If there's one room that screams relaxation, it's the bathroom, where anyone can go to escape household hubbub and soak the worries away.
However, added luxury can come at a hefty price -- thousands of dollars plus installation costs. We take a look at the high-end technology that can turn a bathroom into a spa haven, plus the affordable options that can make an impact without breaking the bank.
Getting music to play in the shower might seem like the easiest task: Take your current music-playing device and put it in the bathroom. But even this simple device has high-tech luxury options.
For instance, the Sangean H201 Waterproof Shower Radio ($149.99) can also double as a travel radio for outdoorsy types. It offers the standard preset radio stations, timers and a clock. But it will also float if you drop it in the lake on a fishing trip, and there's a built-in emergency LED flashlight for camping or inclement weather.
Those who aren't as adventurous and prefer to act as DJ in the shower have less-expensive options like the Jensen Universal Docking Shower Radio ($50), which can encase an iPod in its waterproof shell.
Regardless of price, shower radios are easy to install. Most come with suction cup docks or are free-standing, so they can rest on any shower ledge or corner.
One of the most dramatic technological features in a modern bathroom is the mirror television. They are more commonly seen in high-end hotel bathrooms, but are making their way into residential spaces.
When a TV mirror is off, it's indistinguishable from the rest of the mirror. When it's powered on, it lights up a segment of the mirror so the TV image is displayed. Most models are wired into the home's television cables and can be connected to alternative devices like DVD players or laptop computers.
Green Bay, Wis.-based Séura produces the Enhanced series of TV mirrors. Such TVs "are designed to bridge the gap between technology and décor," says Gretchen Gilbertson, co-founder and partner of Séura. "Our vanishing television mirrors offer a discreet and elegant way to bring information and entertainment into your personal spaces without clutter or disruption."
Prices range from $2,899 for Séura's 10-inch TV, to $3,499 for the 19-inch model. DIY installation is possible. Other companies, including Smarthome, Mirror Media and Fontaine offer mirror televisions in the same price range.
There's nothing quite like the luxury of a warm towel after a long bath.
Towel warmers range in price from $75 to upward of $1,000, depending on the features. The luxury leader in this category is Mr. Steam, based in Long Island City, N.Y. Martha Orellana, vice president of the company, suggests asking a few questions before deciding on a towel warmer. Do you want a floor or wall mount? What type of finish do you prefer? Do you want contemporary or traditional styling? Do you want to turn the warmer on with a digital timer or a light switch?
Depending on these features, the Mr. Steam products can cost from $75 for a single bar to $3,100 for the priciest model. Other brands offer less-expensive versions; the 10-bar system from Myson costs about $160.
Why go high-tech with your towels? "It's all about the 'Ahh' feeling that you get from wrapping yourself in a nice, plush, cozy, warm towel," Orellana says. "And you can get this feeling after every shower. It's pampering yourself for a few seconds every day."
Showers and baths
There's no spa experience without some sort of water pressure, be it jets in the tub or adjustable spray patterns on a showerhead. New products offer an array of controls that allow users to customize their experience.
Baths and showers now have computer panels where the user can program his or her spa experience. Kohler's new VibrAcoustic tub ($4,000) synchronizes its jets with the vibrations of music that can be played through a smartphone, MP3 player or Bluetooth device.
Tubs with jet streams generally call for professional installation and a remodel. This can cost anywhere from $200 to $3,000, depending on the ease of access, local rates and the cost of the new fixtures.
One easy way to get the essence of a spa without a total upheaval is to invest in a showerhead spa system. Some showerhead attachments can screw onto pre-existing heads, while others offer easy DIY installation directions. Check with a local retailer to ensure your shower can be adapted to fit the product.
A simple showerhead with multiple pressure settings, from "wide rain" to "power massage," can sell for a modest $30. Expect to pay much more for advanced water controls.
Moen offers vertical spa systems with multiple heads. The ExactTemp transfer vertical spa ($1,369) channels water with up to three times more spray power than regular showerheads.