Technology trends

Create spa bathrooms with the latest trends in wellness design and technology

The client breathlessly shows off her designer shots taken on a recent resort vacation, asking, “Loved this in our hotel bathroom; can we have one for our shower here? This is a question that has been asked by thousands of customers for decades. It’s the one I’ve heard for over a decade in residential bathroom design, and the one this longtime Northern New Jersey-based interior designer Sharon Sherman hear more than ever today.

Home spas go mainstream

“The biggest difference is the availability of the spa experience to a wider audience,” observes Sherman. In the past, she recalls, “spa weekends were really limited to a select few who could afford a luxurious retreat. Today, it is no longer an indulgence for the wealthy; it’s part of well-being while travelling. This is true for its clientele and for millions of other owners across the country. “Wellness, mindfulness, health and self-care are on the list of must-have lifestyles,” she adds.

San Francisco based plumbing contractor J.Philip Hotarek is also seeing an increase in requests for spa features. The most common in his area, he says, are infrared saunas (perfect for arthritis sufferers!), enhanced steam shower systems and whirlpools, and what he calls “integration of the concept of ‘health and well-being’ in all plumbing trends”.

Influence of the pandemic

The pandemic has certainly contributed to the growing appeal of wellness design and spa bathrooms, agree the plumber and designer. “Having the ability to relax and unwind was no longer an indulgence, but a necessity to deal with the stress of the situation. And not just for women, men are in on it too,” Sherman notes.

Covid has accelerated the growing popularity of steam showers, aromatherapy, chromotherapy and air jet baths. Sherman also sees the integration of natural healing as a contributor to the appeal of spa features like these. “It’s no longer a ‘marginal’ idea,” says the designer.

There was also the pandemic toilet paper shortage of early 2020. Anyone who had bidet functionality at home was spared the stress of at least this singular situation. This technology appeared in even more exhibition stands – including those touting affordable deals – than ever before during the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. Once primarily the province of the $6,000 toilet, you can now buy bidet functionality in a seat with heated water and drying for less than $1,000.

Hotarek sees the pandemic contributing to “even more demand for having your own spa, in addition to the allure of creating a luxurious experience.” This is especially relevant for those who are still reluctant to share close quarters with strangers.

Technological improvements

Alexa and its competitors have brought technology to the spa bathroom. “Manufacturers offer voice-activated systems to control the temperature, switch between showerheads or body sprays, and even shut off the water. Multi-function showerheads are another must. From the rainhead to the massage and everything in between lets you customize your shower experience, which is the definition of luxury,” observes Sherman.

Personalization is an important part of today’s spa shower experience, notes the designer. “You can connect to an on-demand water heater and let the shower let you know when it reaches your preset temperature.” These systems often contain several preset options, so you can choose your temperature and spray mode and your partner can choose theirs.

“We have also installed waterproof televisions in our wet rooms. Why not visually visit an exotic location while indulging in your bathtub? she reflects. Another popular wellness tech feature for spa bathrooms is circadian lighting, which ties into smart home systems and automates brightness and color temperature to match morning and bedtime schedules. .

Hotarek also plumbs many bathrooms with chromotherapy, sound and aromatherapy in the Bay Area, he reports. (Is it any wonder that the country’s main venue for the tech elite is a leading market for luxury bathroom tech?) Some of the new technologies and hot tub features he loves are touchless faucets. , Japanese tubs and extra large rain heads with many water modes.

Sherman points out that today’s shower systems are easier to integrate than earlier models. “They’re not complicated like years ago when you needed a team to configure the shower, lighting, sound, etc. Many manufacturers include the technology in components that are simple to specify and install. .”

This is no excuse to tinker or hire an unqualified professional, warns Hotarek. “Buying expensive products and hiring unqualified or unlicensed contractors to do the work is by far the biggest challenge we face today.”

Security Benefits

Another benefit of technology in the spa bathroom is safety, which has gone beyond the simple life alert button, notes the occupational therapist from Rochester, New York. Brittany Ferry: “There are fall detectors which are particularly useful for those who cannot press a button after a fall or even cognitively recognize that they are in distress. These should be used anywhere, but especially in the bathroom because it is often considered the most dangerous area of ​​the house.

The OT also points to a technology opportunity that may not happen to everyone: “A lot of new design trends have a lot of natural light,” but that can be challenging for some users, she observes. “It doesn’t help visually impaired people, who are often reactive to glare and contrast sensitivity.”

Ferri dispels a common misconception: “Most people think more light will help someone see better, but that’s not always the case. It has to be the right kind of light and, more importantly, a light that can still be adjusted.” This makes a great case for remote-controlled window coverings and lighting, which a user can ideally control by voice.


Hygiene is an extremely personal topic that many of us prefer not to discuss with anyone other than our doctors. Even discussing intimate needs with family caregivers is difficult for many adults, which has become a problem when millions of older people have been moved from nursing homes to relatives’ homes in 2020. Some will never return and will require bathroom modifications to meet their hygiene needs without nursing staff. .

Bidet functionality, decorative grab bars, wall-mounted toilets and vanities, and spa showers can help immensely — and can make these spaces feel more resort than rehab. “Barrier-free walk-in showers are absolutely crucial,” says Ferri. “This design is desirable for a range of people, not just those with mobility issues,” she comments.

It also happens to be iconic in today’s spa bathrooms. These walk-in showers are often large areas with benches, handheld showerheads, and linear drains that are easy to navigate and use by those with reduced mobility or easily fatigued.

Ferri also points out that the larger size of the bathroom, the doors and the opening – especially between the toilet and the shower – are extremely beneficial for customers with reduced mobility. Vanity areas that allow for seated use are another hot tub feature recommended by OT. These can be roll-up wall cabinets or console or pedestal sinks.

Best in Class

When it comes to suggesting new ideas to her bathroom customers of all ages and abilities, Sherman loves bidet seats that automatically open, close, drain and sanitize. She also prefers antimicrobial materials for fittings, features and surfaces.

These can include large format tiles for shower walls which reduce the need for grouting. The aforementioned multi-function showerheads and therapeutic tubs are on his list, as are underfloor heating systems and towel racks, good lighting and efficient, quiet fans, and decorative grab bars for independent living.

Last words

Returning to his initial observation of the growing availability and affordability of hot tub features for more homeowners, Sherman says, “These bathrooms should be more than just a collection of fixtures and fittings sitting in a room with tiled floor. They must be carefully designed to not only fit the lifestyle of the customer, but also to enhance the wellness aspect of what a spa bathroom can do for those who use it. You can create a bathroom environment that doesn’t cost $100,000. The idea that you need a massive space is very limiting for both the designer and the client. »


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sherman, Hotarek and Ferri will share their thoughts on the spa bathroom during an hour-long conversation at the Clubhouse tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Eastern / 1:00 p.m. Pacific. You can participate in this discussion WELLNESS WEDNESDAY here. If you can’t attend, you can watch the recording via Clubhouse Replays or the Gold Notes design blog here the following Wednesday.