Luxury Bathroom Design

The Return of Luxury Bathtubs

| Mrinmoy Dey

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The Return of Luxury Bathtubs

Despite technological advancements in shower systems, the bathtub has been able to carve a niche for itself. In fact, the old bathtubs have given way to the newer fancy bathtubs which take the bathing experience to the realm of a home spa system.

In the Indian context, there are two clearly visible trends as far as the design of washrooms is concerned. First, in urban areas bathrooms are getting smaller due to space crunch and therefore the components and fittings are also being selected to make it compact with as less compromise as possible in terms of functionality. Secondly, in luxury projects like villas or lodges etc bathrooms are getting larger and larger. The bathroom here acts as a showpiece, stepping into the realms of the spa system.

The bathtub has long been associated with luxury. However, these two trends are defining the use of bathtubs and the selection of tubs or doing away with it completely. Elaborating on this, Behzad Kharas, CMD of Mumbai-based diversified group BNK Group says, “In urban space, only in the luxury/premium projects bathtubs are getting used prominently. For example, in a 4-BHK apartment, out of the 5 bathrooms maybe one will have a bathtub. In projects, where space constraint is the issue, we normally go for a bathtub which is fitted within masonry and not a free-standing bathtub which is more exquisite. However, in villas, the bathrooms are getting luxurious and bathrooms are becoming a space to showcase. In those projects, the trend of having those standalone fancy bathtubs is catching on. But there also, it is not applicable to all the bathrooms but one or maybe two of the bathrooms.”

Luxury Bathroom Accessories
Bathtubs are a wonderful way to relax and restore equilibrium. Photo Courtesy: Villeroy & Boch

Showers - The challenger

 The shower, though, is challenging the reign of the tub. The luxury walk-in showers have gained considerable popularity and are the go-to option in projects with space constraints. New tech shower panels and shower cubicles are gradually replacing bathtubs and have now made possible the division of the wet and dry areas of bathrooms.

While cascade showers give a waterfall experience, rain showerheads give the complete experience of rain. High tech showers today include steam jets, and aromatherapy jets and have digital interface panels handing over the control of water, light, sound and steam to the users. Some also include accessories like towels on the bar and massage functions while some are built for two people to have a shower at a time. Electric showers provide instant hot water independent of the central heating system, cutting down on costs.

Chiraag Kapoor

Founder and Principal Architect, Chiraag Kapoor Architects

“Bathtubs have also advanced quite a lot in terms of technologies and functionalities – from being a normal tank kind of thing to something which is more interactive.”

LED lighting ceiling showers utilise a combination of chromotherapy and hydrotherapy – and the water sprinkles down from the lighting nozzles. Hand showers today come in various jet types which can be switched between, at the click of a button.

There are many things going in favour of the shower system like freeing up space, more varieties in designs, accessories and functionalities, a lot quicker than a bathtub when it comes to bathing and of course saving water.

Luxury Bathtubs
. A beautiful bath tub can also become a part of an open bedroom today with flowers and candles. Photo Courtesy: CK Architects

Are bathtubs losing the charm?

Naturally, it will occur that bathtubs are losing their charm in the face of technological advancements in the shower system. However, that is not the case. In fact, both the shower system and bathtub has a different purpose and cater to different needs.   

Kharas opines,The purpose of bathtubs cannot be fulfilled by showers. The feel of soaking in a bathtub is different from the feel of standing under the shower. The people who would like to have that feeling of sitting and soaking in the warm water and relaxing are the people who will be going to a bathtub. Kids love bathtubs with body jets fitted inside the tub. So, there is a market for these types of products and advancements in shower technologies are not going make these products obsolete.”

Rajesh Mehra, Director and Promoter of bath-fittings major Jaquar Group says, “Bathtubs are great for relaxing sore muscles, ideal for bathing small children, and are available with plenty of special features such as air jets, whirlpool versions, etc. Today’s bathtubs and showers are much more than functional; they can make a strong design statement. Whether you go with a freestanding tub, standalone shower or tub-and-shower combination, one has many options as far as style, colour and tile are concerned.”

Agrees Nazario Menezes, Country Manager of Villeroy & Boch India, “Although we see a growing interest in luxury shower solutions, the bathtub still remains the showstopper of any luxury bathroom as it stands for pure wellness and relaxation.”

Rajesh Mehra

Rajesh Mehra

Director, Jaquar Group

“Bathtubs are a wonderful way to relax and restore equilibrium. The most trending is whirlpools, freestanding tubs, and Japanese soaking tub. Whirlpool is a self-contained, jetted tub that massages one’s tired muscles and makes life easy and comfortable by providing extreme relaxation.

