Nothing is more luxurious in winter than a warm bathroom. Happily, almost anyone can achieve this luxury without sacrificing period style or overrunning your budget. Many of the most desirable options are also the most affordable. For instance, plug-in electric towel warmers can be had for under $150, whereas overhead rain shower fixtures start at around $60. For as little as $200, you can easily find a good pressure-balance mixer. At the other end of the spectrum, for those with money to spend, you may want to consider a jetted pedestal tub or steam shower system, which might set you back a few thousand dollars.
If you’re in the market for a towel warmer or radiator, they come in two basic styles: the traditional round tube shape and the flat-panel “Euro” style. Another option is a tubular towel-warming basket. This handy basket can be mounted in tight spaces to keep hot fluffy towels within easy reach.
Every towel warmer will generate heat, but some of the more powerful hard-wired versions can rightly be considered radiators. Inexpensive electric models that put out 100 watts or so are great, because they not only dry the towels in the bathroom but also reduce dampness and mildew. If they’re sized and placed properly, the more powerful hard-wired electric or hydronic towel radiators can easily heat larger spaces. Even better, neither gets too hot to touch. An electric towel warmer should only reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Hydronics can range between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how hot you keep the system. These radiators can provide your bathroom with zoned heating.
When choosing a unit, you need to consider the amount of tile or stone, the type and location of existing heat sources such as steam radiators or forced air, and how many windows. A good dealer can help you find the perfect unit to suit your needs. If you can’t even fit a small towel warmer, see if you can find room along the baseboard for a couple of horizontal radiator panels, which should keep your tiny bath nice and warm.
When it comes down to it, however, it’s the water in the bath or shower that warms the most. Especially if you are upgrading the shower anyway, be sure to install a pressure-balanced or thermostatic mixing valve. Inexpensive and simple, a pressure-balance valve will keep the water pressure in the shower constant, preventing sudden fluctuations in water temperature caused by such incidents as a flushed toilet, for instance.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated system, then consider a thermostatic valve, which mixes hot and cold water to fairly precise temperatures (within one degree Celsius of the setting). You can count on these valves to regulate fluctuations in the incoming water pressure as well.
For a truly luxurious valve, plan on spending at least $1,000, although you can easily spend more. Conveniently, many of these mixers are available in suites that include period-inspired shower heads and cross-handled knobs or levers. Even better, some come with memory settings. This feature allows each family member to choose and record a preferred shower temperature for the perfect shower every time.
If you can’t get enough humidity in winter and you love your shower, a steam shower is another great option. To install one, you’ll probably need a major retrofit, since there must be a spot for the generator and you may have to make modifications for the steam shower doors. On the upside, you’ll use very little water for a twenty-minute steam: only about two gallons. But a basic system starts at around $3,000, including the generator, steam head, and temperature controls. Once you’ve added any extras such as stereo speakers, light, and aromatherapy packages, the price will go up.
Are you one of those people who prefer an old-fashioned tub for your bath? Reproduction roll-top designs with claw feet begin at about $1,000, and you can choose between either cast iron or the more environmentally friendly acrylic. Unsurpassed for soaking, these deep tubs also come in double-ended styles that accommodate two, or multiple children. You can specify claw feet in the style and finish of your choice, so your new tub will complement any décor. For a dramatic flair, you can go with a custom-made tub in copper, steel, marble, and even teak.
If your dream bath is a traditional tub with a water- or air-jet system, your best bet is to go with a pedestal or Roman tub. The skirt will conceal the tubes and motor. Any bathtub can be turned into a home spa with strategically placed jets. A fully equipped air-jet tub isn’t cheap. Expect to pay upward of $4,000.
Leon Tuberman ownes a manages a Los Angeles furniture store that specializes American made solid furniture that's handmade with the best material and using the finest building techniques. Whether your looking oak bookcases or oak file cabinets they have exactly what you need.