While showers may rule morning routines, freestanding tubs have become the must-have in spa-inspired bathrooms. Their shapely forms inject instant drama into any space, but perhaps more importantly, “they give consumers and designers incredible flexibility for placement,” says Michael Kornowa, director of marketing for MTI Baths.
In large bathrooms, homeowners are installing freestanding tubs as centerpieces and swapping their alcove baths for roomier 5- and 6-foot showers. In tighter quarters, some are borrowing closet space or opting for compact models.
“Our Chelsea small is a 5-foot freestanding tub that is very popular in New York City bathrooms,” says Bob Gifford, director of bath products for Hastings Tile & Bath.
“We’re also seeing homeowners move the tub into the master bedroom,” especially in open-plan master suites that blur or eliminate the boundary between bathroom and bedroom, says Kornowa. Interestingly, he continues, a few hotels now offer guestrooms with a similar setup, which can be a draw as it feels more spacious and introduces daylight into the bath area, “but it’s not for everyone.”
Most freestanding tubs are made of cast acrylic or engineered solid surface. In the former, an acrylic sheet is thermoformed over a mold and then strengthened with backing material. How much or the type of backing used affects structural integrity and heat retention. A more durable and increasingly popular option, engineered solid surface, encompasses a wide range of materials, but it typically involves a mixture of natural stone and binding agents that are liquefied and then molded. Some manufacturers finish it with a gel coat, while others do not.
Given all the interest in freestanding tubs, one would think that sales for drop-in units are suffering. Not so, says Kornowa. The reason may be that while some freestanding baths are available with such spa-like amenities as air bath, whirlpool, radiant heating, and chromatherapy, selection is limited. Integrating these features without compromising aesthetics requires considerable engineering and investment, because you can’t just add, say, a conventional air bath system to a freestanding tub, which “would be ugly as sin,” says Kornowa.
As with all things, time will no doubt resolve such technical issues. Until then, here are 15 tubs where your clients and buyers can soak and relax: