While the need to stay home to avoid the spread of COVID-19 has subsided, the trend towards creating a calm refuge for hydrotherapy and relaxation at home has not. Therapeutic products such as soaking and jetted tubs, steam, sauna and even cold water therapy are still in high demand. Designers continue to be tasked with the job of creating a luxurious, relaxing atmosphere incorporating these products.
“Prioritizing self-care and wellness has definitely carried into the home. Now more than ever the bathroom has become an escape for people to take time for themselves and feel like they are in a spa-like environment in terms of the products they are choosing as well as the aesthetic of the space,” says Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, leader of LIXIL Global Design, Americas in Piscataway, NJ.
As this trend towards soothing spaces continues, homeowners are looking for a range of therapies to be incorporated into the same space. “The bath in general has gone from being just a room to being a retreat and sanctuary in the home,” remarks Eric Phelps, president, North America for Anaheim, CA-based Acquabella. “Showers that offer steam, baths that provide a long, hot, deep soak, and perhaps a barrier free wet-room that combines all of these into one space are now being considered.“
In these spaces there’s a continued shift towards freestanding bathtubs, with or without additional therapeutic options. Natural materials and colors are often used to help create the desired ambiance.
“A freestanding bathtub made from natural stone brings the elegant simplicity of the natural world into the bath and helps create the perfect mood for a place to soak and enjoy much-needed rest and relaxation,” reports Michael Zimber, owner of Stone Forest, based in Santa Fe, NM.
Other top trends include color, mixing and matching of materials and finishes, a push for customized options to fit any footprint and attention to universal design. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
FOCUS ON WELLNESS
The move by consumers to include more self-care and wellness in their lives is increasingly important when considering bathroom design. “Across the industry we continue to see wellness be a top priority for our consumers,” stresses L’Henaff. “Whether it’s antimicrobial materials, purifiers or spa-like products, consumers are now, more than ever, looking to create a balance in their emotional and physical well-being in every aspect of their lives and routine.”
“Concerning design philosophy of the bathrooms, we have noticed a greater attention from customers towards well-being. The bathroom has become an oasis of well-being, an intimate place to take care of yourself,” observes Sara Ramundo, product design manager for Devon&Devon, based in Italy.
“The number one reason people bathe is for mental and physical relaxation,” adds Stephanie Krickeberg, Sprig associate director of marketing for Kohler in Kohler, WI. “The mission to transform bathrooms into a ‘spa-like’ environment requires consideration of sensorial elements to create the atmosphere.”
“The interest in saunas as a health and lifestyle choice continues to grow,” states Patrick Weidl, director of business development for ThermaSol, based in Round Rock, TX. “Saunas have gone from being primarily a health club extra to people wanting them in their homes.”
“Those of us in the steam and sauna industry have been extolling the virtues of these experiences for years,” Weidl says. “As more studies continue to show the benefits of self-care and steam, they will continue to drive interest.”
Michael Kornowa, v.p. of marketing for MTI Baths in Buford, GA, says the trend includes both physical and emotional wellness. “Everything about us is interconnected,” Kornowa explains. “So, if you are using various hydrotherapies – water therapies – to provide relief, restoration [and] rest for your body, that’s also having an impact on your mental state, and your emotional state…That has resonated very well with the design community.”
Erick Kristian, marketing director for BainUltra, based in Quebec, Canada says, “Beyond functional therapy, there is also an emotional component about loving the space you are in. The spa at home can also be beautiful, with natural material choices and a décor that incorporates a positive feeling when in it – something designed by the bather that not only helps them physically but inspires them as well.”
Design is leaning towards the transitional, with the use of color, texture and mixed materials still emerging. Natural materials and materials that promote health and sustainability are also on the rise.
“Soaker tubs in natural materials that promote a feeling of connection with the earth are providing an essential outlet for relaxation, stress reduction, even a sense of spiritual renewal,” stresses Naomi Neilson, CEO and founder of Native Trails, based in San Luis Obispo, CA.
“Greater attention is also placed on using natural, high-quality materials throughout the bathroom,” remarks Bob Downie, president & CEO of Duravit, Americas based in St. Augustine, FL.
