If you’re planning on remodeling a bathroom in your home, particularly the one in your primary suite, you’re probably going to be incorporating some technology in the project. While that might seem counterintuitive, many of the top trends rely on smart home features to make your space more spa-like. These were highlighted in the recent 2024 Bathroom Trends Research Report released by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
This trade organization comprising 50,000 members, including designers, dealers, remodelers, installers and manufacturers, tracks what residential clients are interested in and what professionals are specifying. (In the interest of disclosure, I’ve been an NKBA member for close to two decades, but it’s merely one of several leading associations I source for research.)
Homeowners’ desire to create spa-inspired primary bath retreats is certainly not a new trend. Neither is incorporating technology to enhance comfort and safety, but they are trending together in intriguing ways, as the 2024 report highlighted. Here are five of the tech trends enhancing wellness in homeowner bath updates.
I returned to the same four design professionals who weighed in on wellness trends overall in last week’s trend piece, plus one additional pro, for their insights in emailed responses:
1. Personalization Enhancement
“Bathroom tech is becoming more centric in our designs and more readily accepted by clients when we can call out the benefits,” notes Brunet. In addition to increasing sales of digital shower controls and smart toilets, she also sees “TVs in mirrors or placed at the end of the tub for a good relaxing soak supported by entertainment or music.”
Velasco’s clients are also personalizing their bathrooms with technology capabilities, she shares. “Heated floors, lighting, and sound systems in the bathroom integrating into the home automation system supplies an added sense of luxury and comfort.”
Ireland’s clients are requesting features too, she comments. “These include motion-activated faucets, smart mirrors with fog-free technology, built-in lighting and electrical, as well as voice-activated sound and light technology.”
Grubb reports that his clients are opting for technology-enabled windows, specifically, “Smart glass for privacy that can also switch.” When you want a fabulous vista, you select a view setting. When you need to block visibility from outside, (perhaps on gardening day), you opt for the privacy option. Floor heating is also a smart feature his clients are requesting; even Southern Californians want to avoid chilly feet!
2. Smart Lighting
NKBA reports that LED technology is now 100% of the lighting products specified for bathroom remodels. Some of that is driven by its energy efficiency, which helps projects meet updated codes, but LEDs also allow for features that enhance wellness, safety and comfort.
Velasco says her homeowners are interested in its circadian and pathway illumination benefits for health and safety, respectively, but also its mood enhancement potential through chromotherapy. “Most of our designs can have different scenes or moods combining several types of lighting in the same space, depending on use and time.” These capabilities are tied into smart home systems that let you set and choose themes with a single click or voice command, like ‘Nighttime Relaxation’ or ‘Morning Start.’
Brunet is specifying circadian lighting in her higher end projects, she shares, and programmable moods. “Systems allow for individual scenes or day/night events, as well as individual lighting options for tasks.” Smarter task lighting can support shaving, makeup application and more easily reading instructions on prescription medicine bottles. She also likes to include safety lighting in her bathroom projects for nighttime visits.
Ireland calls LEDs “a designer’s dream!” What her primary bath clients are requesting is illumination for floors and cabinets, sensor and dimmer controls and multiple layers of lighting.
Grubb is also maximizing the lighting capabilities in his projects. Beyond the layered ambient and task illumination he and his colleagues are using LEDs to help achieve, there are additional applications he’s designing into his lighting plans: “Other details can include lights in the shower niches and under a floating bench, strip light in the toe kick or underneath a wall mounted vanity on a motion switch for a night light and lighting inside of cabinets and drawers.”
3. Smart Showers
Enhanced lighting can extend into the shower for a wellness experience there too, Velasco says. “The integrated technology allows the user to program and automate different waterfall moods to receive a rainfall, cascade, mist effect, etc. The spa experience is enhanced when different lighting options are integrated into its functions.”
Brunet’s clientele is bullish on remote shower starts, the Canadian designer reports. Ireland’s clients put smart showers in their needs versus wants category, she points out, noting, “They are unequivocally opting for smart controls as a necessity.”
Grubb says he’s adding an extra exhaust fan for the shower area to improve ventilation.
4. Smart Tubs
The NKBA report says 47% of tubs will have touch pad controls, 25% will have voice activated controls and 24% will have mobile app controls. Velasco sees the latter being of particular benefit to second home projects. “Home automation allows them to monitor their property from afar, prepare for arrival, schedule maintenance, etc.,” she observes.
It’s likely that leak and overflow protection are also built into the smart home systems enabling this capability, with shut-off features to reduce water damage when there is an issue. That is particularly helpful for ski cabins and other properties with frozen water potential.
“By far, the desire for remote control features that allow the bath to be started from another location” is high on Bethke’s client want lists, the Phoenix designer shares. “People did not use their tubs because of the time it took to get them to temperature and fill [them], but technology is now giving the consumer access to do this from their car or the golf course or from the comfort of their living rooms.”
5. Smart Toilets
The NKBA report cites a strong 60% penetration of smart toilets in residential bathroom projects. Bethke definitely sees this in her practice, she says. “The highest items in demand in a ‘Washlet’ experience are the heated seat and the dryer,” (using the Toto bidet seat brand name generically). “It is no longer an item you hide away, they are here to stay,” she declares.
Velasco’s clients are also interested in smart toilets. “We find that self-cleaning and bidet options add comfort and dual flush is a great help for water saving.”
Brunet’s Canadian clients are enthusiastic about smart toilets too, she says. The features they’re most interested in are “ personalized spray wand, stainless steel cleaning wand, heated seat, lighted base (for nighttime visits), hands-free seat cover, digital flush wall control, hands-free flush control and individual preference recall.” Grubb cited the same features for his clients located thousands of miles away in Southern California.
‘The features most in demand with my clients are heated seats, motion detection self-flush and auto-wash, as well as a built-in bidet feature,” Ireland observes. “Although smart toilets have a higher price tag, they provide luxury benefits that my clients appreciate, especially those who are elderly. It just makes the overall experience so much easier for them,” she notes.