Q: One of the most memorable experiences of my winter vacation occurred in the bathroom of my hotel. Besides the bathtub, there was a shower enclosure that could be converted into a small steam room. Talk about luxury! Tell me, please, is it possible to purchase a device like that for use in my own home?
A: I doubt you could buy exactly the same equipment; it's probably manufactured exclusively for commercial establishments. But a few major makers of bathroom fixtures now produce similar devices for residential use.
Some of the new steam-and-bath enclosures for the home are self-contained units that can be installed by a plumber. Others may require customized fittings to suit your needs and space limitations, since these units tend to be rather large.
One of the more versatile products of this type is manufactured by Kohler. The company's clear-glass shower enclosure with a steam-dome option is shown in the photo. As you can see, its 50-inch neo-angle shape is compact enough to fit into a corner. Such a cleverly designed space-saver is ideal for an awkwardly configured bathroom.
These sorts of high-tech enclosures, with options such as temperature sensors and thermostat controls, can be fitted to standard bathroom equipment. Among the features that can be ordered with this particular model are a steam generator, a 20-minute timer conveniently located inside the unit and a steam vent. Such products are cost-effective compared to the price of customized installations. You're also as sured of having necessary safety features when you purchase a ready-made steam-and-shower combination.
This unit's shallow pool contains a whirlpool that's great for massaging tired feet. As for the choice of surfaces for walls, floor and cabinetry, rely on easily maintained materials that are heat-resistant. Even a simple whirlpool bath generates enough steam to damage a fragile floor or wall coverings.
It's essential that the bathroom be properly ventilated to eliminate excessive moisture. Almost any material will eventually show the effects of exposure to huge clouds of steam.