For saunas, Weidl says, the more organic and natural the environment, the better. “The type of wood that the sauna is made from is important. Clear Western Red Cedar is the best wood because it absorbs steam and withstands heat absorption without damage,” he reports.
Stacey Savarese, spokesperson for Hydro Systems, based in Valencia, CA, says color is a trend for 2023. “Customers have turned away from all-white bathrooms in favor of color and experimentation,” she observes. This year, warm earthy neutral colors – like greens, warm browns, golds and blues – are making a big comeback, she adds.
In addition to additional color options, homeowners are looking for more texture and patterns in the bath, offers Zimber. “Bolder stone choices like cumulo granite, sandstone or antique gray limestone add to the color pallet of the bathroom space,” he states.
Not all therapies are created equal; it’s important that designers consider individual needs to select products that work for the homeowner. This may lead to a combination of soaking tubs, various jet therapies, and add-ons like aromatherapy and chromatherapy that enhance the overall experience.
Kornowa stresses that the COVID pandemic inspired the resurrection of therapies like air baths and whirlpool jets. “As people exercised more, they were also putting more strain on their bodies,” he remarks. Different therapies are required for desired impacts, such as relaxation versus deep tissue massage.
“[Whirlpools] are coming back at a nice regular clip, and being appreciated for their own contribution to holistic wellness,” he explains. The benefits of microbubble technology is also impressing designers, with this therapy particularly relevant when working with seniors, Kornowa says. “Microbubbles can be a tremendous health addition to their regimen in terms of keeping their skin hydrated,” he offers.
Hydro Systems focuses on creating that spa-like tub by adding various therapies to the bath, such as Hydro Indulge, which infuses the bathwater with concentrated oxygen, or the new Cold Plunge therapy. Cold Plunge is an indoor cold water therapy system that uses cooling, filtration and sanitation to provide cold, clean water quickly.
“We believe in slowing down, so what about a wellness ritual that stacks complementary therapies?” queries Kristian. “Dedicating a moment regularly to have a bath with Hydro-Thermo Massage, Aromatherapy, Chromatherapy and Thermotherapy while engaging in the practice of mindfulness is a powerful way to have each of the benefits of these therapies together in one wellness ritual,” he explains.
“Adding scent and aromatherapy to this space is a logical next step in creating a sensorial experience for the bath and/or shower space to help create a feeling of relaxation or recharge,” Krickeberg adds.
BEYOND THE TUB
In addition to therapies and features that enhance the tub experience, both steam and sauna are important products to consider when designing a home spa atmosphere. Steam can be added without increasing the physical space available, and both can incorporate other therapeutic options like aromatherapy and chromatherapy.
“There are innovative ways to add steam to your shower, including internal and external steam generators,” explains Phelps. “Better steam distribution and added features like chromatherapy are making steam more attractive and accessible for more people.”
Huston Sprang, senior product manager, Business Development at Kohler says that this ability to integrate steam into a shower and not require additional space in a home makes it attractive. “Consumers do not need to give up space elsewhere in their homes to integrate this experience,” he reports. “Not only is a steam shower a great way to find relaxation and stress relief, but there are also many benefits for the user, such as improving their skin, relaxing their muscles and joints and improving their breathing.”
“The advances in smart shower technology have developed and improved to a degree that virtually anyone interested in adding a steam to their bathroom project wouldn’t think of installing one without some of the newest features,” offers Weidl. “There are voice-activated controls that allow you to start the steam from anywhere in the house, And, with the ability to pre-program their steam showers, homeowners are able to program water temperature at their precise setting and their precise timing…every time.”
Saunas take more space, but it’s not as much as some may think. “People are realizing that they don’t need a lot of space to install a sauna; they can be easily built in basements and, at ThermaSol, we have both indoor and outdoor models,” Weidl reports.
The key to creating the ultimate personal spa is the ability to customize the experience, manufacturers say. “All customization services are in high demand,” stresses Ramundo. “Our customers don’t want a standard bathroom; they want a bathroom made for them.”
