In a recent NAHB consumer survey, “What 21st Century Home Buyers Want,” 69 percent of the respondents replied that they would install a separate shower enclosure; 67 percent would add water-temperature controls. A somewhat less impressive 58 percent desired a whirlpool tub.

While these numbers don't indicate a radical drop in bathtub sales, they do point toward a growing fondness for showering. “People prefer showers because they don't have time to relax and take a bath any more,” reflects Maax marketing project manager Julie Grenier. “It's sad, but true.”

“We are doing more houses without [standard] tubs,” confirms builder Kevin Kalman, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Kalman Construction. “And,” he adds, “We are doing more houses without whirlpool tubs. Who has the time?”

Kohler 800.456.4537 It should come as no surprise then that demand for custom showering products has exploded during the past five years. “You can get just about any water experience you want in a shower,” maintains Scott Edmunds, Kohler's associate product manager for showering products. “If you want a hydromassage, a Kohler BodySpa will provide the equivalent of a whirlpool standing up.” Complete with seat, heater, chromatherapy lights, and variable speeds to control flow intensity, the BodySpa is an 8- or 10-jet wall unit with an overhead waterfall that efficiently recirculates 37 gallons of water at 80 gallons per minute. While it can be purchased solo for custom applications, Edmunds explains that there is a core group of customers that say, “provide me with the solution.”

Hansgrohe 800.719.1000 To accommodate, Kohler developed the fully enclosed BodySpa system that includes the 8- or 10-jet wall panel, plus a deep footbath, fittings, and an enclosure for either an alcove or a corner installation. The only thing that's needed is a showerhead.

An even more complete solution, the Kohler WaterHaven tower comprises two adjustable showerheads, body jets, and a handshower on a single wall-mounted column. “Instead of having custom showerheads throughout the unit, we enclosed it into one tower so we only have two connections—hot and cold. That's it,” says Edmunds.

Waterworks 800.927.2120

Builders are asking manufacturers about customized shower components—typically up to six body sprays, a thermostatic valve, diverters, a downpour shower, a wall showerhead, and a handshower—“because they are familiar with them,” deems Chris Marshall, president of Hansgrohe U.S.A. “But,” Marshall says, “our growth percentage is coming from shower panels.” To illustrate, he cites the increasing popularity of Hansgrohe's selection, in particular the high-tech Prestige in Satinox aluminum.

Grohe's Amera is another recent introduction. Its tempered, green-hued glass panel features some of the company's best components in one easy-to-install unit. It even has a concealed shampoo/accessory tray.

And that's what many builders want: an easy-to-install, complete, packaged system. “It makes life a lot easier,” says Arnold Sollaway, chief executive officer and chairman of Creative Builders Group. This Wellesley, Mass.-based builder's first experience with these systems was the installation of 30 Logic showers by the Italian manufacturer Cesana in a high-end condo development. Logic, distributed by Aquaware in several size and feature configurations, is distinguished by its elegant 5/16-inch float glass and corner shower column with thermostatic controls accessible from inside and outside the unit.

Helo 800.882.4352 “We had great success with them,” affirms Sollaway. “They were a selling feature that our customers reacted very positively to. And we would use them again anywhere they are architecturally appropriate.” In addition, notes Sollaway: “The installation is very easy. You just plumb up from the floor into the column. There is nothing difficult about it at all.”

Delta Select 800.345.3358 Similarly based on the shower column concept are the Axolo Proxima shower from Verini and Jacuzzi's Summer Rain shower collection. The neatly contained column of these innovative designs is the conduit for the plumbing connections, and because it's placed on the room side of the enclosure, the hardware is hidden to all but the bather.

Because consumers want showers with massage features, Maax developed the Integrated Energizing System (IES), a pre-plumbed system initially designed for the new Stamina enclosed shower. Available in two sizes, the heart of the Stamina is its 3/4-inch thermostatic control valve. Vital to its operation are its four-function diverters, which activate eight adjustable body jets, 14 rotating back jets, a triple-function showerhead, and a three-mode handshower. Again, all that's required is hot- and cold-water hookups, the manufacturer says. The Maax IES with the 3/4-inch thermostatic control is available on the RainForest, Jet Set II, and Maestro showers as well.

Alsons 800.421.0001 Even Waterworks, the paradigm of traditional bathing products, upgraded its Victorian Etoile shower cage so that it now boasts a thermostatic control, body jets, and a powerful overhead shower.

For the definitive home spa experience, amenities that pamper the body and the spirit—such as steam, dry heat, light, and aroma—are finding their way into deluxe shower systems. For example, Hansgrohe's Pharo Steam Shower Cabin module is outfitted with six body jets, a downpour shower, a four-function handshower on a wall bar, a thermostatic mixer, an electronic temperature gauge, halogen lighting, and a clear glass door. “Architects love it because we've de-emphasized the product,” Marshall says. “It's an enclosed system behind walls so they can build it in however they please.”

Grohe 630.582.7711 At Hastings Tile & Il Bagno, the Evolution Oval from Italy's Teuco allows up to two bathers to shower, steam, or enjoy mood-enhancing chroma- or aromatherapy (stereo included). And from Helo, the Vena Sauna + Shower features an authentic Western red cedar sauna in tandem with a European-style tiled shower—both open to each other and the room by transparent glass walls.

Jacuzzi 800.288.4002

What's on the horizon? If BainUltra's Temazkal therapeutic space is any indication, we are at the threshold of a new era. According to Marc Frenette, the company's professional accounts manager, “The trend seems to be moving from fitness to wellness.” To comply, the Temazkal, an attractive built-in chamber, combines the healing qualities of light, sauna-like dry heat, and aromatherapy to promote physical well-being, according to the manufacturer. There is no shower included, but the unit comes ready to plumb.

“People are investing in their homes to a build a sanctuary for wellness,” says Frenette. “They want to be comfortable and I think this type of product satisfies that need. They won't even have to go out to a spa.”

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