Spa Day, Every DayAllow for some at-home pampering with a bathroom spa
Television monitors inserted into medicine cabinets. Toilets that heat the floor and play music. Showers that mimic car washes.
Manufacturers are offering more high-tech items that upgrade home bath spas, either in the traditional sense or in unexpected ways.
"You can basically get a suntan in your shower. They even have music. There are so many things out that are kind of crazy," says Kathe Russell, chief designer at DreamBuilders Home Remodeling in El Dorado, Calif., whose company is building a coffeemaker/wine chiller cabinet for a client's bathroom. "The bathroom's become a place where people can relax and unwind."
Walk-in showers with body sprays and multiple showerheads are popular, as are showers that lack tracks at the floor, allowing for easy access for wheelchairs and walkers, says Pam Schlosser, interior designer at DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen in Comstock Park, Mich. These trends are influenced by fancy bathroom designs in hotels, she says, especially now that people are trying to stay home rather than splurging on vacations.
Homeowners are shelling out more than $20,000 to have such systems installed, Schlosser says.
Stephen Ferrari, owner of Ferrari's Kitchens & Baths in Westchester, N.Y., sees the men of households asserting themselves in bath remodel decisions, demanding steam showers. "Men love that thing," he says. "They like to shave in the shower."
If homeowners can splurge on only one item in their bathrooms, Ferrari recommends they aim low.
"The biggest thing we push is heated floors," he says. "When you get up in the middle of the night and you walk onto that heated floor, that's pretty nice."
Not all bank accounts can handle a remodel stacked with the latest spa-like amenities, so experts provide tips on how to take the indulgence factor at bath time up a notch or two at various price points.
A Little Goes a Long Way (less than $10,000)
Low-cost replacements don't take an expert to install and can make a big difference. Try changing the faucet (some are available for less than $100), grabbing a new light fixture for less than $50 or adding a soft-close toilet seat for $25 to $30, Russell suggests.
For a more expensive but still affordable replacement, Lynn Schrage of The Kohler Store recommends replacing the showerhead. Kohler's Flipside provides four spray options in one head; Katalyst infuses air and produces bigger droplets of water. Each costs less than $500 and can improve the shower experience and appearance.
New towel bars and decorative towels can also create the spa atmosphere. Russell says, "Towel warmers are really cool - or hot, I should say." And rolling up towels and stacking them in baskets creates a sense of order, says Schrage.
On the tile front, opt for ceramic or porcelain look-a-like tiles over the more expensive and high-maintenance marble or stone. "Instead of $13 a square foot, you'll pay $3 a square foot," Russell says. Larger format tiles are less expensive than smaller mosaic titles. Add a single accent wall piece to keep costs down, she suggests. "You want to have that 'wow' factor in there, for sure. But a little bit can actually go a long way."
Along those lines, you might decide to refinish instead of replace the tub, vanity and countertops, says Chuck Pistor, president of Miracle Method, a Colorado Springs surface refinishing company. "You've got to ask questions and you've got to do your homework. But the savings of time and money are significant," he says.
It costs $200 to $500 to refinish a tub using his service, compared to the $2,500 to $3,500 for a replacement and plumbing work. Replacing tile in a three-foot by three-foot shower could cost about $4,000. The Miracle Method option would cost about $1,200.
Homeowners should consider the mood of the room as much as the hardware and finishes. Lighting, shelving and mirror changes also can be inexpensive, Kohler's Schrage says. "Set the mood," she advises. "Consider a more decorative sconce that adds more grooming light."
If the bathroom is small, painting the ceiling a dark color can create the feeling of a larger space and add drama, she says. She recommends adding an oversized decorative mirror to reflect light.
Fix shelving to an existing area or create niches within a wall space. Recessed storage solutions "get all of our bottles and toiletries stored away, creating that sense of calm," Schrage says.
Middle of the Road (around $15,000)
If you're willing to shell out more for your luxurious bath escape, larger changes are within reach.
Tile the floor, using larger porcelain materials. Schrage suggests 12-inch by 24-inch or 18-inch by 18-inch pieces to reduce the amount of grout lines and provide a monolithic feel.
Put in a granite or quartz countertop for $500 to $600, Russell suggests. Consider buying a vanity with hidden compartments for hairdryers and other grooming items. Schrage reminds the homeowner, "It's all about decluttering that area and making it work harder for us."
Check out a massage tub, such as the Kohler BubbleMassage Bath, which doesn't require enhanced electrical service, Schrage says.
Get a bidet toilet seat. "Toto makes these, so you can have an all-in-one," Ferrari offers. "With this you can pretty much retrofit any toilet for about $500 up to $2,000 for heated seating and degerming features."
Bring Out the Big Guns ($30,000 +)
At this price range, it's possible to indulge in high-tech bath time toys, such as the Robern TViD ($3,500) TV-embedded medicine cabinet; the Numi toilet ($6,400), which uses LED lighting for illumination, streams music and heats the floor; and bathtubs with integrated waterfall, vibration, music or colored lights reflecting under the water ($6,000 to $13,000), Schrage says.
Higher-end fixtures are within reach. "We're talking about oil-rubbed bronze fixtures," Russell says. "It's kind of at the top of the food chain."
It's also the time to splurge on glass tiles, Ferrari says. They cost about $20 a square foot, compared to ceramics that cost $5 to $6 per square foot.
If baths aren't your thing, you can have more going on in the shower. "You might have multiple shower heads in your shower, so you can do a two-person shower," Russell says. "A lot of clients like to create these human carwashes with body sprays and rain heads above." A walk-in steam shower will set you back $5,000 to $7,000.
Another luxury option is to use pre-cast simulated marble walls in the shower area. "The real advantage is the lack of thumbprints,' says John Stanforth, owner of John Stanforth Construction in Wilmington, Ohio.
Thirty grand can also get you a heated floor, a separate room for the toilet within the bathroom and his-and-her vanities, he says.
By CHERYL V. JACKSON
(c) CTW Features
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