Customizing the tub to allow for more than one person to bathe is another important feature, manufacturers say. Phelps reports that a center drain bath where symmetrical design allows for dual bathers is in high demand. “A critical part of wellness is the connection with others,” he says.
Zimber adds, “Custom tubs for two have been trending most often in oval or round shapes that are deep enough for a full soaking experience.”
“[Homeowners] are making it customized to what they envision as a spa experience,” offers a spokesperson for Graff, based in Milwaukee, WI. Customers personalize according to what they like.
“Homeowners can personalize their steam showers with state-of-the-art Bluetooth speakers and smart touch digital controls that allow them to listen, stream and download their favorite songs and shows while having a steam,” stresses Weidl.
FREESTANDING FOCAL POINT
The inclusion of freestanding tubs, often used as a centerpiece, has been a continuous trend for the past few years. Space can determine the desired tub size, and demand for smaller freestanding tubs is on the rise.
“We are seeing huge demand for freestanding soaker tubs,” stresses Neilson. “They are not just statement pieces; the need to ‘unplug’ and truly relax has never been greater. Soaker tubs are seen as the perfect way to escape the stressors of daily life.”
“Freestanding bathtubs have made a resurgence across the luxury bathroom space,” Downie agrees. “We’re seeing more variation in sizing, which offers even greater personalization and customization. Compact bathtubs afford freestanding tubs to be design anchors to the bathroom, regardless of space.”
Even in small spaces, people are choosing freestanding tubs, Kornowa agrees. “We’re seeing a real gravitation toward smaller, freestanding tubs,” he adds. Over the past two years, he says, they’ve seen the old standards of 66″ to 72″ shrinking to 55″ or 60″ tubs for small spaces.
WELLNESS FOR ALL
Personal care spaces are being designed for all users in the home, with consideration to aging in place and accessibility for anyone in the family, manufacturers say.
“We have promoted the concept of ‘aging in place’ as a way to help gracefully continue to enjoy our products as accessibility becomes an issue,” explains Kristian. They’ve promoted this by offering bathtub collections with larger decks and including more universal grab bars on their models, he says. “With an aging population, we anticipate this trend to continue.”
“We’re taking the approach to design for everyone in many of our product categories and consider needs as we bring new products to life,” stresses Amber Hall, global bathing & showering marketing manager at Kohler.
“Accessibility is a significant concern for consumers when purchasing a bath,” reports Phelps, whether entering or exiting the bath. “Baths with a resting area or larger lip can help provide a secure transfer point, allowing the bather to sit on the ledge and rotate out of the bath,” he states.
“Products exist that can make a bath both decorative and accessible,” Phelps adds. “Accessible scares people as it is often synonymous with institutional, but with so many choices and open minds, it is possible to have accessibility and beauty in the same bathroom.”
“Aging in place is a trend, for sure, but it is more about design aesthetics to be universal, and this fits within the aging in place needs, and zero threshold for flat floors, [which] will work for wheelchairs too,” notes Graff. ▪
The freestanding Elko soaking tub from Acquabella measures 27″ tall, allowing for total submersion. Sculpted from the brand’s Dolotek, an eco-friendly composite that keeps the water warm longer, the tub features a compact design and ergonomic shape with a rolled rim. It is available in five exterior colors with Snow White interior.
The wellness oasis on Vieques Island was the origin for Patricia Urquiola’s Vieques freestanding tub from Agape. Made of steel and painted in white or with a dark gray or light gray exterior, the distinctly shaped tub can be completed with an iroko shelf and backrest. The stainless steel version allows for outdoor use.
Amerec’s custom saunas can convert a workout area into a home gym or a bathroom into a health-enriching home spa, notes the firm. The SaunaLogic2 digital control with mobile app allows the user to operate the sauna remotely from a smart device.
Reminiscent of a Greek style carved stone bath, the Somerset is the newest ROC freestanding tub from Americh. The sculpted solid surface oval tub features a rolled rim and a modern pedestal base, as well as a center drain and two curving backs allowing for the option of two bathers. The mineral cast solid surface has a glossy finish.