Bathtubs these days are less likely to be placed in a corner where they fit into the square footage. A freestanding tub goes well with any décor be it rustic or contemporary. One can choose desired shapes – rectangular, oval or something artistic. Customising a freestanding bathtub with a faucet that reflects one’s style is a pretty good option. If space constraint is an issue, placing a freestanding tub within a shower is a worthy decision.

Japanese soaking tub is another trending bathtub nowadays. The Japanese soaking tub is the main element of the space, wherein the tub is surrounded by glass-panelled doors. Also, one can opt for striking and artistic stone tubs to add elegance to the luxurious bathroom. With today’s everchanging bathtub styles, forget about that tub hidden behind a shower curtain and indulge in creating something creative and out of the box.”

“A bathtub and shower combination is a luxurious one, marrying the cleansing and convenient experience of a shower with the immersive, rejuvenating experience of a bathtub,” opines

Mark Bickerstaffe, Director – New Product Development, Kohler Kitchen & Bath EMEA AND Asia Pacific. Separating the shower from the bathtub can make a big difference in the way the bathing space comes to reality.

Chiraag Kapoor, founder and principal architect of Chennai-based Chiraag Kapoor Architects, says, “Having a bathtub is luxury. It’s an epitome of relaxation. It helps one unwind after a day of hard work. The bathtub is for more than the act of mere bathing which is a regular routine activity for which you have the showers.”

Luxury Bathroom Products
Today's luxury tubs take centre stage in luxury washroom projects. Photo Courtesy: Toto

Advancements in bathtubs

Plain rectangular Bathtubs have taken a backseat and the new trend is of whirlpool tubs with massage jets in various colours, shapes and sizes. Soaking in ‘soaking tubs’ which incorporate water agitation for massaging and aromatherapy helps in relieving stress through scents. Jacuzzis have become smarter in their looks. Some of the models offer a pressure control feature to adjust the angle and volume of water jet flow.

Even the bathtubs are getting technologically advanced, you have heated wall bathtubs, whirlpool bathtubs, the Jacuzzi which is like a spa system; and then there are two user tubs, 4 user tubs in addition to single-user tubs, opines Kharas. He further adds, “Depending upon what aesthetics one wants, there are mosaic tubs, shoe-shaped tubs. There are a lot of designs and varieties available in the market. So, it really depends upon what the client wants. If they want a very catchy style statement, then the standalone tubs are the way to go. If comfort and relaxation are what they are looking for then they opt for a tub with a spa system.”

Mark Bickerstaffe

Mark Bickerstaffe

Director - New Product Development, Kohler Kitchen & Bath EMEA AND Asia Pacific

“A bathtub and shower combination is a luxurious one, marrying the cleansing and convenient experience of a shower with the immersive, rejuvenating experience of a bathtub.”

From treatments like the effervescence that delivers tiny, champagne-like bubbles that envelop in a warm, sensory embrace or Whirlpools that deliver powerfully, directed massage to soothe sore muscles and help the body relax, there is a spectrum of experiences to choose from. Combining sound vibrations or chromotherapy treatments is a brand new way of getting a sensory experience, shares Bickerstaffe.

Luxury Bathroom Fixtures
Freestanding soaking tub gives a design statement as well as provide with the ultimate relaxation. Photo Courtesy: Villeroy & Boch

One can choose one or more hydrotherapy options that use air or sound to massage, soothe, invigorate or relax your body and your mind – all controlled at the touch of a button. Add a heated back to keep you warm even longer. Technology allows one to turn what was just a bath into time focused on personal wellbeing.

Menezes shares, “We see a trend for delicate shapes and freestanding bathtubs, especially in the premium range. Our new free-standing Quaryl bath Finion is a good example of this. In spite of the compact dimensions of 170 x 75 cm, it still has a generous internal surface, which is comparable to a traditional bath measuring 180 x 80 cm, and provides the best bathing experience.”

He further added that in terms of functionality bathtubs are getting smart. “We offer an array of optional light, colour and whirlpool solutions, as well as the Bluetooth sound system ‘ViSound’ for most of our offerings.”

Kapoor adds,In bathtubs also there are so many things that have come up like you have a built-in music system, a TV. Then you have a Jacuzzi with mood lighting which itself is based on colour therapy. So, bathtubs have also advanced quite a lot in terms of technologies and functionalities – from being a normal tank kind of thing to something which is more interactive. So, you have those functionalities like body jets, massages which are actually going towards a spa system.”

