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Steam in style: Today’s showers offer benefits beyond just warm mist

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the Daily
Curved glass can be an elegant solution to space and design needs, says Douglas DeChant, principal of Shepherd Resources, Inc.
Dominique Taylor/Special to the Daily |

Ambient blue light sparkles in the mist as your muscles melt into the warmth of your personal steam shower. The smell of lavender further unwinds your mind, as you lay on a comfortable bench; the experience, indeed, contrasts that of a snowy day on the mountain.

Virtually all of the master bath showers, as well as exercise and spa spaces, being designed by local architects these days include steam capability.

“I think every home should have a steam shower,” says Carole Lalena, showroom salesperson at Dahl Plumbing. “There are so many reasons, from stress relief, health benefits and cleansing your skin to helping to cure colds and sinus problems.”

Here’s to your health

Today’s steam showers provide effects beyond the value of warm mist; they also include the advantages of chromatherapy, aromatherapy and acoustics.

Chromatherapy, or color therapy, stimulates energy flow and balance; each color helps balance the body, from meditative purple to soothe organs, muscles and the nervous system to red, for blood pressure and circulation issues, according to http://www.steamsauna bath.com. It is often paired with sound, aroma, or both. For example, ThermaSol’s Serenity Light and Music System includes 18 ultra-high-intensity LED lights, which adjust to seven hues aimed at balancing the body’s chakras, or energy system. The sound system integrates with MP3, CD and DVD players, or satellite radio.

“Chromatherapy is heightened when paired with the power of steam,” states steamsaunabath.com, “and for increased stimulation, consider adding aromatherapy.”

For example, violet tones blended with jasmine can promote relaxation, while rosemary and red can help stimulate the senses. General wellbeing responds well to blue with scents of rose, tea tree or bergamot.

Many steam systems inject aromas through the steam generator, while others contain a steam head with a reservoir for aromatic drops. In addition, steam jets offer massage therapy, while large rain showerheads provide a feeling of soft, tropical moisture lightly falling from above.

Anatomy of a steam shower

Along with the more healing modalities in steam showers these days, styles are becoming more contemporary. Many showers lean toward a thinner, more linear look, Lalena says. However, others cater to the curves and comfort of the human form, “like a mold to the human body,” says Kelli Holtz, of Holtz Design Studio in Vail. Often, smaller, mosaic tiles most efficiently lend themselves to the human form, but the downside includes possible aesthetics, along with the need for more grout. Fortunately, even grout has come a long way; products such as Fusion Pro Grout boasts unsurpassed stain, mold and mildew resistance, as well as color consistency.

Frameless, and even curved, glass creates an open, spa-like experience. One steam shower recently designed by Douglas DeChant, AIA, principal of Shepherd Resources Inc., features a glass opening on one side so homeowners can view the length of their indoor-outdoor lap pool. Located adjacent to a cold-plunge pool, they can transition directly from hot steam to cold water, which helps circulation, and thus, overall skin health.

Most steam showers allow people the ability to recline; floating benches, such as Better Benches, are now simpler and more efficient to install. Stacked benches can accommodate a few people, and long, narrow, custom niches organize shampoos and conditioners.

Steamy details

For greatest comfort when designing steam showers, a few significant details become important to address. One involves the slope of the ceiling: To avoid annoying, dripping condensation from above, a ceiling must adequately slope so it drains to one wall.

In addition, porcelain tiles have replaced natural stone, which not only absorbs water — thus reducing intended steam and requiring a more powerful steam generator to compensate — but also releases minerals, such as calcium, resulting in a white film. Ceramic tiles tend to perform like stone, including their tendency to crack.

“Porcelain is just the new way to go with steam showers,” says Carri Tedstrom, sales and design consultant at Select Surfaces. “The fun thing about these porcelain tiles is they make them in a wood look, a fabric look or a marble look. You can have any look you want, but with the durability of porcelain versus stone.”

Gray and taupe are still popular colors, though a resurgence of warmer colors, like tans, are making a comeback. In terms of size, larger formats, such as 12 inches by 24 inches and larger, are replacing 12 by 12s. The larger tiles necessitate less grout, which means a cleaner look and thinner grout lines.

Unlike the past, professionals can retrofit steam showers from manufacturers including Mr. Steam. These new showers don’t require running cables through walls to connect the control mechanism to the generator. Instead, a remote control runs the generator, which can reside up to 30 feet from the shower, and thus hide in a closet.

With so many options, there’s no excuse not to usher the spa experience right into the comfort of your own home.


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