Inspired by the organic forms of nature, the Fida tub – designed by Marco Di Paolo for antoniolupi – is a sculpture carved from a monolith of brushed Vicenza Gray Alpi Stone. The material, which is light gray in color, is characterized by the presence of macrofossils. The oval stone tub features rounded edges and ergonomic interior.
The Monolith bathtub from Aquatica showcases a bold rectangular form with a contemporary aesthetic. The tub’s interior features sloping sides for comfortable recline and full-body immersion. Heated jets, chromatherapeutic LED lighting and water recirculation with temperature control deliver additional amenities.
Taking its name from Greek and Roman mythology, Aurora is the latest tub from BainUltra’s Libra collection. A robust upper lip creates a halo-like feel, while Illuzio chromatherapy and
Hydro-Thermo Massage provide spa-like features. The 66″x34″x24″ size allows for two bathers.
Made from its proprietary Xonyx solid surface, freestanding bathtubs from Balteco showcase timeless Nordic design. Dual-wall construction allows for contoured ergonomic inner surfaces and elegant external design lines as well as minimal heat loss, notes the company. The tubs are available in any exterior color from the full RAL color palette.
The newest tub from Barclay Products, the Noelani 66″ freestanding acrylic bathtub features a stylish stepped base for a distinctive design. The tub is available in matte white, matte black and regular white color on the exterior, with a white interior. Eight drains and overflow cover finishes are offered.
Designed to deliver an ultra deep-soaking bathing experience, the azure 5 transitional bathtub from Blu Bathworks measures 71″x34-1/4″, with a step-over height of 21-1/4″. The tub is fashioned from the company’s eco-friendly blu-stone material, which provides water temperature retention for a longer soak, notes the firm.
Clarke showcases ClarkeOne, a home hydrotherapy system made in the U.S. from OMOXO solid surface compound. The electro-magnetic door opens outward with the touch of a button. The customizable soft-touch control page allows the user to change water pressure, underwater light modes and monitor water temperature from a seated position.
The SteamScape Steam Shower Series from Delta Faucet Co. features user presets, an essential oil reservoir and multiple finishes. Available in Contemporary Classic and Transitional Classic packages, the series includes a digital control and steam heads with 360° dispersion. Two user presets allow for customization of steam settings.
Devon&Devon’s Aurora White and Aurora Bijoux White bathtubs are fashioned from 100% White Tec Plus, a Greenguard Gold certified material that uses Biobased plant-derived resins. The four spherical feet of Aurora Bijoux White are available in five finishes, including the new white acrylic.
Designed for smaller bathrooms, Drummonds’ Regent tub is a more compact version of the Meon, and offers above-the-floor plumbing while retaining the style of a traditional cast iron bath. With a double-ended design, the tub is cast from iron and then finished in painted enamel.
Designed by Sebastian Herkner for Duravit, the Zencha Freestanding Bathtub is inspired by traditional Japanese culture and bathing rituals. Featuring a compact size, the tub sports a depth and shape that are reminiscent of Japanese onsen tubs for soaking. Made from DuraSolid ceramic, the tub is hygienic and easy to clean, notes the firm.
Drawing on the Art Déco period, the Belshire Freestanding Soaking Tub from DXV showcases a unique faceted design with gently sloped interior for lumbar support and 16″ soaking depth for comfort. The tub comes complete with fiberglass reinforcement and integrated drain and overflow.
Empava’s 72″ Whirlpool Rectangular Bathtub, spacious enough for two, showcases a contemporary, double-ended design with arched backrests that support the body. A powerful 1.2HP pump supplies 10 strategically placed water jets that provide deep tissue massage throughout the body. LED lights provide a natural glow, states the firm.
Fleurco introduces Aria Stone, a modern line of solid surface bathtubs. The durable material mimics natural stone and is available in a variety of different styles and nature-like colorways to complement most design styles.
Gessi’s digitally controlled COLOUR is a spa shower experience that employs waterfalls, hydro-massage, nebulized mists and mood-changing hues. Part of the brand’s signature Private Wellness Program, the experience allows users to select and adjust water jets and other settings via a digital keypad.
