In many households, the bathroom is about the only place where you can find a bit of privacy. So why not make the room as cozy and inviting as the rest of the house? By adding a few electronic systems to the space, you’ll be able to soak in the tub to Pavarotti, brush your teeth at the vanity while you catch the morning news and regain your sanity by simply doing nothing but admire the soft, elegant lighting in your private oasis. There are scads of electronic components that can do wonders for your master bathroom. With TVs, speakers and other components positioned near your tub, sinks and showers, you may be fighting off your family to make it to the loo.
You’re probably not going to watch a full-featured film in your master bathroom, but you might want to catch the news as you get ready in the morning. A flat-panel TV is the way to go in this type of space. The size you choose depends on how big your bathroom is and where you’ll be viewing the TV from. In a sprawling master bathroom, you may need a screen in the neighborhood of 30 inches so you can see it from various viewing areas. In a smaller bathroom in which most of the viewing will take place from one spot, a smaller 17-inch-or-so-size screen should do. You may even be able to get away with a 10-inch screen that doubles as a control station. From this one screen, you’ll be able to watch TV, turn off the security system, activate the kitchen lights and adjust the temperature. Some control screens can also deliver information from the Internet, which means you could check your stocks and the weather before you start your day.
The best place to put a flat-panel TV in a bathroom is on the wall where it’s away from wet towels, toothpaste and blow-dryers. If wall space is limited, you could always install the TV behind the bathroom mirror. This option will require special glass and building in extra space behind the mirror, but the results are nothing short of magic. When the TV is on (activated by using a standard remote control), the image is projected through the glass. When the TV is off, the TV completely disappears from sight.
Of course, you’ll need to hear the TV. Some flat-panel TVs have integrated speakers, but depending on where the TV is located (like behind a mirror), you may need to wire up an extra pair (or more) so that the sound comes through loud and clear. Round in-ceiling speakers are ideal for a bathroom. Placed overhead, they’re out of the way and don’t detract from the room design. Two speakers will create a two-channel stereo effect, which is usually sufficient for short bursts of TV time. Unfortunatly, the ceiling is also where vents, fans and lights are commonly located, so finding a good spot for two speakers could be difficult. One solution is to use a speaker with dual tweeters and woofers. That design allows one speaker to deliver both the high and low frequencies so that you can hear both the left and right channels for a stereo effect that sounds like something produced by two separate speakers. Place dual-design speakers over the vanity, tub and shower to enjoy stereo sound throughout the room.
Music Distribution System
Naturally, you’ll need something to play through your bathroom speakers. A music distribution system can pipe tunes from your entertainment system in the family room (or any other room) to the speakers in the bathroom. Music from a variety of different sources—including your CD player, satellite receiver, media server and even audio from the TV—can travel over the system. This means you can sneak away from a movie or sporting event and still hear the commentary and dialogue during your bathroom break. The only piece of equipment (besides the speakers) you’ll need in the room is a small keypad to call up the audio. If your bathroom is large, think about zoning the system. That way you can play your favorite radio station at the mirror while your spouse keeps things quiet as she relaxes in the whirlpool. A simple wall-mounted volume control is all he or she will need to turn off the speakers above the tub.
Of course, who wants to step out of a warm bath to fiddle with the music system? Manufacturers now offer waterproof remotes that can control just about any device a keypad or volume control knob can. Keep a remote in the shower or by the tub for convenient access to all your music.
Gone are the days of harsh, bright, burn-your-eyes-out lighting in the bathroom. When you’re lounging in the tub or sitting in the steam shower, you’ll want a softer effect. Your eyes will also appreciate the low levels during those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. A lighting control system offers the simplest way to get the lights the way you like them. Instead of messing with dimmer switches, you can hit one button to arrange the lights for midnight visits and relaxation time, as well as for activities like getting ready for work and bedtime.
The scene-setting buttons typically occupy a keypad that’s mounted to the wall. Keypad faceplates are available in a variety of colors and styles, so even if your bathroom looks like a throwback to the Victorian era, you’ll be able to find a faceplate to complement the decor. Mirrored faceplates are a popular pick for bathrooms. When mounted directly to the vanity mirror, the keypad blends right in for a clean, polished look.
It’s nice to get away, but depending on the makeup of your household (if you have small children, for instance) you may not feel comfortable removing yourself completely from the action. An intercom system is a great way to monitor what’s happening around the house.
Don’t worry: Intercoms are much more fashionable these days than they where when you were a kid. Thanks to sleek, attractive designs, an intercom station can look right at home on a wall in your bathroom. Some models can also play music, which means you can use one device to deliver music and to communicate. With additional equipment, the intercom could signal you when the doorbell rang and even let you speak with the visitor.
Another option is to have a telephone system installed. Telephone systems offer many of the same features as intercom systems, but instead of a speaking into a wall station, you talk into a standard telephone handset. The system still works like a regular phone by sending incoming calls directly to the phone in the bathroom. But if you’re craving some peace and quiet, you can activate a privacy feature that temporarily turns off the bathroom phone.
There may not be much time in the morning for a long, hot shower, but your bathroom should still always feel warm and cozy. For a space with tile or marble flooring, that means installing a radiant floor heating system. Because heat radiates up, the whole room will feel more comfortable.
A radiant floor heating system can be operated just like a traditional forced-air system, via thermostats. You can program a time for the system to activate each morning so that the floors are nice and warm by the time you stroll into the bathroom. Complement the warm floors with a heated towel rack. When placed on the floor or hung on the wall, this type of rack dries as it warms anything that’s put on it, including damp towels, robes and bathing suits.
A warm, steamy bathroom feels great, but good luck seeing into that foggy mirror. The same technology that’s used for floor- and towel-heating systems can be applied to your bathroom mirror. Heating elements adhered to the back of the mirror warm it to prevent fog from building up.
As luxurious as they are, these heating systems can make your bathroom feel like a tropical jungle. You’ll need cooling and venting equipment to remove the stagnant air. A heat pump is a good choice. It can provide cool air to the space and also heat the water of a hydronic radiant floor heating system.
By Lisa Montgomery, senior editor for Electronic House magazine. To see more articles from the editors of Electronic House magazine about the connected home visit www.electronichouse.com.