Agrees Nazario Menezes

Nazario Menezes

Country Manager, Villeroy & Boch India

“Although we see a growing interest in luxury shower solutions, the bathtub still remains the showstopper of any luxury bathroom as it stands for pure wellness and relaxation.”

Today’s bathing experiences run the gamut from extra-deep soaking tubs to air baths, which allow one to fully immerse in gently massaging bubbles. In fact, many of the bathing technologies, from whirlpool jets to chromotherapy, have made their way from destination spas into the home bath. Experiences such as the Kohler VibrAcoustic bath, which sends ambient, sound-wave vibrations through the water, offer what may be the ultimate in deep relaxation.

The use of whirlpools, which typically use powerful water jets to deeply penetrate one’s shoulders, back, or neck where directed is increasing especially in the luxury washrooms. The new addition is the ‘air bath’ systems that a number of manufacturers are offering. In these, air channels deliver a steady flow of warm air bubbles that gently circulate to coax strain and stress from tired muscles. The effect is closer to an effervescent hot spring than the sometimes jarring effect of a jetted whirlpool. Since the air blowers can be located in a space away from the tub, the systems are quieter, as well.

Luxury Bathroom Fittings
The freestanding tub has become emblematic of the luxury bathroom. Photo Courtesy: Villeroy & Boch

The trends to watch out for

The freestanding tub has become emblematic of the luxury bathroom. For a long time the bathtub was up against a wall and boxed in, but having the bath freestanding makes it the sculptural element in the room and the tub’s organic form softens the room’s hard edges.

Talking about the trends in terms of shapes and sizes, Kapoor shares, “You have these built-in bathtubs, standalone bathtub; then you have the completely vintage looking ones. The selection of a particular type of bathtub in a project depends upon the space available. We have done a Jacuzzi even inside a 6×5 ft toilet and we also have done huge sink-in bathtub in 200 sqft toilets.” But whether to have a bathtub is completely dependent on the user and the kind of usage the person is going to have after they occupy the house. “In one of our 200 sqft project, we have installed a standalone bathtub with a red lounge chaise beside it. Luxury is having a hot water Jacuzzi. True luxury is having a red lounge chaise to relax while the water gets warm.”

Behzad Kharas

Behzad Kharas

CMD, BNK Group

“The purpose of bathtubs cannot be fulfilled by showers. The feel of soaking in a bathtub is different from the feel of standing under the shower. The people who would like to have that feeling of sitting and soaking in the warm water and relaxing are the people who will be going for a bathtub. ”

On the trends to look out for, Kharas says, “Now you are getting round bathtubs, then we have bathtubs in the shape of women’s shoes where the water flows from the heel and also have the shower system. Then there are outdoor tubs. The trend will be for smart bathtubs, which preset the temperature of the water and automatically fill the water in a tub at a certain time and temperature. It will have some of the functionalities that are there in advanced shower systems by adding gadgets and gizmos.”

Luxury Bathroom Materials
Bathtubs are getting smarter in terms of functionality. Photo Courtesy: Villeroy & Boch

Deep, free-standing soaking tubs are the go-to amenity for luxury washrooms for the wannabe spa washrooms. Although you can certainly soak in a bathtub, a soaking tub stands apart because it’s not connected to a shower or even a wall. It’s typically a luxury, free-standing vessel and it’s designed to pamper. For a family with kids, a traditional tub with a shower makes sense. But for the master bathroom, a freestanding soaking tub gives a design statement as well as provides the ultimate relaxation.

Tub materials range from high-density acrylic and fibreglass to volcanic limestone and resin, porcelain, concrete, enamelled cast iron, copper, stainless steel, marble, stone and more — with proportions of height, width and depth limited only by available square footage and budget.

It’s no surprise today’s luxury tubs take centre stage in luxury washroom projects. It’s an indication of the importance of relaxation in our lives. While small bathrooms certainly make it difficult, there are special drop-in and freestanding tubs on the market designed for smaller bathrooms. In average-sized bathrooms, one can increase the physical space and the perception of space with the right choice of products. Consider replacing the old tub with a corner-walled model to help open up sightlines and make the bathroom look more expansive.

What’s more, the bathtubs are also being used outdoor and even in bedrooms. A beautiful bathtub can also become a part of an open bedroom today with flowers and candles that create a relaxing environment. Increasingly the bedroom is also becoming a part of the spa systems with sauna, tubs etc. This is an international concept which is also catching on in India.

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