As design editors, we go to a lot of previews, events and launch parties. After all, staying on top of the market is vital to reporting on the latest trends and design news in the industry. We go to floral arranging sessions, breakfasts, cocktail parties, and even take trips to factories in far away countries — but it’s not every day you get invited to take a shower.
Yes, you read that correctly. Last week, I went to the Kohler Experience Center in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan to tour the showroom, see the latest products being introduced in the U.S. and global markets, and take a shower. (All in a day’s work, right?)
I’ll be honest: I was quite surprised by this invitation, but as the resident 20-something on team Luxe, I felt it was my duty to take this slightly strange opportunity to go beyond my business comfort zone. I mean, when will I be able to experience the famed Real Rain shower ever again?
I arrived at the showroom at 10:15 a.m., fresh from a class at FlyBarre (I figured I’d work up a sweat to get the full experience). After a tour of the 10,000-square-foot showroom — which features an interactive wheel to match metal finishes and vanity colors, as well as working showerheads and faucets, an amphitheater area for presentations, and conference areas for meetings between clients and designers — it was time for the highly-anticipated main event: my personalized shower experience.
After getting the lay of the land from my shower concierge (slash global specifications executive), I was left alone in a bathroom that is bigger than the bedroom in my apartment. The Kohler Experience Center – which is the first of its kind – is outfitted with everything you need to completely immerse yourself in the experience and really understand what kind of shower is right for you.
Highlights include: a smart toilet, fresh towels, a robe (which is the most comfortable thing I have ever worn), products from the likes of Diptyque and L’Occitane, hairstyling tools and contact solution.
Then, of course, there’s the shower itself. Presented with waterproof control panels that can adjust temperature, music and water flow, I was a bit intimidated by the power at my fingertips, but I found the system to be extremely intuitive.
When I stepped into the shower, I did not know where to start. On the left side of the space, there was a wall of manual showerheads, with added hand showers and body sprayers. On the right, there were showerheads that operated via touchscreen technology. The whole space featured 12 different options – including four rain showers – and more body sprayers mounted into the wall than I’ve ever seen. I decided to start with what I know and work my way up.
I began with the manual showerheads, which seemed basic, but had water pressure that put my rental apartment’s shower to shame. My favorite was the Purist. With water pressure at a 1.75 flow rate, the shower provided a surprisingly indulgent experience for a product that retails for a reasonable $97. I was happy to learn that this showerhead also features water-saving technology. The added bonus, which I was initially unsure about, was the three wall-mounted body sprayers, which added a rinse-factor that I never imagined possible.
Then, I moved to the other side of the space for shampoo No. 2. After all, to properly understand the power of these products, I had to test their features. This time, I used the touchscreen to turn on the different nozzles, adjust the temperature, and even play with the “massage” feature, which turns the body sprayers on and off. While I enjoyed the technology involved, I still preferred the Purist to these more futuristic options. That is, until I moved on to the rain showers.
With four different options to choose from, I decided to try the Real Rain first. Company president David Kohler came up with the concept for this particular product, which took a team of scientists, aromatherapy experts and engineers to create. It simulates the experience of a lovely summer rain, complete with a signature scent that mimics the smell of fresh rainfall. Suffice to say, it’s delightful. I had a real moment under that majestic stream… and then I remembered I was on a work assignment. My favorite part about this showerhead is what happens when you turn it off. The bucket that collects all of the water deluges and releases the water for a very satisfying final rinse.
All in all, my experience at Kohler’s flagship Experience Center was delightful. It was as if I went to the spa before going to work. I am a huge proponent of the try-before-you-buy approach when it comes to selecting products for your home, and this takes it to the next level. After all, if you’re going to invest in an expensive shower — like Real Rain, which starts at $2,150 — it’s important to make sure it’s something you want to experience on a daily basis.
The opening of the Kohler Experience Center, then, is a game-changer in the industry, especially in the U.S. market. As Haley Rackliffe, global specifications executive, explained to me, Americans are less inclined to invest in hygiene products than the populations of countries like Japan, where the culture values cleanliness on a level that we do not.
The center offers visitors a chance to go beyond their comfort zones and indulge in some serious self-care. With personalization options fit for any space, lifestyle, and budget, the company is delivering accessible products that exhibit a level of care that makes something so simple as a shower extremely luxurious.
Oh, and yes, I did try the smart toilet, but that’s a story for another day.
Check out the Kohler Experience Center in the photos above, and book an appointment for yourself any day of the week.
Thinking about stepping up your bathroom game? Check out these stunning bathrooms that bring the outdoors in.