Personal health and wellness are a rising priority, creating demand for luxury, custom features and exquisite shower design to create a spa-like oasis in the home.

“Designing spaces prioritizing well-being has never been more critical,” offers Martha Orellana, v.p. at MrSteam in Long Island City, NY. 

This focus on health and wellness impacts the elements people are looking to include in their showering experiences. “As consumers seek solutions for self-care rituals and at-home spa experiences, shower fittings continue to move beyond addressing basic hygiene to providing a more elevated experience that promotes wellness and relaxation,” stresses Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, leader, LIXIL Global Design, LIXIL Americas region in Piscataway, NJ. “This includes more options for personalization like hydrotherapy, aromatherapy and steam.”

A personal retreat must be just that: personal. “Everyone is familiar with a standard shower, but we are seeing clients gravitate toward unique designs to delight the soul,” adds Clinton Cardinal, Brizo category manager, Showering for Brizo in Indianapolis, IN. “With the shower being such a necessary but personal experience, many folks are seeking designs not found in the mass market.”

“Consumers are looking to personalize their showering experience. Bringing in beauty through sculptural elements such as an architectural rain shower as well as introducing more custom textures and materials such as natural stone and precious metals and crystal allows them to indulge in a space that is unique to their needs,” observes Lisa Hurley, associate director of product management for Kallista in Kohler, WI.

This is particularly true in the master bath. 

“Showers in master bathrooms present an opportunity for homeowners to lean into luxuriousness and create a personal oasis,” notes Hurley. “Ultra-luxury consumers are focused on creating a beautiful sanctuary that allows them to realize their personal taste.”

Other shower trends include a move towards warmer finishes, interesting enclosure and drain options, connected controls, and additional features, including steam, say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News. 

Elegant Aesthetics

When creating a wellness space, aesthetics are as important as function. Because styles vary widely and personalized design is important, a range of options is necessary to create the custom look that consumers demand. 

“Nowadays, brands are, or should be, offering a wide range of stylish and aesthetically pleasing showerhead designs, finishes and materials to complement various bathroom decor themes,” says Kiran Singh, brand manager at Peerless in Indianapolis, IN. She notes that the matte black finish continues to rise in popularity due to its timeless color and ability to modernize any space. “After functionality, the aesthetics of a shower plays the most significant role in modern bathroom design,” states Hurley. Warmer tones in metal finishes are trending, she reports. “These tones bring richness while remaining non-intrusive, and complement organic finishes like stone and stained wood.”

“Overall, consumers are looking to create their desired mood in their bathroom spaces, which can be achieved with the right finish. Warmer, subtle metallic finishes, such as the GROHE Brushed Cool Sunrise finish, are a strong trend, and are increasingly chosen as an alternative to the ubiquitous standby, Brushed Nickel, due to their brushed warmth and texture,” stresses L’henaff. “There’s also a wider spectrum of finishes beyond metallics that includes powder-coated finishes, like matte black. Powder-coated finishes present opportunities for a range of dynamic matte colors that add an expressive element to a space.”

Brian Zuccaro, product manager, QuickDrain & Oatey Co. based in Denver, CO, agrees that finishes with warmth and personality are trending. “Brushed and matte finishes give a more lived-in, timeless look,” he remarks, adding that more vibrant colors, like blues and greens, are also showing up in the bathroom. “Aged bronze and gold elements can be sprinkled throughout, such as the hardware at the vanity, shower drains or other accessories in the shower,” he continues.

“Gold is seeing a resurgence in bathroom designs,” agrees Crista Tekstra, v.p. of brand & product marketing for CRL in Los Angeles, CA. “Gold finishes continue to exemplify luxury, but designers don’t want the finish to appear showy, so we’re seeing increasing interest in warmer variations, like satin and brushed gold. In addition, there is growing interest in new variations of black matte finishes, such as rich matte gunmetal.”

Patrick Weidl, director of business development for ThermaSol, based in Round Rock, TX, says that recently they’ve been seeing more simplistic, modern designs using finishes like matte black, brushed gold and oil rubbed bronze. Polished and brushed chrome are still popular, he adds. “I always refer to those as timeless finishes because they will never go out of style,” he says. 

Meaningful Connections

Digital controls and connected showers upgrade the showering experience, manufacturers say. The desire to be connected is high, but not for all homeowners, making options key. 

