Over the past decade, kitchens equipped with everything from eight-burner gas stoves to ovenlike steamers have become de rigueur in homes across the country. But now the domestic obsession has shifted rooms—to the loo.
Susan Harmsworth, one of the world’s foremost spa consultants and founder and CEO of ESPA—the company commissioned to create the spas at Milan’s Bulgari Hotel and the Peninsula in Hong Kong—attributes two factors to why names like Kohler, Toto, and Clodagh are introducing such high-end home-spa accoutrements. "First is escapism," she says. "Secondly, an ever-increasing, undeniable need to slow down." Harmsworth and top architects such as the Los Angeles–based Richard Landry are seeing a surge in requests for überluxe bathrooms like the ones you might experience at a five-star hotel. "As people discover these beautiful, soothing sanctuaries around the world, they’re looking for ways to bring that sense of calm to their homes," Harmsworth explains. "Spa time is becoming a part of their daily lifestyles and not just something they have to catch a flight to experience."
And the trend is gaining momentum around the globe—Landry’s latest order came from a client in Moscow, where a 50,000-square-foot home will feature a spacious spa and a two-story room with an Olympic-size pool, waterfalls, and rock grottos. "There’s no limit to what people are willing to do," Landry says. "It’s all about what floats your boat."
Those who love their tubs but rarely have time for a soak will be enthralled by Kohler’s latest sensation: The WaterTile Showerheads and Bodysprays (from $130; kohler.com), which can be configured in any way you prefer. These square tiles come in 22- or 54-nozzle heads so the pressures vary from invigorating to relaxing. The WaterTile Bodysprays are mounted flush on the walls so the water will hit from all angles.
Also at the top of the shower market is the BainUltra Temazkal ($10,000; bainultra.com), a modern take on the ancient Aztec sweat bath used for purifying body and mind. Apart from acting as a traditional shower, the Temazkal can also be used for Thermotherapy—a dry-convection heat treatment that raises body temperature, boosts metabolism, and eliminates impurities—as well as light therapy, which employs 10,000-lux full-spectrum lights to treat insomnia, jet lag, or winter blues. Plus there’s a diffuser for aromatherapy oils and a built-in mister for cooling off. All of Temazkal’s therapies can be combined or used individually, with a timer that can be set for up to 20-minute sessions.
Diamond Spas’ hand-buffed stainless tubs and plunge pools ($3,500–$25,000; diamondspas.com) are customizable: You specify the length, width, height, and depth, as well as the placement of air jets, in-line heaters, LED lighting, and contours (they can be made in any shape). And because they have polyurethane foam between two thin layers of metal, warm-up time is almost instantaneous and the water stays hot longer than with cast iron. For the Rolls-Royce of solid copper tubs, the Kallista Archeo ($55,000; kallista.com) is a beauty. Handcrafted in France, it holds 71 gallons and is 65 inches long, 31 inches wide, and the depth to the overflow is 21 inches.
The design community has been abuzz over Toto U.S.A.’s high-tech Neorest Airbath ($15,000; totousa.com), a cast-acrylic tub that lets you program your desired temperature and water depth so you can go about your business while waiting for it to fill—it even gives you audio confirmation of your commands. At 72 inches long and 55½ inches wide, the Airbath is roomy enough for two people to enjoy without bumping legs. And what a divine soak, with 15 air jets positioned to hit the body’s pressure points. A headrest pillow at each end assures comfort, and there’s a waterfall that cascades a constant flow of warm water over the neck and shoulders. And unlike an air-jet tub, this one allows for the use of essential oils in the bath without damaging the system.
If you have space for a massage bed that’s fixed, not foldable, get the Clodagh by Oakworks Celesta Gemini ($5,750; clodagh.com). The leading maker of massage tables combines the design sensibilities of Clodagh with its own technical expertise. "We chose this table for the new ESPA at the Peninsula Hong Kong because it’s comfortably padded and well engineered with multiple positions that make it good for someone with any type of problem," notes Harmsworth. "And inside the maple cabinetry, there are electrical outlets as well as space to store a hot-stone warmer, towels, and products."
In addition to showers, tubs, and massage tables, cabinetry is getting an upgrade, too. Proof? The recent Stateside opening of the UK-based Smallbone of Devizes (from $40,000; smallboneofdevizes.com) on New York’s Upper East Side. It offers some contemporary yet traditional designs like the Pilaster collection, which has a clean look with vintage touches such as Georgian-style half columns; scallop-shell handles; natural marble or hand-painted tiles; and detailed cabinetry and moldings with finishes like antique ivory Waterworks faucets, generous mirrors, and glass shelves for spa potions which, of course, are growing exponentially just like the home-spa products.