VertiSpa
American Standard
The American Standard VertiSpa ($399) can turn a standard shower nozzle into an array of horizontal body sprays, without any added plumbing.
By
Special to msnbc.com
updated 1/31/2006 7:37:54 PM ET 2006-02-01T00:37:54

The age of the utilitarian bathroom, where visits were brief and business-like, is apparently over. An array of home-spa indulgences, from massaging shower sprays to waterproof entertainment, seem determined make you linger in the bath.

If you’re willing to invest a lump sum into relaxation, there are whirlpool baths equipped with so-called intelligent jets, “chromatherapy” lights that bathe you in soothing colors, and other high-tech accessories. At the highest end, the Jacuzzi La Scala is a jetted “entertainment bath” with a flat-screen TV, DVD system and underwater lighting, for around $24,000.

But even if your bathroom budget has fewer zeroes, you can still gather the elements of a luxury home spa.

For starters, you can give your ordinary tub a whirlpool vibe with a hydro-jet device that fits over the edge of the tub and churns up some waves. The Homedics JET-2 JetSpa Elite and Conair’s Dual Jet Bath Spa will fit the bill for under $50.

If you’re more of the showering type, shower towers equipped with large, “rainfall”-style showerheads and horizontal body sprays can be an indulgent addition. The American Standard VertiSpa ($399) and the fancier Grohe Aquatower ($995-$2,400), with thermostat control among other features, are two examples of easily installed bliss.

A sleeker alternative comes in the form of Kohler’s WaterTile body sprays, which are installed nearly flush to your shower wall to fire horizontal streams of water. They ring up at $124 and up apiece, depending on number of nozzles and the color finish.

To truly emulate the spa experience, some steam is in order, and several companies make small steam generators that typically have an aromatherapy option as well. The Kohler 7-kW Steam Generator starts at $1,100, while Mr. Steam and Steamist stainless steel generators go for about $1,000 and up. You will, however, need to get advice from a professional on whether your existing shower/tub can be converted into a steam bath.

Heat generation seems to be one of the markers of a real-deal home spa. Electric towel warmers are a hot item, so to speak. Standalone units plug into a wall, but more attractive and streamlined towel racks can be mounted to the wall and connected to your home’s electrical wiring or hot-water system. WarmaTowel electric-heated warmers begin at $600, while its hydronic (hot water) line is sold for $680 and up. If that sounds pricey for a towel rack, Warmrails has a number of freestanding and wall-mounted, plug-in towel warmers for less than $100.

MiraVision
Philips
The MiraVision Mirror TV from Philips is a TV when turned on, and a mirror when turned off.
If you’re somehow still not warm enough, you might invest in a heated floor. Nuheat and Warmly Yours, for example, offer electric heating mats that can be installed under tile and other floors. Prices vary depending on the system and square footage.

Then there’s entertainment. Traditionally, spas have offered an escape from the modern world, but if you just can’t leave your tunes or tube behind, you don’t have to.

At the futuristic end there are in-mirror, LCD TVs that magically disappear to reveal your reflection when they’re not on. Philips ($1,100 and up) and Seura (around $3,000 and up) both make versions of “mirror-vision.”

Of course, there are more down-to-earth options. The Casio SY-30 is a water-resistant, shock-resistant TV with a 2.7 inch screen that can be at home in the bathroom for just $150. Or, you might want to hold out for the bathroom DVD player/TV line that Casio recently launched in Japan.

Sound Soother
Sharper Image
The Sharper Image Sound Soother lets you listen to outdoor sounds such as rain or windchimes.
On the music front, the CD Shower Companion from the Sharper Image ($200) lets you listen to the radio or CDs, including ones encoded with MP3 files. And H2O Audio makes water-tight safe houses for your iPod or MP3 player, with waterproof headphones included. A few companies, including Sony and Freestyle Audio, have come out with MP3 players that can take a dunk.

If you’d rather bring the sounds of nature into your spa, the Sharper Image Sound Soother 20 ($100) offers digital recordings of outdoor sounds such as “rain,” “brook” and “windchimes.”

Finally, remember that chromatherapy lighting that illuminates the high-end whirlpools? You could add some mood lighting to your existing digs with the Ondine Electronic Light Shower, a showerhead whose 270 spray channels sport fiber optics that cause the water to continuously change color – for a mere $3,500.

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