Bath time

Diversity is the keyword in today's tub trends as everything goes, from vintage to modern angles, and from hi-tech to purist simplicity. By Charlotte Butterfield.
Bath time
By Charlotte Butterfield
Mon 01 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

Today, the bath is not only a functional space for cleansing, but also a retreat that's critical for one's mental and spiritual well-being. In many ways, the bath is really the only [place] in the house where we can maintain privacy and have time to contemplate and pontificate on important life decisions," says Andreas Dornbracht, when asked about the historical relevance and cultural significance of the bath.

The evolution of bathtub design has seen heavy cast iron claw foot baths popular in the Victorian Era morph into plain rectangular acrylic tubs, before maturing into the myriad of designs, materials and features today's bathtubs enjoy. Size-wise, a standard tub is only 14-17 inches deep, a European style is 18" deep, and a Japanese or Greek tub is 22" deep or more, and with companies such as Kohler now offering the ‘infinity swimming pool experience' in its Sok overflowing bath and Dornbracht's Taralogic Contrast bath, total immersion is being taken to new depths.

In addition to an increase in tub sizes, it is also now commonplace for bathtubs to have whirlpool functions as standard, no doubt both changes are direct results of the ‘wellbeing' trend that has swept the global bathroom design industry. In terms of tub trends, built-in shapes are being overtaken by free-standing styles. Top manufacturers are seemingly undecided whether to focus on offering luxurious vintage styles reminiscent of the era when roll-tops were de rigueur, or if designers and consumers will be swayed by the crisp contemporary angles of industrial-esque square baths. Hence both contrasting styles are emanating from the same bathroom factories across the globe. Over the next few pages, CID has collated a guide to the materials to choose from and we have also collected together our favourite designs from bathroom giants in the various different styles.

Material Guide

Acrylic

Thermal formed acrylic is vacuum-moulded with fibreglass strengthening the acrylic sheets. It is cheap, lightweight and easily maintained.
Cast iron

Often the most expensive material on the market for designer tubs, enamel-coated cast iron is also the most durable. It has a deep glossy shine and colour, however, cast iron products are extremely heavy, which is fine for smaller tubs, (less than 5ft long) but can be impractical if a larger size is required.

Porcelain on steel (POS)

A good choice of material due to its cost-effectiveness; ease of maintentance; light weight; corrosion, acid and abrasion resistance. It consists of a thin steel shell coated with a porcelain enamel.

Fibreglass

Gel-coated fibreglass, also known as FRP, is a reasonably priced option. It can be easily moulded into different shapes, is lightweight and is easily repaired. A polyester resin is sprayed onto a mould and is layered with fibreglass and foam insulation. It is less durable than acrylic and clients may need to replace it after 10-15 years of continual use.

Marble

Natural marble is a very porous material and is not a great choice for bath tubs. If in an area of hard water, then some erosion may take place. Cultured marble, however, has a gel coated finish over a limestone and polyester resin, which makes it more durable than its natural counterpart, although not as maintenance-free as acrylic or cast iron.

Whirlpool

The increasing dependence on well-being and health has had a direct result on the prevalence of whirlpool baths. Manufacturers have responded by designing an impressive array of spa baths suitable for home or commercial use.

Jacuzzi's Opalia Wood built in bath measures 190x110cm and features six hydromassage jets for Dhs45, 000. The wood trim is available in teak, wengé or urban wood. Spanish bathroom giant Roca, prides itself on being the only company worldwide to produce whirlpool baths in cast iron; steel and acrylic.
Corner

Traditionally corner baths were space-saving devices for bijou bathrooms, with the smallest measuring just 110x110cm. Today's ranges, however, can be as decadent as 160x160cm and hold upwards of 230 litres of water.

Corner baths usually take the shape of a quarter circle with two sides equal in length and the outer edge either being rounded or with five angled sides. The Seadream by Duravit is shaped to encompass a shower cubicle or enough bathing space for two.

Free-standing

Stand-alone baths once were the luxurious choice for overly spacious bathrooms, but with traditional boundaries between bathrooms and living spaces becoming blurred, free-standing tubs can now even be positioned in the bedroom or act as a divider between bed and bathroom as a stunning focal point.

Cast iron used to be the material of choice for free-standing models, reminiscent of the clawfoot slipper-style baths that were popular in Victorian times. Vintage styles are still popular, along with boat-style shapes and more angular models. The Palazzo half egg-shaped bath is a quirky stone composite bath produced in six different styles, with 15 luxury finishes.

Contemporary Angles

A contrasting trend to the current hankering after vintage styles is the European-inspired penchant for minimalism and geometry. From Jean Nouvel's overflowing bath for Jado to Artefakt's Moments tub system with back-lit pannelling for Ideal Standard, the keywords are sleek, angular and simple.

Duscholux injects interest into its crisp contemporary Bella Vita tub with a semi-circular cut-out fixed glass insert and wooden frame, which doubles as a practical shelf.

Teamed with architecturally-designed taps and mixer, an angular style can be a striking addition to a modern interior.

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