Modern Living

Tablet-powered toilets, tubs that vibrate: Welcome to your future bathroom

Bea Ledesma - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - ‘Spas are being built across the globe and, particularly, in Asia. People love spas. They need to get away, they need to relax.’

Water powered by sound waves, baths designed to massage… The wave of the future is here and it looks really, well, relaxing.

Spas aren’t going anywhere, thanks to the growing number of niche, high-end spas as well as the rapid sprawl of affordable massage parlors peddling P300 foot massages.

“Look at the broader statistics,” Kohler Co. president David Kohler observed. “Spas are being built across the globe and, particularly, in Asia. People love spas. They need to get away, they need to relax.”

Never is that more apparent than at the Kitchen and Bath Show (KiBS) in New Orleans where Kohler debuted innovations in shower and bath that make your resident high-end spa look like an antiquated medieval bathing chamber.

Home spas are the wave of the future, with consumers replicating the benefits of spa-like amenities — a jazzed-up shower, steam/sauna — to accompany their weekly (or in many cases, thrice weekly) at-home massages.

Kohler recognizes the trend and acknowledges that it’s only going to grow. The company’s response is to draw from elements key to the spa experience and bring it into the home. “Being able to take some of that feeling — the tile and stone — and even adding steam to your existing shower,” he says, amplifies what can be a normal bathroom into a singular experience.

One of their developments is the Kohler DTV Lifestyle, a custom shower with digital shower valves. “We found that when you can control water in a different way, you can create really spa-like experiences,” Kohler design director for Europe and Asia Pacific Mark Bickerstaffe noted, “ You can change temperature, you can pulse jets in a custom way. You can’t do that with mechanical machinery.”

The emphasis is on technology — but harnessed to meet today’s consumer’s needs in an authentic manner.

Bickerstaffe, a dapper Brit, considers authenticity the Holy Grail of design. “By authenticity, I  don’t mean traditional,” he explains. “I mean being able to connect with the design, through the colors, the finishes, the forms, because so much people around the world are stressed out about the economy, world news. The bathroom is about escape. And part of the escape is touching things, feeling things. it’s emotion.”

“Great design should create emotion in you,” David Kohler echoes.

“Reclaimed materials, worn materials, that lovely patina is a big trend,” Bickerstaffe adds.

“We’ve seen a lot of people breaking down the walls between the bathroom and their bedroom or the bathroom and the outside, because that extra space allows you to have that flexibility. It’s about bringing the outside in and inside out.”

A tub that massages through sound

One of the breakout innovations at the KiBS show was Kohler’s VibrAcoustic technology, a tub that delivers personalized hydrotherapy through the use of sound vibration technology. Concealed speakers mounted around the tub emit sound waves. “When you sit in a VibrAcoustic in water, it’s an amazing experience because it penetrates your body,” Kohler remarked. “When you have just whirlpool jets, water pushes on your skin. Here, the sound waves go right through your body, engineered to maximize the therapeutic experience.”

Chromatherapy lights accompany the soundtrack, in a sequence of eight hues to pulse according to the acoustics.

“The VibrAcoustic not only brings music to the bath, but the big idea is that it’s a new therapeutic experience. Not just let’s put some speakers there and have some music.”

The bath does double duty as well: Consumers can utilize the speakers for music in the bathroom. When the tub is empty, access to a playlist on a mobile device via Bluetooth transforms the tub into a custom sound system. Streaming music seamlessly makes for an effortless experience, in large part due to an intuitive touch screen interface.

“Music in the shower is one of the top things consumers always want,” Kohler reiterates. “We want to make music available even in the more affordable range.”

The solution is the Moxie, conventional shower heads with Bluetooth-enabled,  battery-powered speakers on the opposite end of the spectrum. An angled nozzle supplies full-spray coverage, while a magnetic wireless speaker snaps into the cavity of the shower head.

“The new Moxie shower head is not about delivering a ton of water,” Kohler notes in praise of the product. “We brought music through a wireless interface. And that’s a great experience.”

The response they’ve received was proof enough. “People love it. We’ve blown our estimates of what we thought we’d sell.”

The toilet that does everything — and flush

The Numi is an impressive piece of machinery. Kohler Co. president David Kohler has one in his bathroom. “One of my favorites,” he says, referring to the high-end tablet-operated toilet that provides music (or FM radio), heating, ambient light and adjustable bidet capabilities, integrated dryer and a deodorizer. A floor-level vent provides heading to prevent the shock of stepping on cold bathroom flooring in the middle of the night.

Consumers wary of unstable power supply won’t have to worry. Thanks to a battery pack, the Numi is capable of powering 100 flushes sans Meralco.

The advanced home bath

“Technology in the bathroom is a big thing,” Bickerstaffe declares. 

“We all carry mobile phones around. We take them into the bathroom, but the bathroom is not a friendly place for technology in many ways.

“It’s a place you go to escape. Sometimes you want to watch television, sometimes you want to read the news, sometimes you want it to be a spa-like experience with mood lighting.”

The solution is simple. “That’s all about integrating technology in a really seamless way in the bathroom.”

Bickerstaffe doesn’t mean flashy gadgetry.

“It shouldn’t be gadget technology,” he reiterates. “It should be integrated so it’s there for you when you want it — and not when you don’t want it.”

Customizing a bath, like Kohler’s DTV system, which allows consumers to cherry pick the number and placement of shower valves to replicate the perfect bath experience, is one way.

For people without the money or luxury of space to recreate a spa foot-by-foot,  Bickerstaffe assures that the home spa is not impossible.

“I was in Korea recently and they were addressing the same need for tiny homes,” he remembers. The answer? “Integrate more functionality into the same object.

It gives you that choice of today, I want it to feel this way, and doing something differently tomorrow.”

The trend is in small space design. “Compact solutions that fit into any shape of bathroom,” he notes is the wave of the future.

Today’s dream bathroom is not necessarily a palatial chamber with gewgaws aplenty. Even the humblest of spaces can be made to feel like a spa.

Bickerstaffe recommends “using the shower as much more than a shower. Using steam, adding seating. Adding other elements to the experience. That’s the best most efficient way.”

“In smaller spaces, you don’t have the luxury to do as many things as you could in a big bathroom,” Kohler adds, “so you need to bring innovation into a smaller space.”











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