The living room used to represent the showcase for style and comfort in a home. These days, the bathroom is quickly taking its place. New technologies and materials make it easy to linger ever longer. Linda Cragie, designer manager at Urang Limited in London, says the bath is usually the first room slated for renovation. "Everyone likes a new bathroom, don't they?" With fixtures like these, it's hard not to.
The award-winning Strip free-standing tub by Aquamass is part furniture and part sculpture; it is die cast from a single sheet of crystal plant, made of natural materials and resin, for maximum impact (£5,585; www.cphart.co.uk ). The Pegasus Slipper bath integrates chromotherapy light fixtures that change color to facilitate healing (£2,500; www.bathroomexpress.co.uk )
And why take just a shower when you can have a vertical spa? Moen's Waterhill offers four horizontal body sprays and a 20-centimeter rainfall shower head, as well as a hand shower ($1,945; showhouse.moen .com ). Puritti's shower-bathtub combination Pure Curve offers 12 massage jets, four hydromassage jets--and steamy space enough for two. Jets can be adjusted with an electronic control panel that also hooks up to your personal stereo system (£4299; www.theshowercompany.com ). To turn your shower into a real bonding experience, install the Balance two-headed brassware shower (£6,362; CP Hart).
Even the loo has risen to a new digitally enhanced level. The bidet toilet, or Washlet, eliminates the need for bathroom tissue. All models feature washing and drying cycles as well as a deodorizing spray The latest model by Toto, the Neorest 500, has a motion-sensitive lid that opens as you approach ($5,200 to $5,980; totoneorest.com ).
As digital cameras take over more and more of the photography market, can consumers expect better improvements than "smaller," "more pixels" and "cheaper"? At last week's Photo Marketing Association conference in Orlando, Florida, companies--including Panasonic, Sony, Nikon and Olympus--were proceeding down that very path.
Europeans are getting off the luggage carousel. Thanks to specialized mailing services, luxury travelers and business execs can now arrive at their destinations and find their Louis Vuitton suitcases awaiting them. Virtual Bellhop ( virtualbellhop.com ) started the trend, but companies are cropping up everywhere to meet growing demand:
Just call or book online with any of the luggage shipping companies. They will pick up your bags at your doorstep and take care of the rest. London-based First Luggage sends clients text messages when their luggage arrives at its destination (from the Cayman Islands to Zambia)--often before the vacationers have even left for the airport ( www.firstluggage.com ; £300). New York's Luggage Free specializes in sending cumbersome vacation essentials like racing skis, snowboards and white-water rafts ( luggage free.com ; $250-$325). Carry My Luggage offers fast service with guaranteed two-day delivery to all European locations ( carrymyluggage.com ; £260). Excess Luggage's professional packaging service will even fold your clothes and tuck them away in your suitcase ( excessluggage.co.uk ; £25 per hour).
Business travelers are flocking to booming Saigon. Here's what to do if you have a little time to kill:
Green tea or strong coffee at La Fenetre Soleil, with comfy sofas and homemade muffins (open all day, every day; 135 Le Thanh Ton Street, 2nd floor, tel.: +84 8 822 5209).
Excellent Vietnamese hand rolls and pho (noodle consomme) at the bygone-style Temple Club (31 Ton That Thiep Street, tel.: +84 8 829 9244).
Antique and repro furniture, Sapa minority textiles and classic lacquer from the oriental den Nguyen Freres (2 Dong Khoi Street, tel.: +84 8 823 9459).
At Spa Tropic, in a renovated French colonial villa offering massage, facials and reflexology. Open 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (187B Hai Ba Trung, District 3, tel.: +84 8 822 8895).
Now you don't need a whole week--or a whole month's salary--to try heli-skiing. Many operators have begun offering daylong trips leaving from popular resorts. For $725, Jon Shick, owner of High Mountain Heli-Skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, feeds powder-hungry advanced skiers six guided runs and a deli lunch. Avalanche transceivers are included ( heliskijackson.com ). The Europeans are hooked, too: though heli-skiing is illegal in France, Ski Sensations of Chamonix provides day trips just across the border to Italy (from $250) and Switzerland (from $350; ski-sensations.com ). And if summer for you is an unfortunate pause between ski seasons, head to New Zealand; Harris Mountains Heli-Ski will ferry you up to Mount Cook, the country's highest peak and a heli-skiing mecca, for $645 ( heliski.co.nz ). Skis and rotors on!
Purebred touches are everywhere in the redesigned Mercedes S-Class, from its burl-walnut trim to the heated 14-way power front seats. Most impressive, the S550, with a new 5.5-liter, V-8, 382-horsepower engine, is 26 percent quicker than the last-generation S-Class, yet still gets the same fuel economy. And though this four-door family car is 4.9 centimeters longer and nearly 2.5 centimeters wider than the previous model, it still drives like a lithe vehicle. It's also jammed with the newest technology--from the optional infrared Night View Assist to the radar-based Park Assist, which uses six sensors to help you become the perfect parallel parker.