Soak Opera

Used to be, custom sink faucets and showy shower tiling were as lavish as bathrooms got. Not so today, when bringing the spa experience home has erupted into big business. Last year alone, 40 percent of new bathrooms were labeled “luxury” by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, meaning they cost upward of $20,000 and were tricked out with rain showerheads, massage jets, and steam generators.

Don’t have tens of thousands to spare? Don’t worry. A new breed of spa showers—self-contained units pre-plumbed at the factory—provide the super-soakers of your dreams for off-the-shelf prices. Indeed, these standing baths offer all the benefits of a home spa for about the cost of a long weekend at Canyon Ranch.

1.Wasauna California
It may not be hard science, but we know that steam clears the skin and relaxes muscles; anecdotal evidence suggests it can even help speed recovery from colds. Plus, could all those strapping, sauna-loving Finns really be wrong? Wasauna’s new California model gives users a full steam experience on a scale that still fits in a Beacon Hill walkup (or about the footprint of a standard tub). It has a hand shower for rinsing off, a luxe rain showerhead, and seven different settings for chromatherapy, which uses colored lights to enhance feelings of well-being (again, don’t look to us for scientific evidence—we just love steam). $3,899, Lexington Kitchen and Bath, 187 Lexington St., Waltham, 781-894-6700,

2. MAAX Freestyle
A perennial favorite of remodelers, the Freestyle offers lots of variety in a package that costs thousands less than a custom job. You can get one enclosed by a full half-circle of tempered glass or one that fits neatly in a corner (pictured). The unit also comes in different widths, with the choice of either a seat or a footrest (my wife tells me either would make leg shaving a snap). The real selling point, however, is the Integrated Energizing System, Maax’s fancy name for a set of chrome showerheads developed in consultation with massage therapists. Starting at $2,516, Designer Bath, 97 River St., Beverly, 800-649-2284,

3. Coral Sea Luxury Steam Spa
This brand-new spa comes from the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink model of bathroom design. At about 25 square feet, it feels like an outdoor hot tub (if your outdoor hot tub came with a hands-free phone, a CD-ready stereo, more than two dozen massage jets, and an LCD television that can be hooked up to a DVD player). A heating system in the Jacuzzi tub—which has seating for two—ensures the hot water doesn’t cool off before the credits roll. $3,500, Coral Sea Spas, 727-327-2893,