Article by Barbara Chandler
Precisely calibrated heating controls save energy and money – once you’ve got your head round the instructions. Then come the smart appliances: super-fast, super-eco washing machines and ovens with infinite programmes; fridges that can automatically reorder your food. A lot of this is a digital overdose we find we don’t really need, don’t particularly want – and then don’t use anyway.
BUT… the Weston Homes smart bathroom really is a big and beautiful modern boon. Tech for the bathroom enhances your life and helps it run smoothly – so Weston Homes has given this a lot of thought.
The Weston Homes temperature-controlled tap is a winner with home buyers and also with bathroom industry expert Robin Levien, a Royal Designer for Industry for nearly 30 years. Levien invented many industry firsts, including corner loo cisterns, corner basins and the shower-bath – all fabulous space savers.
“When I started, the smartest thing you could have was a dimmer switch – still actually a good idea,” he says. Now he reckons it’s digital temperature controls that have revolutionised the bathroom, “because a comfortable, constant water temperature is top priority, which is what digital delivers par excellence. You save energy and water, too.”
Forget knobs and levers. Weston Homes digital shower controls have a neat little touch screen on which you simply tap a temperature, which is then saved until you change it. You can also set the flow of water, from a gentle shower to a full “downpour”, and add a water-saving time limit. Typically, with just another tap of the touch screen, you can divert the water from overhead to a side bar with body-buffing jets, or to a hand spray that’s particularly useful for washing children and dogs. You can fill the bath from the same control, and there’s automatic protection from overheating. The whole set-up is smooth and streamlined. Unlike a conventional unit, water is mixed in a hidden box, separated from the controls.
Washbasins can share the same technology, with a touch screen for temperature and water flow, again remembered for next time. You can also quickly check the time and date. In all cases, cleaning is easy – no rubbing round taps and into fiddly crevices, or buffing up the chrome.
The so-called intelligent loo, however, may be too clever for its own – or your – good. The digital “shower toilet” is a Japanese fetish invented over 20 years ago. It’s basically a souped-up bidet, with tepid water jets, warm air, and an automatic flush that can kick into action when least expected.
However, a recent survey showed that people are actually more concerned about cleaning the lavatory than themselves. And in this respect a pretty practical idea is the newer mode of “rimless” pan introduced by Weston Homes to every house and apartment, with a completely smooth inside and a strong, swishing flush to whisk everything away, including any lingering limescale.
A comfortable, ergonomic design is also crucial. A poll of 2,000 adults found that Brits spend twice as long sitting on the loo each week (an average of three hours and nine minutes) as they do on “moderate” exercise (just 90 minutes of fast walking or riding a bike). And it’s men that linger longest.
The digital bathroom mirror from Weston Homes gets full marks. It also tells the time, but best of all it never mists up and with its integrated LED lighting, it’s always ready when you want to shave or do your make-up.
If you are super-hungry for tech, there is always plenty at CES – the Consumer Electronics Show. This annual international trade beano showcases savvy tech that’s as glitzy as the event’s Las Vegas venue. Last year’s CES sneaked in just ahead of Covid lockdowns all over the world and this year’s, in January, was inevitably virtual. Designs were either wildly futuristic and extremely expensive, or simply prototypes. Accordingly, a stand-alone tub for “forest bathing” comes with sweet scents, sounds and fog. Meanwhile, mirrors double up as screens to check emails and Instagram. A Bluetooth-activated robot is programmed to bring you loo paper, and a smell sensor checks in advance that the air is sweet.
You can have a bathroom mat that will weigh you, calculate your body mass index and, if necessary, suggest a change of lifestyle to get you healthier, while a skincare device will deliver customised formulas for creams, foundation and lipstick, using photos and Artificial Intelligence.
Another sophisticated bathroom gizmo takes your blood pressure, monitors your heartbeat and checks your poo and urine for dodgy symptoms. Of course, apps control almost everything. Just don’t lose your phone.