Remember when fixtures were white and boring? It wasn't that long ago. But as with many building products, these bland bathroom elements have taken on a level of style and sophistication the industry has never seen before. Fixtures might still be white, but no one will accuse them of being boring. "There is a movement toward computer components in the bathroom," says Lenora Compos, manager of media relations, sales, and marketing at New York-based TOTO USA. "We think it mirrors the way technology has become a large part of the human experience." Compos continues, "The question for us was, 'How do we find features that can increase human comfort, health, and hygiene?'" Tech time The manufacturer answers that question with Neorest, a high-tech toilet/washlet cleansing system with new flushing technology and a wealth of techno features. The lid automatically opens when users approach, the unit flushes when users are done, and the lid closes when they walk away. It can flush with 1.6 gallons per flush or a water-conserving 1.2 gallons. In addition, the flushing system has a rear nozzle that shoots a swirling cyclonic jet of water that scours the rim and bowl, the manufacturer says, resulting in a cleaner flush. Another company that is taking technology into the bathroom is West Haven, Conn.-based Whitehaus Collection, which offers the Nymphaea line of sinks. "The sink is part engineering and part art," says Gil Hokayma, media and art director for the company. "It has a computer chip in the bottom, and each piece is signed by the artist, so no two are alike." Using this chip, plus a 5-volt connection and light-emitting diodes, the sink changes color based on the temperature of the water that hits it. "It's a show-off kind of product for powder rooms and guest rooms," says Hokayma. "If you look at other companies, everyone is looking at how to incorporate technology into their products. It's a natural thing for it to be used in the bathroom." Natural perhaps, but what technology will homeowners accept, and what will they reject? "Some things are more [immediately accepted] than others," says Peter Schor (a.k.a. the doctor of bathroom knowledge) of the Institute of Bathroom Product Knowledge and Dynamic Results in Wilsonville, Ore. People will embrace some products quickly, such as an electronic faucet, because it is familiar and affordable, but a pricey electronic shower probably will appeal only to luxury buyers, Schor says. Water mark But technology is not the only driver in bath fixture trends. Manufacturers also are looking to improve the performance of old stand-bys, such as the whirlpool bath and the toilet. For some time, manufacturers have worked to get the maximum efficiency out of low-flow toilets, with each company producing its own version of the perfect flush. TOTO has its GMAX; Kohler, Wis.-based Kohler has Ingenium; and Piscataway, N.J.-based American Standard now has the Champion, which it claims offers more flushing power from 1.6 gallons than other products. The company eliminated the flapper and gave the bowl a 2-3/8-inch trapway and a 3-inch flush valve so it will not clog. Clogging may not be an issue with whirlpool tubs, but the potential for bacterial growth is a concern. As a result, manufacturers such as TOTO and Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Jacuzzi are unveiling a new generation of tubs that use only air instead of the traditional air and water technology. Jacuzzi's Pure Air products offer gentler movement of water and an automatic purging system that prevents bacterial growth. The tubs are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, configurations, and colors. Traditional whirlpool technology is no longer part of TOTO's products, says Compos. "The residual water in the old products was a breeding ground for bacteria," she says. "The new technology uses only air and prevents water from getting into the system." Compos expects all manufacturers to eventually adopt this technology.
Color Ways: Designed around the concept of color therapy, the Nymphaea basin changes color, ranging from red, blue, green, yellow, purple, and orange, based on the temperature of the water that hits it. Light-emitting diodes positioned under the sink produce the color changes. The manufacturer says the power requirement is so low that the diodes are guaranteed for life. The crystal basin comes in five designs and two widths: 15 inches or 20.5 inches. Whitehaus Collection. 800-527-6690. www.whitehauscollection.com.
Seated Luxury: The Luxury Lavage Luscene is a toilet seat that turns a bowl into a bidet and cleansing system. The remote-controlled unit has a variety of features: a wash nozzle, feminine wash nozzle, heated seat, occupied seat sensor, dryer, and seat lid and seat "slow-down" mechanism. The unit does not require a separate plumbing system. It comes in an elongated or rounded style. INAX Corp. 877-800-4629. www.luscence.com.
Bionic Toilet: The Neorest toilet/bidet is perhaps the most technologically advanced toilet on the market. The unit has a streamlined look because the tank has been eliminated. It includes a Cyclone flush engine and a dual flush mode, and it incorporates washlet technology that offers warm water cleansing for users. The lid automatically opens when users approach, the unit flushes when users are done, and the lid closes when they walk away. TOTO USA. 917-237-0665. www.totousa.com. Air Apparent: The Mito 5 Air Bath is one of several new products featuring built-in heaters and electronic controls with automatic purge systems that keep the bath and air channels clean and dry. Made from continuous cast acrylic and reinforced with fiberglass for added strength, the tub has a high-luster finish that is durable and scratch-resistant, the manufacturer says. Measuring 60 inches long and 42 inches wide, the tub comes in 11 colors. Jacuzzi. 925-938-7070. www.jacuzzi.com.
Pure and Simple: The new line of fixtures from Marc Newson includes this 6-foot freestanding bathtub, a pedestal lavatory with a generous surface area, and a bidet. The porcelain ceramic products have simple lines and clean forms. The collection also includes solid brass faucets with drip-free ceramic disk cartridges. American Standard. 732-980-3000. http://www.americanstandard.com.