Kitchens and great rooms were the design boom of the 1990s, but consumers are sending those ideas to the shower - literally. All market trends point to the emergence of the shower as a hot point of interest for today's remodelers, and homeowners are going big or going home when it comes to bathroom and shower design.

The average size of an American bathroom today is 136 sq. ft. With the movement toward replacing single showers with two-person showers and the elimination of tub/ shower combinations, new shower designs show that one size definitely does not fit all.

The need for homeowners to express their individuality and personal style was clearly evident at this year's kitchen, bath and builder shows, and the shower surround and enclosures available today promote that custom look consumers strive for.

Clients looking beyond the old standby of sliding glass won't be disappointed with the market today. The mixing and matching of materials ranges from classic glass block and stone to solid surface, chrome or stainless-steel. Here are a few of this year's highlights:

  • Walls Come Down - Keeping with the trend toward open airy spaces, the walls have come down in the shower and walk-ins have grown in popularity. But these showers need the proper square footage - without a door, the user needs room to splash. And popular two-person showers require even more room with at least 4 ft. by 5 ft. of space.

    With a partial wall of glass block or a heavy glass panel, the shower stall must be long enough to contain spray associated with everyday bathing. Clear glass may not be the most private of materials, but the expanse of space helps homeowners retain the feeling of openness they crave - inside and outside the shower.

  • Solid Performance - Swanstone by Swan Corp. is authentic solid surface and eliminates the drudgery of grout cleaning. It is less expensive than natural stone, and its wide variety of colors and textures runs throughout the material and cannot wear away. Plus, with choices such as Tahiti Blue, Mocha Galaxy or Prairie Clover, the expression of individual taste is limited only to the imagination.

    A special note on the texture option afforded to solid surface: Swanstone offers geometric or stone-like designs, and can even create the look of beadboard without the worry of rotting away wooden material.

  • All-In-One - For an integrated system, MAAX's Urban(r) 7242S is a 72-inch by 42-inch by 90-inch minimalist-inspired shower that combines a frameless, tempered-glass shower enclosure. The MAAX IES massage system or Rainmax water droplet feature in the roof cap is optional. A storage shelf keeps you supplied within the easy-to-maintain acrylic walls and base of the system.

  • Getting Steamed - Complete enclosure can be attained within the walls of the steam shower or sauna, which remodeling trend-watchers say is the next big thing (66 percent according to a 2002 market trends survey of NKBA members).

    Steam requires special attention, though, as airtight integrity is extremely important for steam shower operation. Alumax Bath Enclosures' 890c has a continuous drip rail and vinyl wiper blade at the bottom of its heavy glass door and hinge with return panel.

    Steam Room USA's SHA-523 is a compact steam/sauna unit with added features, such as a radio and CD player interface, built-in speaker phone, rain-head ceiling shower and a foot massager.

  • Universal Appeal - NKBA members (40 percent) also see universal design as a future market boom. Best Bath Systems' noninstitutional-looking shower stalls provide a "tile" appearance through the use of a polyester gelcoat finish.

    Its collapsible water barriers provide no-step entry to spacious showers, which feature special backing that allow future attachments or relocation of safety bars without causing damage.

  • Cruel, Cold World - So you're clean and snug in your steamy shower enclosure. What awaits you on the other side? That disappointing blast of cool air as you reach for your towel. No more, thanks to Jacuzzi, with its introduction of the Summer Rain Ambient Air Body Dry System.

    Summer Rain is a curved, tempered glass enclosure with two center-opening doors. Its center shower column contains 12 powerful, heated jets that emit warm air to provide complete head-to-toe drying. The jets are fully adjustable, and a preheat cycle provides instant warm air after the shower.

    The tower is powered by a 30-amp motor and air can reach temperatures up to 140 degrees F. The fully plumbed unit installs easily in just one to two hours.