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I like to think of a bathtub as the 'mood-setter' for a bathroom scheme – it can be such a dominating presence in these spaces that it really has to be. Your choice of bathtub can really skew the overall aesthetic of the bathroom depending on the design cues it picks up on, as well as setting the tone for whether it's a room that's been designed to retreat to, or it's serving a more perfunctory purpose.
Barbara Sellick, co-founder of bathroom brand Waterworks and author of The Perfect Bath and The Ultimate Bath, agrees. 'The bathtub establishes the mood of the bathroom, partly because of its size but also because of what it represents: the ultimate soothing restorative experience,' she explains. 'If the shape of the bathtub is elegant and beautifully proportioned and it’s made of rich, high-quality materials it creates a striking focal point. Strategically placed, it is the sculpture for the room.'
A good bath also represents an investment, so there's a lot of stakes riding on making a choice that's not only going to set the mood for a modern bathroom, but also straddle the tricky divide of feeling both on-trend and timeless. These are the trends I think you need to look out for.
Luke is a design journalist and award-winning blogger, who specializes in luxury interiors. He spoke to author and founder of Waterworks Barbara Sellick, as well as other experts, to find out the trends in bathtubs that are inspiring interior designers right now.
While the majority of these trends focus on the aesthetic qualities of bathtubs, it's fair to say that it's not the only concern leading bathroom trends right now. 'More and more, people are appreciating artistry and integrity in design,' Barbara Sellick, co-founder of Waterworks, explains. 'There’s great awareness about the importance of materiality, too. Top-tier materials are often better at retaining heat and last a lifetime.'
'Comfort remains a priority,' she adds. 'Something for your body that’s ultimately for relaxation and wellness and well-being needs to feel good.'
1. Modern classics
When it comes to hitting the mark of both timeless and on-trend, bathtubs with a more classical inspiration always hit the mark. 'Tastes evolve over time, but some tubs are enduringly popular,' Barbara explains. One of Waterworks most popular baths, for example, is the Empire Bath. 'The design was inspired by a beautiful late 19th century foot bath, and its luxurious depth and scale make a bold statement.'
However, the best examples for modern spaces are those that capture the essence of contemporary design, too. The Empire, pictured above, for example, has a classic leaning, but also feels modern in the sense of the generous curves you see in today's bathroom trends where something like a clawfoot tub might feel fussy. 'It has the ability to lift traditional bathrooms as well as more eclectic and spirited retreats,' Barbara says. 'It’s the kind of bathtub you want to build a room around.'
2. Transparent baths
A slightly more unexpected trend is appearing in modern bathroom design through bathtubs that appear to be made from color-tinted transparent materials. While they may look like glass, they're actually often sophisticated resins, better suited to the qualities you'd want in a comfortable, practical bathtub, such as Cristalmood by Italian brand antoniolupi, which are available in the US.
'It is resistant like stone but also transparent like crystal,' explains Andrea Lupi, CEO of antoniolupi. 'Whether creating bathroom sinks or bathtubs, the material is able to realize highly sculptural, dramatic and daring designs that appear lightweight.'
Why then, are we being drawn to transparent materials for bathtubs in 2023? Some of it may be in this lightness that translates into the bathtub feeling less bulky, and more elegant. 'The subtle edges open a pure, capacious and ergonomic volume that appears as if floating in space thanks to its narrow base,' Andrea explains. 'The result reveals a modern aesthetic to match its innovative material.'
3. Statement marbles
Like in many spaces in the home, we're seeing exciting types of marble being embraced for bathtubs. 'We are definitely seeing more of an interest in marble bathtubs,' Barbara explains. 'They are very heavy to move, but designers are putting an updated spin on these ancient styles.'
The best examples for current interior design trends have bold veining that combine with the naturally sinuous nature of freestanding baths to amplify these designs. 'The natural surface movement and veining in the marble accentuates the shape of the tub and brings a sense of history to the design,' Barbara outlines.
4. Centering your bath
Putting all this thought into a beautiful bathtub also means that designers are looking at ways to put these elements center stage, often by avoiding the standard bathroom layout which sees a tub flush against a wall.
This bathroom scheme by Hoban Design is the perfect example of allowing a bathtub to set the tone for a relaxing, decadent space. 'The goal in layout was to place the bath as the focal point,' explains Chris Chapman, director of design at Hoban Design. 'The steam shower is hidden behind a feature wall and the WC is hidden behind a Crittal door. This makes the main part of the bathroom feel a lot more ‘habitable’ than your usual bathroom – and allows for furniture to turn it into a lovely spot to have read a book in the mid morning light.'
To make this bathroom layout work, there's practical considerations however, extending beyond just ensuring you have pipes laid to the center of the room. Size matters, and you don't want too small a bathroom, or too large. 'You need to have more than just enough room to circulate, otherwise it feels lonely,' Chris explains. 'In this room we have space for a side table and even a comfortable chair adjacent to the bath, and still space to circulate. It’s a game of balance between the bath not having enough room, or having too much room.'
5. Built-in baths
Are we seeing freestanding baths fall out of style? Well, probably not, but where they were once the only option for a stylish, on-trend bathroom, we're seeing a swing back to the practicality of built-in bathtubs, though elevated in design this time around.
Whether clad in marble, amazing statement bathroom tiles or even a clever minimalist waterproof finish like Tadelakt, built-in bathtubs aren't to be discounted in 2023.
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For style leaders and design lovers.
Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.
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