Need to unwind after a long, hard day? Escape to the bathroom. New homes are featuring more and bigger bathrooms, with all kinds of spa-like amenities.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association says studies have shown that people are taking longer baths, while the folks at Moen, which manufactures many bathroom products, find people generally are just spending more and more time in the bathroom. One reason that's possible is because today's homes have more bathrooms for family members to share.

A recent National Association of Home Builders survey found that in 1971, only 15 percent of the new single-family homes completed had 2 1/2 or more baths. By 2000, the share increased to 56 percent. When recent or potential homebuyers were asked what they preferred, 17 percent desired three or more bathrooms while only three percent would settle for just one. The majority fell into the middle. Thirty-six percent wanted two bathrooms, 30 percent desired 2 1/2, and 14 percent requested a bath and a-half.

According to the survey, homebuyers not only wanted more bathrooms, they wanted them bigger and better equipped. Among the amenities cited, double-bowl vanities, closet space, sky-lights, separate bathtub and shower, and multiple shower heads. In fact, there are so many new bathroom features being offered these days, the NKBA advises new homebuyers, or people planning to remodel a bathroom, to first scan magazines, design books, home and garden shows, and designers' showrooms to see all that's available.

The NKBA says one of the hottest crazes in the bathroom industry is air massage or air jet tubs, which have been a big hit in Europe. These tubs let you unwind while being massaged with 35 to 70 air jets. Dual showerheads are also popular, as well as sauna or steam facilities. To help you relax even more, some of these luxury systems come equipped with stereo systems, televisions, VCRs and telephones.

Many people today are investing more in their homes because they hope to remain in them for longer periods of time. With that in mind, the NKBA says universal design elements also are hot. These user-friendly designs incorporate elements such as grab bars in the shower and single-handle faucets to make aging in place a bit easier.

One design feature that makes good sense for older and younger family members are pressure-balancing systems for the shower. Moen says its Posi-Temp valve keeps water within two degrees if someone suddenly flushes a toilet or turns on a dishwater. If you want even more convenience, Moen offers a pressure-balancing valve that also comes with a memory. It keeps water temperature consistent from one shower to the next.

Some other luxury perks to consider -- heated tile floors, heated towel bars, electric defogging devices for mirrors, and new toilets with ventilation systems that eliminate 98 percent of toilet odor. If you really have money to burn, the NKBA says you can even buy a device that will let you call your home from the car, enter a personalized code and have your bathtub fill to a preprogrammed temperature and level.

If all that seems a bit much, you can easily update the look of your bathroom by requesting the latest in sinks, countertops or faucets. Solid-surface materials, marble, granite, and semi-precious stone are increasingly working their way into bathrooms. In addition, the NKBA says "glass is in." It can be incorporated into sinks, countertops and glass block designs, and it comes in a variety of colors. Moen says white has become a big hit for bathroom faucets. It doesn't show fingerprints and makes clean-up easier.

Now, break out the bubble bath and mull over your options.

Carol Ochs is a Washington-based reporter who covers new home trends.

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