Just Add Water

There was once a time when the bathing ritual was, well, a ritual. Changes in living patterns have downsized the indulgence, and along with it, the importance of the bathroom. But the commode and its fellows are enjoying a renaissance. While the purpose of the WC is utilitarian, it can now be a luxurious part of the everyday routine, reflecting the homeowner’s sense of style and melding with the home’s overall aesthetic. It’s also a launching pad for environmental commitment—a large portion of a home’s water waste happens in the bathroom. Today’s designs for more efficient fixtures offer more than the thin stream of yesterday’s water savers. Best of all, many are style conscious. These elements allow for a well-designed bathroom that goes beyond one that simply functions well to create a room you’d almost spend time in, even if you didn’t have to.

Water saving faucets and shower heads

imageFunctional hands-free faucet
For too long kitchen faucets had the corner on turning on and off with the wave of a hand. The Charlotte faucet brings that technology to the bathroom with a twist. “Not only can you turn it on hands free, there is a dial on top that you can turn to adjust the water temperature,” said Christine Dwyer of Ferguson, a plumbing supply showroom. Starting at $700; brizo.com

Low flow showerhead with a high flow feel
imageUsing less water in the shower is a great idea, until you step under a poorly performing low flow showerhead. But these new Parma 5 Function Showerheads incorporate air into the water stream, increasing the velocity of water, without increasing its volume. Users won’t be pummeled with stinging streams of water, instead the air is trapped as bubbles that soften the feel of the water without leaving you feeling shortchanged. A flow control in the head maintains constant pressure, emitting 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 gallons per minute, saving about 20 percent of the water used by a traditional showerhead. $50-62; danze.com

Intuitive spray patterns
Handheld showerheads are known for giving a wide range of spray patterns. Usually the head is rotated until it clicks into a new setting. The Twist is easier to use too, a flip of a thumb shifts four key spray patterns as opposed to six or eight superfluous ones. $40; moen.com

Bathroom tiles

imageHigh art wallpapered tiles
Bold colors and patterns are no longer the exclusive realm of wallpaper. These tiles, inspired by Native American textiles, are the work of British designer Neisha Crosland and part of the Haveli line. The 7 7/8-inch square tiles have a distressed glazing on them and are available in black and cream as well as colorful blues and reds. The bold color of wallpaper with the durability and easy maintenance of a tile is a sure start to brightening up even the most modest powder room. Starts at $25 per square foot; annsacks.com

Wood and water do mix
The old adage is if you want wood to survive you’ve got to keep it covered, out of the rain and dry. But tile made to look like wood is the perfect solution for a wet bathroom floor. The four colors that make up the porcelain Knot collection have a textured surface that looks like wood graining. Used on your bathroom floor these 24-inch long planks bring nature in without worry. Starting at $9.25 per square foot. sienamarble.com

Sinks & Tubs

imageBathing in sound
During the weekday there is more showering than bathing happening. But on the weekends, or after a long day, it’s time for a relaxing bath. Part of that relaxation is music. Kohler’s new tub brings the term “aqua therapy” to new levels. Speakers placed behind the shell send sound through the water, controlled by an interface that is placed within easy reach. Starting at $3,326; kohler.com

Flowers in the sink
The floral pattern of this sink gives off a welcoming vibe while remaining scratch resistant and anti-microbial. “Solid surfacing is a different kind of material, it’s warmer and you can have designs molded into it,” said Sheldon Malc, Showroom Manager at Davis & Warshow. Starting at $3,520; blubathworks.com

Water saving toilets

Tame a water-guzzling beast
The toilet is the single biggest water waster in the home, accounting for 38 percent of the water used in a day. By replacing an older toilet with a modern one, the gallons used per flush will be cut in half. But those can be pricy. Instead, retrofit an existing toilet with this kit and its lever will provide two flushing options. Push halfway down for lighter waste, and use only about a gallon of water. Press all the way only when more volume is required and thus more water. The former is the real water waster as nearly 80 percent of flushes are for liquid waste. $30; fluidmaster.com

Lav lift-off
In our space-age lives where our devices think, and almost do, everything for us, it’s time the commode caught up. The Numi, a $6,400 toilet, will cater to every need. It automatically lifts the lid when it senses an approach, warms the seat during touchdown and starts a fan to warm idle feet. Use the touchscreen remote to control the flush, music and lighting. There are no knobs or levers to pull. kohler.com

imageRun clean
Europeans have been using bidets for years and a similar experience is now available, without adding a separate fixture. The new series of Washlets replaces an existing toilet seat and cover with a one-piece system that is only 4 inches high. Using a touch panel on the side of the cover, extend the wand into the middle of the opening to spray a mist of water, bidet style, then warm air for drying. The unit cleans itself and the bowl after every use. $900; totousa.com