“Smart and connected showers are becoming more popular and offer a range of features to enhance one’s showering experience. In the ultra-luxury segment, homeowners expect technology to be seamlessly integrated without compromising their beautiful aesthetic,” says Hurley. Many homeowners find technology too obtrusive and gimmicky, she adds. “[It] should be more about subtle personalization and allowing the beauty of the designed materials to become the focal point of the space, and not technology,” she continues.

L’henaff concurs, “Digital shower systems are evolving in more luxury bathroom spaces, but are not yet mainstream. The shower is a retreat space in the home where someone can go to clear their mind and have a break from technology. While digital controls may add convenience, they make for a less intuitive user interaction.”

One of the benefits of smart technology is the ability to personalize the experience. “Smart shower systems allow users to customize their shower experience,” reports Nicole Matthews, associate brand manager at Pfister in Lake Forest, CA.

“Technology is always a focus, and we are seeing the market becoming more and more hungry for technology in products that have historically been manual in nature,” stresses Cardinal. “This has led to great options that not only improve the overall shower experience, but also provide health benefits.”

Enclosures and Drains

A great deal of focus is placed on the elements that create the showering experience: the fixtures, controls and special features. But selection of enclosures and drains also plays a key role in creating the oasis homeowners want.

Samantha Bock, marketing director for Fleurco Products, based in Montreal, QC Canada says that they are seeing a rise in single shower panels that provide a more open, European look. Smoked glass is coming back, she adds. 

 In the shower pan, new textures and finishes are on the rise, especially solid surface stone, she notes, which are durable, increasingly easier to maintain over time, and mimic nature.

The desire for a clean, modern look extends to enclosure hardware. “Designers are seeking to minimize the visibility of essential, yet visually extraneous, elements like the mounting screws,” notes Tekstra. “This has led to our development of three new hinge lines for frameless shower doors that completely conceal the screws. This supports the aesthetic of an ultra-clean look that is easy to maintain, and emphasizes the beauty of the enclosure without drawing attention to the mounting mechanism.” 

One unique material offers a look not often seen in showers: real wood. Millboard is molded from a real piece of oak, or a 100-year old train car floor from France, relays John Fowler, CEO and founder of Mendota Heights, MN-based Outlive, the U.S. distributor for Millboard. While this material has primarily been used in exterior applications, he says, more and more people have been interested in using it for shower applications. Coated with ¼” of Lastane, a heavy-duty rubber, Millboard is extremely durable and slip resistant, Fowler notes. Each board is hand-tinted to offer variety, bringing character and history to the space without the fear of mold, rot, warping or fading, he reports. Maintenance on Millboard is easy as well, continues Fowler, but he stresses that it does have to be properly installed and sealed so moisture doesn’t get behind the wall. “It’s a very simple install, and aesthetically and to the touch there’s nothing close to it,” Fowler says. “It’s going to be fun to see how it evolves in the interior,” he adds.

When it comes to the drain, Zuccaro notes important factors to consider include aesthetics, cost, tile choice, maintenance and application. “Choosing between a linear or center-point drain depends on design preference, with a linear drain offering a luxurious and unique look while a center-point drain provides a more traditional aesthetic,” he reports. 

Center-point drains are typically more cost effective, he adds, but the benefits of a linear drain – including the ability to create a wet room, accommodate aging-in-place needs, or completing a tub-to-shower conversion without relocating the drain – might outweigh the cost advantages, he offers.

A linear drain helps keep maintenance easy. “Using linear drains with large-format tile reduces the number of grout joints and seams, minimizing the accumulation of mold, mildew and grime,” Zuccaro stresses. “They can also extend the shower floor’s surface area, improving water evacuation in curbless enclosures. On the other hand, center-point drains have more grout lines, requiring extra cleaning and maintenance to prevent mold accumulation.”

Indulgent Retreats

The master shower, which typically has a much bigger footprint than other bathrooms, is where most of these spa-like retreats show up, manufacturers say.

Matthews says that showers in these larger, more luxurious bathrooms typically showcase more elaborate and feature-rich shower systems, such as multiple showerheads – overhead, handheld and body spray jets – built-in seating, steam options, aromatherapy and custom shower controls. Raincan showerheads are also trending for a soothing, rainfall experience, she reports. “The goal is to create a personalized and indulgent showering experience, distinguishing them from showers in other bathrooms,” she remarks.

L’henaff agrees. “Since primary showers typically have a larger footprint, they lend themselves to being more like an oasis within the home,” he states. “All the spa-like features such as rain showers, multiple showerheads and body sprays work best when the space is larger and feels more indulgent.”

