Long may it reign
No so long ago, home spa baths were all the rage - the bigger the better. The sight of a huge, deep, luxurious tub might have a certain come-hither appeal but, really, who has the time for the ritual that a long, hot soak involves? As many a spa owner has discovered, the bath that takes up most space in the bathroom can actually be the thing that's used the least. They're also difficult to clean.
But a shower: now there's an indulgence that can be equally romantic and indulgent, yet far more practical.
Designer Monique McLintock is increasingly asked to remove tubs once proudly installed. The trend, she says, is showers built for two.
'It's more sensual to take a shower together than a long soak, because it is sexy to have raindrops fall on your body,' she says.
McLintock, of Monique McLintock Interiors, says busy couples may need to get dressed and ready at the same time.
'So in some instances, the his and hers shower is preferred for practical reasons. Having a bathroom that works for your lifestyle is much more important than being bound by the outdated thinking of keeping a bathtub in the master bedroom.'
Showers also help keep interior spaces open and uncluttered.
'I often do not put a door on the shower as it feels more sensual just to walk in, especially if it has a rain shower-type effect,' she says. 'This also removes the hassle of stepping in and out of a bath, especially if you plan on using only a shower 99 per cent of the time.'
Big rain showers can be expensive, so to cut costs McLintock puts two medium-sized rain shower heads together.
In two recent bath-to-shower transformations, McLintock has created a big double shower with two shower heads on each side. Depending on placement of the glass panels, the couples can walk in together from the middle, or from separate entrances at either end. Such designs take up the same space as the normal-sized bathtubs they replaced, 'but they look amazing', she says.
Philippe Starck has trained his gaze on showers, too, designing the new Axor Starck Shower Collection for Hansgrohe. The flamboyant French designer describes the collection's modular structure as 'haute couture for the shower', his idea being to turn the shower into a 'room in room'.
Individual elements that can be combined give Starck's system maximum flexibility, allowing architects and interior designers free rein. The basic module is a 12cm by 12cm square upon which a range of different hardware can be mounted: a spray head, a thermostat, lights and speaker modules, for instance, as well as shelving units and control elements, all conforming to the same square shape and austere design of the luxurious overhead Axor Starck Shower Heaven.
The jets can be adjusted horizontally or vertically to massage the neck and shoulders. The flow rate can be adjusted, too, ranging from six to 50 litres per minute, so shower preferences can be varied 'from normal to luxurious, from basic to exceptional'.
The result, says Philippe Grohe, head of the Axor brand, is 'an overall concept for the living space bathroom that places the shower at the centre, and makes taking a shower a real experience - aesthetically, functionally, technologically, but mainly emotionally'.
Other product innovations include water-saving showerheads by Grohe that deliver the revitalising rain-shower experience without the guilt. The German brand's Rainshower Icon, Eco and Solo hand-held shower heads let the user reduce water flow by up to 40 per cent simply by sliding a button on the handle.
The halo-shaped design of the Rainshower Icon uses less water to deliver a large full spray, while Rainshower Eco is shaped to ensure full body coverage without wasting water. The Euphoria features a spray 'dimmer' on the shower face, enabling a gradual reduction of water volume and a choice of spray patterns.
Grohe's digital Ondus shower can be pre-programmed with water flow rate and temperature and has a pause button to stop the water flow mid-shower - for example while shampooing - to save water. Grohe also has a shower thermostat to keep water temperature constant, removing the risk of scalding.
Grohe has won a prestigious Red Dot design award for its rain showers, which now come in a range of bright colours.
American Standard has taken a minimalist approach with its latest showers, part of the IDS (Ideal Design Solutions) collection by European designers Achim Pohl and Thomas Fiegl of Artefakt industrial design. The collection is based on 'simplicity, sensuality and constancy'. The IDS Dynamic Shower Column is shaped to give a multi-directional shower experience with five independent heads to control water flow and temperature. According to the American brand, its M-tech thermostat technology increases the life cycle of the product by reducing wear and tear.
Zucchetti, meanwhile, has been described as 'the Lamborghini of bathroom fixtures'. Designers such as Matteo Thun, Paulo Barbieri, Barbara Sordina, Roberto and Ludovica Palomba and Antonio Rodriguez have all put their names to the Italian brand. Zucchetti's latest designs include ceiling- and wall-mounted rain shower heads in stainless steel. One model even has lighting to add colour therapy to your shower experience and speakers so you can listen to music.
But do showers also have the romance we long for in a bathroom? McLintock says that's a definite yes.
'Last year, one of my clients proposed to his girlfriend in a rainfall shower I designed!'