For many, the bathroom can be a place of inspiration, with up to 70 per cent of people saying they have their best brainwaves in the shower, according to research by German brand Hansgrohe. The company's pioneering Raindance shower range, now widely copied, has three jet sprays — one gentle, one strong and a massaging whirl.
New bathroom technology includes remote-controlled showers and touch-sensitive taps, colourful LEDs, wireless music, luxurious steam rooms and spa baths, and waterproof remote-controlled TVs. Flexible lighting can be changed from functional to atmospheric.
New digital controls for taps and showers can be worked from your phone, with different settings for everyone in the family. Bathroom music can be streamed from your iPhone or iPod via Bluetooth to speakers in cabinets and mirrors, or even through an enamelled steel bath made by Kaldewei, so you get superb sound quality — and another reason to linger.
Water music: Kaldewei’s Puro Duo bath (£779) acts as a sound box for the company’s Sound Wave 300 audio system (around £587) which plays music from Bluetoothenabled devices. For stockists call 0800 840 9770
For modernists, the look is slim and streamlined. "We call it reduced design," says the well-known German brand Duravit. Super-thin furniture shapes not only ooze elegance, but also save space.
Melinda Hill, senior designer at Ripples, of Chelsea and Richmond, adds: "Pared-down designs have soft and soothing lines to create a feeling of calm."
Replacing traditional shower enclosures are wet or showering "areas". Thus hinges, seals and even doors can be eliminated and replaced by a tiled wall to walk behind, or a simple pieces of glass, perhaps with anti-plaque treatments.
Spanish brand Roca has made an all-in-one loo which doesn't need a separate cistern on the wall. Water for flushing is hidden under the lavatory bowl, and, as needed, pushed out by air and then sucked away again with the waste. This revolutionary loo needs electricity to make it work, though we are promised "six full flushes" in the event of a power cut. See it — and many other innovations — in the sensational Roca Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid in Chelsea (Station Court, Townmead Rd, SW6; 020 7610 9503).
Multi-tasking: kick back, relax, get clean, have a massage — you can do it all in one go with the Water Lounge from hoesch-design.com. This amazing bit of bathroom kit will, however, set you back £31,000
Just launched at a big trade fair in Birmingham is the Dea — meaning "goddess" — bathroom range, designed by London agency Seymourpowell for the big British brand Ideal Standard. Nice proportions and subtle curves make this very easy on the eye. Basins have slim, rounded edges, and thin-edged, acrylic baths have "flared" shapes. Careful details include deep but splash-free basins, and under-basin cupboards that slope gently backwards to make extra room for your knees.
However, many Londoners still love traditional styles. Indeed, leading retailer CP Hart has just opened a "classics" area in its huge showrooms in the Waterloo railway arches. Art Deco shapes and luxurious materials feature, but with high-performance taps and showers, and lots of storage.
Traditional style: CP Hart’s Kew Collection basin (from £395), lavatory (from £385) and bath (from £1,129). See cphart.co.uk
Watch out for special easy-clean glazes for ceramic basins and lavatories, which cut down bathroom maintenance. New "rimless" WCs shoot water in jets around the bowl, avoiding the scale build-up which is the bane of London bathrooms. Loos can have "soft-closing" seats which are "quick release" so you can whip them off for cleaning.
But for the ultimate in personal hygiene, install a Japanese-style showertoilet, which will give you a gentle wash and hot-air dry while you are still sitting on the loo.
Brands include Toto, whose "washlets" pioneered this agreeable design idea in Japan (eu.toto.com). The washlet has become Toto's signature product, and you can try it out for yourself at its showroom (140-142 St John Street, EC1; 020 7831 7544). You can also give a washlet a go at CP Hart, which has them in its customer toilets.
Forget those old medicine cabinets overflowing with household needs. Today's bathroom has proper "furniture", sleek, elegant and probably handleless, with huge, pull-out drawers like kitchen cabinets.
Choose from real wood veneers such as walnut, oak or chestnut. Also popular are glossy coloured lacquers, and textured finishes with linen, stone, leather or a heavy woodgrain.
Glass counter tops are preferable to old-style laminates as they will not start to peel away.
For when you’ve just got to take the weight off your feet: Dornbracht’s Horizontal Shower lets you lie down as you clean up. Control the water temperature and intensity with a panel by your head. You’ll need a lie down when you find out the price — £21,000 (dornbracht.com)
WE'RE WATER SAVING WORLD-BEATERS
Britian is leading the world in water saving with a label for taps, baths, showers and lavatories introduced by the Bathroom Manufacturers Association in 2007, adopted by Europe in 2012, and now used by 57 global brands.
Water use is graded in five colour-coded bands from green to red, like an energy saving label for electrical appliances.
Check out which brands and fittings save water best at europeanwaterlabel.eu.