Now more than ever, your home is literally your castle. Spas and fitness centers, imported fixtures and customized, hand-made interior finishes have become the territory of Everyman, not the stuff of fairy tales. With the country's aggregate home equity reaching $9.6 trillion in 2004, it's clear that consumers are sinking more of their resources into housing. According to a report by the NAHB, today's average home is more than twice the size of what it was 50 years ago so we've come to expect luxury as the standard.
Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske, authors of the 2003 book "Trading Up," tell us that middle-market consumers (households earning $50,000 or more) are trading up to higher levels of taste, quality, and aspiration. People are willing to pay more for things that are particularly satisfying, as long as they can pay less for items that aren't as important to them. The new luxury products and purchases are emotion and sentiment-based.
On the one hand, that means that manufacturers with mass consumer recognition have new opportunities to develop and distribute high-end products through large retailers and suppliers. On the other hand, designers and remodelers looking to wow homeowners with extraordinary, unusual options have to work a little harder.
Japanese soaking baths — such as this elliptical, double-seat, stainless steel version from Diamond Spas — are deep and have bench seats to maximize the bathing experience. Single baths are ideal for small bathroom spaces and are available in a circular or rectangular shape. The bath can be customized to fit your specifications, whether contemporary or traditional. The baths are made from stainless steel or copper for durability.
Dimensions: Elliptical: 42" × 72" × 35"; single round: 42" × 42" × 35" and 48" × 48" × 35"; rectangular: 36" × 42" × 32" and 36" × 48" × 32"
NanaWall glass walls blur the line between windows and walls. A closed wall looks like a row of floor-to-ceiling windows, but a hidden track-and-roller system allows the entire wall to be opened. It is available as a folding or sliding system. Overhead support tracks and flush floor tracks allow doors to fold inward or outward; when open, the folding panels easily stow away out of sight. When closed, the doors are secure and weathertight. The frames and tracks are available in a variety of styles, colors and finishes. Choose from window-sized panels, wall-height panels or both.
Available frames: Aluminum, wood or aluminum-clad wood
Carina Works' handcrafted metal tiles and planks are an innovative alternative to traditional wall and floor treatments. Scientifically engineered glazing of these solid aluminum products allows them to be installed anywhere ordinary ceramic tiles are used. The planks are 4 feet in length and come in 4-inch and 6-inch widths as well as custom widths. The tiles are 2.5" × 2.5", 4" × 4", 6" × 6" and 12" × 12". Custom logos, colors and designs can be applied before glazing.
Wall finishes: Gloss and matte
Floor finish: Matte
The Jentle Ped foot spa provides the benefits of a warm foot bath and a relaxing foot massage. It features four directional high-flow jets that can be adjusted to target specific areas of the feet and maintains a steady or slightly increased temperature with a minimum increase of 5 degrees. The ergonomically sloped floor positions feet in a relaxed posture. Curved recesses in the rear wall cradle the legs, and a raised stretch bar allows users to exercise the arch and sole. Constructed of lightweight Lucite cast acrylic and available in more than 50 colors, the drop-in style spa blends with existing décor and is available in a square or contoured design.
Models: MTLS 110JP: 28" × 23" × 13", MTLS 120JP: 26.6" × 24" × 12.875"
The Aqua Fit 19 Dual Temp Aquatic Fitness System (AFS) combines hydrotherapy and fitness. At one end are six high-volume swim jets, adjustable for speed and pressure, which allow users to swim and do aerobic activities. The spa end features the hydrotherapy Typhoon Jet, which is adjustable and vertically mounted to provide a lower body massage. The center has an ergonomic rowing seat and allows resistance from two directions. The spa also features a non-slip surface suitable for aquatic workouts and swim lane markers on the bottom and sides. HydroSport accessories include a rowing kit, fitness bar and set of six exercise bars.
Dimensions: 19" L × 7" 6.25" W × 4" 4" H
Water capacity: 1,730 gallons
The European-inspired Classical Romance line of handcrafted bath fixtures includes the Tete, Dauphin and Cygne (shown above) designs. Each piece is custom-made to order, hand carved, molded and formed of molten metal to create precision-finished fixtures. THG's products are available in more than 100 finishes, ranging from chrome to the most precious of finishes.