Bain Ultra tub on display at Faucets n' Fixtures in Orange,
Bathtubs used to
be simple things. They were attached to the wall. There was a shower
head at one end. You pulled a curtain to keep water from going where
it wasn’t supposed to.
But like many
other aspects of home decor, tubs and showers have gone uptown.
want their tubs to be the masterpiece of the bathroom," said
Thomas Phan, principal owner of Lifestyle Fixtures in Huntington
Beach, Calif. One of the most popular ways to achieve that aura is
with a freestanding bathtub, which sits in a prominent place and doesn’t
abut any wall. "A freestanding tub sits in the middle of the
bathroom," Phan explained. "It says, ‘Look at me!’"
need some space for such a large hunk of plumbing hubris. But there
are a variety of freestanding tub sizes now, so even smaller bathrooms
can accommodate the look.
There are some
challenges, Phan warned. "If you install one in a downstairs
bathroom that’s on a concrete pad, that’s a little more work. You
have to jackhammer through the cement floor to get your plumbing in.
But in a second-floor bathroom it’s much easier."
advantage of freestanding tubs: "They’re easier to clean
around," Phan said.
tubs usually mean separate showers, and there are a couple of trends
developing in that realm: size and accessibility.
showers are getting popular," said Joel Warners, president of
Faucets N’ Fixtures in Orange, Calif. "It’s part of the
growing acceptance in our industry that people shower 85 percent of
the time. The shower shouldn’t be an afterthought or some small
sweeping bath and shower design is the concept of aging in place.
"People want a shower and bath that are accessible and easy to
use as they get older," Warners said. "They want to stay in
the same place rather than move and have to change their familiar home
environment." Some additions for the aging owner include grab
bars and permanent shower seats. And some showers are being made large
enough to allow for a wheelchair.
For that reason,
one concept that’s finding favor with older homeowners is the Roman
shower. Designed without a door or even a rim to step over, it’s
ideal for people who can’t use a regular shower. High-volume channel
drains, a ceiling-mounted shower head that rains water down vertically
and other tricks make the shower drain quickly and properly.
best kind of shower for people with disabilities," said Mehran
Ghassemi, owner of Renaissance Kitchen, Bath & Flooring in Orange.
"It’s best suited for homes with more area, though. They need a
lot of space."
of the Roman shower is more evidence of a move toward spa-style
features in bathrooms — things that promote healthy living and good
hygiene. Japanese soaking tubs, steam showers and air bathtubs are
designed to improve the health and relax the frazzled spirit.
Phan said he has
sold several Japanese tubs recently. He thinks they’re especially
helpful for people who have difficulty sitting in a regular-shaped
difference is that in a Japanese tub, you sit upright. They take up
less floor space (than a regular tub) but they’re much deeper,
almost like a hot tub. You can either install them raised on a
pedestal with a small staircase or you can have them submerged so you
step down into them."
The air bathtub
is especially therapeutic, Warners said.
hot air is forced into the tub through small openings. It’s a great
therapy for arthritic and joint pain and working (on) deep muscle
tissue. And compared to a Jacuzzi tub, it’s easier to install, less
prone to break, less noticeable, simpler and more hygienic."
more than 90 percent of his high-end tub sales are now air systems.
Less than 10 percent are jetted tubs – a huge change from a decade
ago, when Jacuzzi ruled the home-bath world. It perfectly epitomizes
the sea change from complex and over the top to simple and tasteful
that has characterized the latest bath trends.
ago everything was the Tuscan look, with lots of oil-rubbed bronze.
Finally, that trend is about dead," Warners said.
"Everything has moved to simpler lines and a cleaner look."
more natural and low-maintenance too. "People like natural
materials right now," Warners said. He sees a trend toward
concrete materials and, for tubs, metal and even stone. "It’s
mainly because they want something that’s easier to maintain as well
as being more timeless in its appearance."
more durable finishes for fixtures are coming back, Warners thinks.
nickel, chrome and the other big finish right now, aged brass – they’re
all easier to take care of than the bronze look, which was popular but
wasn’t the most durable finish.
shouldn’t spend hours just to make your bathroom look great. Who has