When it comes to unyielding adoration for freestanding soaking tubs, consumers still can’t get enough of serene, sculptural vessels—and designers are heeding the call.
New data provided by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) reveals that luxury bathroom trends are running hot, especially when it comes to statement-making tubs—a trend which is expected to stay put for the foreseeable future. These days, in the realm of all things lavatory-related, more is more: Homeowners want separate water closets and vanities, an integrated bidet toilet, heated floors, shower benches, and amenities, for multigenerational living.
Though freestanding and deep soaking tubs may not be generationally germane for the very young or very old, they still remain coveted for their aesthetic impact, and for serving up a personal spa-like experience at home. In this mad and unpredictable world, is nothing better than private immersion therapy to soak troubles away?
If brands have anything to say about it, new tubs and their technology are skewing intelligent, colorful, and ready for their social media close-up. Luxury plumbing manufacturer House of Rohl, for one, recently debuted new styles of color-rich freestanding tubs in shades of lavender, maroon, and black, to name a few. Kohler, taking a cue from the universal popularity of intelligent home devices, released its own smart bath PerfectFill technology, which requires a simple voice command to fill a bathtub to a preset level and temperature.
Memphis-based designer Sean Anderson says consideration should be paid to the day-to-day impact and general lastingness of these items. “Freestanding tubs have become something of a flagship piece for the home, and that’s reflected in the legacy materials in which so many tubs are being offered these days,” Anderson says. “For people who consider tub bathing to be a ritualistic pastime, these items can be thought of as an inheritable heirloom. Consumers need to consider what role the item will play in their daily life, and how important it is to them in telling their story.”
Speccing a freestanding tub requires more than just picking your favorite model. “Consider the sight lines—from which angle or angles will the tub be seen?,” suggests Hamptons- and Chicago-based designer Michael Del Piero. “If it will be seen from every side, ensure that the tub you choose has a pretty shape and is appealing from every side.”
Before any purchase decisions are made, Del Piero says it’s crucial to also consider the plumbing mechanics, like the placement of the filler and faucet and whether they will be wall-mounted or freestanding. “Some tub shapes lend themselves to freestanding hardware, while others work best with a wall-mounted set.” And be mindful of the plethora of material options on the market. “When designing traditional bathrooms we lean toward marble or standard porcelain-glazed tubs,” Del Piero says. “For more contemporary spaces, we often opt for resin or concrete tubs. Making the selection for shape and materials is key when designing a dramatic ‘tub moment’ in any bathroom.” Freestanding tubs also skew heavy, so it might warrant an evaluation from a structural engineer, and may mean reinforcing the floor.
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Architect Cathy Purple Cherry of Annapolis, Maryland, and her team take a pragmatic and humanistic approach to tub scouting, helpful for anyone in the market for a new statement tub. “We are very focused on the length of the bathtub and the incline of the back, and how each relates to the height of our client. We are also very focused on the reach of our client, and keep that in consideration as it impacts where the tub filler should be located.”