“Master bathrooms often boast larger spaces, allowing for the inclusion of spacious walk-in showers,” Hurley adds. “These showers may have multiple showerheads, body sprays, seating areas and even steam functionality for a truly indulgent experience.” Homeowners often choose showers that offer features that can be customized, she reports. “From adjustable water flow patterns to temperature controls, these showers provide a personalized experience tailored to individual preferences.”

“Master bathroom showers often incorporate premium materials and high-quality finishes. Options like natural stone tiles, glass enclosures and elegant fixtures enhance the overall aesthetics and create a luxurious ambiance,” Hurley adds.

“Designers and their customers are seeking a spa-like experience and aesthetic in the primary bath,” remarks Tekstra. “While the other bathrooms in the home receive cosmetic updates, the primary bath is being reengineered – larger footprints, open spaces and frameless shower enclosures that help achieve an expansive, spa-like feel.”

“Viewing the master suite as more of personal space than, say, a powder room, homeowners and designers are going bolder with selections that let their personality shine,” Zuccaro relays. 

Conscious consumption

Water scarcity is a major concern, and regulations around usage are inspiring manufacturers to develop innovative solutions that allow users to save water without sacrificing the showering experience. 

“Innovative shower solutions are starting to address the collective concern over water scarcity and the global energy crisis,” L’henaff states. “Advanced shower systems are able to purify, reheat and reuse the water for significant water and energy savings.” 

“Water conservation regulations and environmental concerns drive the popularity of water-saving showerheads that maintain performance while reducing water consumption, leading to innovative designs and technologies focused on efficient water usage like our Rhen 1-Handle Shower Only Trim,” says Matthews.  

“Many don’t know this, but the standard showerhead uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm), which is a lot!” stresses Singh. “Water-saving showerheads/fixtures that earn the WaterSense label must demonstrate that they use no more than 2.0 gpm. This also ensures that these offerings provide a satisfactory shower that is equal to or better than conventional showerheads on the market.”

“Increasingly strict regulations are creating challenges for shower designs. These legal requirements have led to further developments in the design and engineering of eco-friendly showerheads and systems that prioritize water efficiency, but also don’t compromise performance,” Hurley confirms. 

Soothing Steam

With a focus on well-being a top priority, steam is a great addition to the shower, offering added relaxation without using a lot of water. Other therapeutic features are often added to steam to enhance these benefits, manufacturers say.

“We see consumers gravitating toward indulgent experiences that use less water, allowing them to pivot but still create excitement in their shower space,” reports Cardinal. “A great example of this is the addition of steam in the shower, where the typical 20-minute steam shower provides an abundance of indulgence, using roughly only a gallon of water.

“Steam therapy has a wide range of health and wellness benefits,” offers Orellana. “Therefore, adding a steam shower is a compelling selling point because it satisfies the desire for a space focused on well-being.”  

Some of the top trends when incorporating steam include choosing personalized amenities for a more comfortable experience, Orellana says. These include aromatherapy, chromatherapy and music therapy, she says, all of which have specific benefits. 

The incorporation of smart technology only adds to the steam experience, Weidl reports. “We cater to the customer looking for more of the smart integration into the shower, and also the wellness aspect,” he says. With light, speakers and even the ability to watch live television while taking a steam shower, Weidl notes, people aren’t watching the clock as much as they used to, and the wellness benefits of steam can become part of an everyday routine. 

Planning ahead is critical when adding steam, manufacturers say. “You can’t add it to just any shower,” Weidl stresses. “The most important aspect of a steam shower is the design and thought process to incorporate it.” As far as layout goes, he says, people want a place to sit and relax. They’re even moving away from a simple flat bench towards a more “chaise lounge” design, he adds.

There are several important things for designers to consider, Orellana continues, such as allocating appropriate enclosed space that is water- and vapor-tight for the steam shower to function properly, placement of the steam generator for easy access for servicing, and placement of the steam head. She says designers should collaborate with qualified professionals licensed to perform the work necessary to ensure that the electrical and plumbing systems can support steam shower installation.

“More consumers are adding a steam shower into their homes as a smart investment for long-term home value and sustainability,” remarks Orellana. While the master bath is often where people choose to install the steam shower, she says, they can fit almost any space. “Ultimately, deciding where to install a steam shower depends on individual preferences and the design and layout of the bathroom,” she explains.

Weidl relays that steam showers were thought of as the “end all be all” for the master bath, to create a luxury space for the homeowners, but now they are being incorporated elsewhere, such as in pool houses or multi-use residential shower spaces. The ability to customize the experience for multiple users is a plus, he adds.