A motion-sensing toilet that lifts the seat and flushes was just what was needed for the Magladry family of Voorhees - two parents and four kids younger than 9. Installed eight months ago, its incorporated night-light was especially appreciated by mom Heather when she was pregnant.
"None of my boys remember to flush the potty - ever, it seems - so that's one of the nice things," she said.
Most smart toilets ($3,000- $5,000) come from Japan and require their own electrical outlet. Besides being sleek and modern-looking, they use less than four liters of water per flush, almost a quarter of what conventional toilets use. The only drawback: "Now when I use a regular toilet, I expect it to flush," Heather said.
Though smart toilets are just starting to make their way into the U.S. market, they are part of the growing trend of personalization in bathrooms - meaning offering ways to address common bathroom shortcomings (not enough space, not enough light) while providing a luxurious experience.
Want to know what else is new in bathroom decor? Check out the 4,000-square-foot Ocean City beach home Alex Larionov is outfitting.
In its nine bathrooms, there are hanging toilets (anchored to the wall so they don't touch the floor), drawers molded around plumbing, glass countertops, and stacked vanities. The amenities reflect the desire for "modern and unique functionality," said Larionov, owner of Simple Kitchen & Bath in Northern Liberties.
"Everyone wants to feel like they can select the features, benefits, sizes, and dimensions that meet their needs perfectly," said Andrew Lippman, director of marketing for Robern, an upscale bathroom supply company in Bristol. Although traditional styling remains the norm, this kind of contemporary styling is growing, Lippman said, accounting for 15 percent to 20 percent of the vanity market - up from 6 percent or 7 percent five years ago.
Look at storage, for instance. Most bathrooms never have enough or not the right kind. Taking a cue from European markets, where a lack of space has always been a concern, manufacturers have found creative ways to add storage to small spaces:
Drawers, as opposed to doors, allow easier, more efficient access. The inside of the drawers can be personalized to fit your belongings, and the drawers themselves can be designed around plumbing. Floating vanities - attached to the wall so the base doesn't touch the floor - now constitute 15 percent to 20 percent of all vanities sold.
"It's a minimalist design, using every inch of space, including negative space," said Lippman. They look modern, allow for easy underneath cleanup, and can be customized by stacking vanities on top of one another or placing them side by side.
Other trends: aluminum, glass, and even stainless steel vanities ("They'll look good for 15 or 20 years," said Lippman), aluminum and glass hair-dryer holsters that dissipate heat (in case you forget to turn them off), and electrical outlets in drawers for your electric toothbrush and razor so your countertops remain clutter-free.
Lighting integrated into medicine cabinets, which can include built-in dimming switches, help people get acclimated to the morning and should be part of a layered lighting approach, designers say.
"LED light coming behind the mirror creates a frame so you have a light source right up next to your face," said Bruce Palmer Coon of Bruce Palmer Design Studio in Wilmington. He started using LEDs about three years ago because he liked their design flexibility and long life and now uses LED lighting for about 90 percent of his clients.
TVs in the bathroom aren't new, but in 2012, minis built directly into medicine cabinets hit the market (from $3,500 to $4,000) and exploded in popularity. "People mostly want to listen to the TV and glance at it if they hear a story that's of particular interest, without interfering with the mirror itself," Lippman said. He's since sold thousands of units.
Another big seller is the all-in-one cabinet, launched this year. Ranging between $1,700 and $2,300, it has integrated task lighting, a dimmer switch, electric outlets, USB charging outlets, interior lighting, magnetic storage, and a magnifying mirror.
And for all the people who wish they could keep their preservative-free cosmetics out of the hot and humid bathroom, and bacteria out of their makeup and creams, there's this: Refrigerated cabinets. They're good for bottles of water, too.
Larionov started getting requests for glass countertops (40 color possibilities starting at $2,500) about three years ago. Customers like that the glass is very thin, has a seamless look, and has an appealing continuous line. Larionov has installed about 15 so far, all made to order from Italy.
Though the hygiene of taking your phone into the bathroom may be debatable, it does have practical uses. You can set most everything else from your iPhone, so why not your shower? An electronic water mixer not only turns your water on and off, but sets the precise temperature.