The Well-Connected Bath

A highly-technological bathroom, complete with a digital bathtub, shower and other intricate decor items.

A well-connected bathroom includes a showerhead that streams music or a digital control panel, like Moen’s ioDigital line, which allows you to personalize water temperature and other settings. (Photo courtesy of Moen Incorporated.)

While we want our bathrooms to be comforting, we want them to be functional as well.

Whether it’s having the ability to wirelessly stream music through a Bluetooth-enabled showerhead — or to remotely adjust the lighting — the bathroom is increasingly becoming well connected.

Just how connected are we in today's increasingly lavish bathrooms? Extremely. A 2012 survey found that 75 percent of Americans use their phones in the bathroom. (Often that includes streaming music or listening to the news while getting ready for the day.)

San Diego independent kitchen and bath designer Jamie Gold isn’t surprised. She's designing more bathrooms at all price points that are über connected. “There’s a growing importance of technology in our everyday lives,” she says. “People don’t want to be separated from their cellphones and tablet devices.”

Gold says that because so many people have become accustomed to personalization because of the use of mobile technology, they are taking that approach into all aspects of their lives. “We’ve gotten accustomed to customizing and personalizing things to exactly the way we like it,” she says.

Make it Rain

Now, you can even personalize your showers, says John Petrie, president-elect of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Today’s showers are customizable to each person in the family — no more having to adjust the temperature after your spouse or child showers. By installing a digital control panel, like one from Moen’s ioDigital line, you can set your shower preferences — water temperature, showerhead settings or water pressure, even lighting.

“The panels control a digital valve that has the ability to have multiple functions and presets that really allow you to really personalize your shower experience,” he says.

In the past, when you wanted to listen to music in the shower, you had to haul in a portable radio or install an expensive built-in system. In the last few years, however, you could use a speaker that connected to a music player. Now, you can shower with sound coming directly from the showerhead. Kohler’s Moxie showerhead is a Blue-tooth enabled showerhead that allows you to stream music or listen to the news from a smartphone or tablet. “The showerhead’s speaker comes out and you can take it with you throughout your house,” Petrie says. “It’s just that easy.”

In the same vein, Kohler’s VibrAcoustics bathtubs use sound waves for massage, rather than bubbles. You have the choice to upload your own music too.

Create a Mood with Lighting

Gold says she’s increasingly seeing the use of LED technology in the bathrooms — from light fixtures and vanity frames — that she’s designing. Gold says this is a welcome change because of tight energy restrictions in California.
More than that, though, many are using the lighting in their bathrooms to create different moods. By installing LED pool lights in showers, you can have red, green or blue lights in combination with white lights to create an intense atmosphere in the shower. Lights can backlight walls or can be integrated into shower floors and even shower drains.

High-tech Toilets

Toilets have always been quite high tech, but now they’re fun too. Toilets such as the Toto Washlet S400 features a bidet, heated seat and a heater that warms the space in from of the toilet to keep feet warm. It also has seat that opens and closes automatically, as well as an automatic flushing system.

What’s the News?

Flat-screen TVs have been appearing in bathrooms for years now, but Kohler takes it to another level with its medicine cabinet mirror with a Robern TViD built into it. Travis Rotelli, senior interior designer at the Kohler Design Center, says the seven-inch TV screen is incorporated at the bottom left or right portion of your medicine cabinet to allow you to view, say, the morning news while getting ready for the day. “It’s a great way to have that kind of technology in the bathroom, without having a lot of extra wires or other hardware,” he says.

As you design your new home, consider a bathroom that will be more connected in the future than they are even today. “Younger generations have grown up with all of this technology,” he says. “They always had cellphones and computers around. We will continue to see this more and more because younger generations will demand it.

Patricia L. Garcia is an award-winning journalist and former content manager for NewHomeSource. You can find her on Google+.

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