Magazine article USA TODAY

A Bathroom for the 21st Century

Magazine article USA TODAY

A Bathroom for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

* With the millennium less than half a decade away, many homeowners are contemplating their bathrooms with a jaundiced eye. House prices are climbing to near-record heights, so more and more people are turning to remodeling, rather than trading up. Modern technology and striking design ideas present the opportunity to turn old-fashioned bathrooms into 21st-century spas.

Once, Americans were content simply to stand under a standard shower and wash. Then came adjustable heads with an assortment of settings to fit various spray preferences. From that simple change, the engineers at the Kohler Co., Kohler, Wis., created the shower to end all showers--the MasterShower Tower. The first thing one notices is the control panel, which replaces the usual knobs with a series of sleek push buttons that resemble the deck of a space capsule. Next are the spouts and showerheads that range up and down the panel. At the top, there is an overhead spout that produces a drenching waterfall-like sheet flow; beneath that, a pivoting showerhead offers a trio of spray settings--soft, needle, or pulsating for an invigorating water massage; and, below the control buttons, a pair of body-spray nozzles that adjust from a fan-shaped to cone-shaped flow and from regular to pulsating spray can vary speeds, and, with the push of the right button, swivel back and forth. The solid-state control panel allows you to combine functions--sheet with shower, shower with sprays, sprays with sheet--as desired. The over-all effect is sort of like a luxury car wash for people. It's so much fun to play with, you almost have to make a conscious effort to remember to wash! The MasterShower Tower retails for a suggested $3,100.

For those who prefer a tub, the Madison from Americh Corp., Charlotte, N.C., is dazzlingly versatile. At the push of a button, it switches from a simple bathing experience to a bracing 50-gallon whirlpool spa. Three powerful, 360[degrees]-adjustable jets along each side--propelled by a one-horsepower pump--can be soothing or stimulating, depending on mood, and can be operated on a 10-minute timer switch for economy's sake. Grab bars on either side make getting out easy and safe. Americh's unique acrylic gel coating allows color matching with fixtures from other manufacturers to give your bathroom a coordinated look. The Madison comes in a variety of sizes to fit most rooms, with a standard 60" x 32" x 18"-deep model going for $2,075. Custom accessories such as a contoured pillow, mood lights, and thermostatically controlled heater to maintain a constant temperature add to the comfort and fun.

Shower and tub enclosures have come a long way since the early rod and vinyl curtain days. Perhaps the ultimate step is the FreeStyle Trackless System from Sterling Plumbing Group, Inc., Rolling Meadows, III. Instead of the usual tracks for doors to run back and forth on--which invariably rust, jam, and become breeding grounds for the unidentifiable gunk that seems to sprout magically in the humidity of bathrooms--FreeStyle doors operate from vertical full-length posts with concealed hinges. A post at either end of the tub mounts two doors, each with two panels, while the shower requires a single two-panel door. The Lift and Seal system automatically lifts the door as it is opened and lowers it to create a waterproof seal with the tub rim or shower pan when closed. The magnetic catches that run the entire vertical length of the door(s) result in a perfect water-tight seal as well. …

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