars, coffee bars and breakfast bars "basically make rolling out of bed in the morning and going to bed at night much more pleasurable. It's a wine fridge and a regular fridge," said the contractor, "there's no cooking going on, but there might be a microwave or warming drawer for croissants and things like that."
To further extend the spa theme, Barton said, "Showers are becoming more of an experience, as opposed to just getting clean."
Trisha Shuhaibar, director of customer service for the Bath Outlet, which specializes in luxury bathroom fixtures and accessories, said: "When it comes to luxury, people who are willing to spend money really go above and beyond."
In the premium market, that translates into the following trends:
Showers with significant square footage, and not one but several shower heads, are a popular request in luxury construction projects.
Shuhaibar said that includes body spray and massaging jets. "So it's not just the overhead rain shower, they also have water coming from the sides at the same time, massaging their back and sides."
Barton likens it to double sinks. "Especially when I work with couples, they want to have their own shower areas … where they've got their own setup and their products get to live on their own."
Singing in the rain
At kitchen-and-bath giant Kohler, senior interior designer Travis Rotelli said the Real Rain shower is one of its newest luxury offerings. It's a 19-inch square panel installed overhead that features three separate nozzles. "On a traditional shower head the nozzles are the same size," said Rotelli, "so the water hitting you is always consistent. With the Real Rain shower, you are actually experiencing different size water droplets at randomized times to make it feel like you are standing outside in your own rainstorm … there is also a button for the deluge feature. It opens a trap door in the rain head and drops about a half gallon of water on you over six seconds … it's like a quick whoosh, a rush of pressurized water that is temperature controlled."
Think slabs, not tile. Barton said advancements in cutting micro slabs — thin veneers — of stone, are revolutionizing the shower scene. Since it's no longer necessary to engineer structural support for showers clad in heavy stone slabs, Barton said consumers save money on installation and foundation upgrades.
Glow, not glare
Lighting that emanates from behind wall and ceiling panels is designed to create a glow not a glare.
Say goodbye to unsightly drains. The chicest showers boast hidden slits between the wall and the floor that make water disappear. Barton cautions, however, that consumers should consider maintenance issues like how to clean hair and product buildup from the drain when deciding which system to install.
"Really wealthy people are having their own fixtures made," said Barton, who explained that what her clients want is a kind of vintage, found-item feel. "Something unique. It's the idea that I found this somewhere … and nobody else has it. That's the trend, having a signature style in your shower."
To address the craving for custom, Rotelli said Kohler is offering the Artifacts collection that allows consumers and designers to mix and match spouts and handles in a variety of finishes. "It opens the door to hundreds of combinations."
Shiny is out, matte is in. Matte black and white fixtures are hot and unlacquered or vintage brass and antique-inspired gold (not circa 1980s) are also directional.
Bonnie McCarthy contributes to the Los Angeles Times as a home and lifestyle design writer. She enjoys scouting for directional trends and reporting on what's new and next. Follow her on Twitter @ThsAmericanHome.