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Wired toilets and other reasons to design a high-tech bathroom

By Danielle Braff | Chicago Tribune Published: September 23, 2016 4:00 AM
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Bathrooms today are more technological than ever before, according to a Houzz Bathroom Trends Report.

Walk into a newly remodeled bathroom, and you can expect to see everything from hands-free faucets, wired toilets, built-in TVs, and showers and baths that can do everything from dole out aromatherapy and light therapy to adjust the temperature, depending on who is using it.

One in five toilets in renovated master bathrooms already has a high-tech feature, the Houzz report found, and bathroom technology is snowballing with a self-cleaning toilet (43 percent), built-in bathtub lighting (64 percent) and shower lighting (60 percent) being the top high tech features, according to the report.

It has become increasingly popular in recent years, as people's lives have gotten more integrated with their electronics," said Jamie Gold, San Diego-based designer, who is writing a book about bathrooms that will have a section on electronics in bathrooms. "The expectation is that your phone goes everywhere you go, providing news and entertainment while you get ready for your day or wind down at its end. As bathrooms have evolved from basic spaces to personal retreats, technology has evolved to enhance them."

But as bathroom remodels continue to embrace technology -- the Virginia Tech Center for Design Research created a FutureHAUS Bathroom predicting future bathrooms that will include flooring that sends out alerts if someone falls -- there are also options for those concerned that technology is changing so quickly that by the time they finish their bathroom remodel, the technology will be outdated.

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One of those option is the high-tech toilet, said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz.

She said that buyers can choose self-cleaning toilets, toilets with built-in night lights, heated seats, motion-activated seats, self-deodorizers, hands-free flushing or thos e with overflow protection.

The best part: "You can replace these without having to do a large renovation," Sitchinava says. And if there's a new tech toilet that you like better, you can always swap it out.

Showers are another area where home owners can add technology sans a rehab, said Alan Zielinski, president of Better Kitchens Inc.

He suggested the new Moxie Showerhead & Wireless Speaker by Kohler (starts at $299 at Us.kohler.com), which offers plenty of easy technology.

"It replaces an existing shower head and provides you with music via Bluetooth from your iPhone or favorite personal smart device," Zielinski said. "The waterproof speaker is easily removed for charging and can be moved anywhere within range of the Bluetooth device, so your music can move with you, hands free, to your dressing area."

Lighting doesn't have to be permanent, either.

Mikel Welch, interior designer and owner of Mikel Welch Designs, likes the Hue Lighting System by Philips ($199.99 for the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Start Kit at Meethue.com) because with a simple exchange of a light bulb, plug-in of a small box and an app, you can create any type of lighting in the bathroom to cater to your mood.

With the advent of so much bathroom technology, many homeowners are also adding Docking Drawers (starts at $239 for a charging outlet and $259 for a power outlet at Dockingdrawer.com), which incorporate outlets and charging stations discreetly into vanity drawers for blow dryers, phones, tablets and anything else, Zielinski said.


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