The Chelsea Tub is a smooth, spacious bathtub with contemporary contours. The freestanding tub from Hastings Tile & Bath features a transitional slipper inspired design with wide, open dimensions and a slightly higher back. Available in two sizes, the tub comes in four finishes: polished white, matte white, polished gray and matte gray.
Cold Plunge by Hydro Systems is available on any of the company’s bathtubs, and adding it to a tub with signature jetted therapeutic systems and chromatherapy provides several immersive options. Cold water therapy can reduce inflammation and aid with post-
workout recovery, states the firm.
Jacuzzi Luxury Bath’s Elara tub fits into any drop-in installation, including a customized flush-mount setting, notes the firm. The tub includes flush SlimPro jets for a relaxing, therapeutic bath, and the Heated Soak experience keeps the water warm, adds the company.
Featuring a sculpted, undulating exterior, the Argile freestanding bathtub embodies a handcrafted aesthetic that resembles wood cuts and tooled clay, states Kallista. The tub, available in Kallista Honed White matte finish, is the result of a collaboration with architecture firm Workshop/APD.
Kohler Co.’s Stillness tub is a smart bath with a minimal exterior and soft interior. The tub fills from the bottom of the bath, overflowing into the hinoki wood base to create a soothing sound. Inspired by Japanese forest bathing, the deep soak of Stillness is enhanced with water, light, fog and aromas.
MrSteam has elevated the steam experience with the launch of iSteamX steam shower control, notes the company. The iSteamX combines WiFi connectivity with access to apps, and offers control over all features of the steam shower experience, including sound and chromatherapy. The control is offered in eight finishes.
The compact Eryn tub features a single slipper design with a raised backrest and integral faucet deck. From MTI Baths, Eryn comes standard as a soaker tub, and is available with optional hydrotherapy and sensory packages, such as thermos air massage, chromatherapy, audiotherapy and Bluetooth remote.
The Mendocino NativeStone Freestanding Tub from Native Trails features thick walls that provide insulation. Created using a sustainable blend of natural jute fiber and cement, the concrete tub offers a silky texture. The tub is available in Ash, Charcoal, Slate, Pearl and Earth finishes.
From Premier Copper Products comes this round copper Japanese-style soaking tub. The artisan-made tub is hand hammered for a distinctive, one-of-a-kind appearance. The company offers a range of freestanding copper bathtubs in a variety of shapes and styles.
Among the bathtubs offered by Sbordoni is the Livia, a fixture fashioned from a solid surface material that allows for the delicate and elegant pattern of grooves showcased in the design. Delivering ease of maintenance and a pleasant tactile feel, according to the firm, the tub features a milk white color.
The Schmidlin RIVA FRAME Line products are characterized by oval designed white matte fixtures supported by a powder-coated steel frame. The black frame adds a stylish element and allows for the viewing of the slender white oval tubs and sinks from all sides.
Sterling has launched Performa 2, a caulkless modular bathing and showering solution with improved water containment design, with built-in corner seals and step flange system that keeps moisture out. Made of stain- and scratch-resistant Vikrell, Performa 2 is available in bath and bath/shower combinations.
Fashioned from granite, Stone Forest’s Oval Soaking Tub is a freestanding tub available in 60″ and 72″ sizes. Shown in standard black and blue-gray granite, the tub features a polished interior and rim with a chiseled exterior.
ThermaSol’s new collection of indoor and outdoor saunas includes Trost, a 4-person indoor sauna crafted from Nordic Spruce. All ThermaSol saunas are equipped with digital controller with WiFi, full-spectrum LED mood lighting and an accessory kit.
The freestanding copper Baccarac Tub from Thompson Traders is hand hammered by skilled artisans in Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico. The gently angled profile and rose gold finish deliver a dramatic statement and a relaxing soak. Easy to care for and clean, the tub’s copper finish will gently patina over time, states the firm.
Monte Santo di Lussari, the Alpine summit where Italy, Austria and Slovenia meet, features peaks and valleys that are the inspiration behind Victoria + Albert’s Lussari soaking tub. Form, function and symmetry merge in a classic oval of minimalist sculpture.
At the heart of the MOOD tub is an elliptical design that adds functional deck space, with a side rim storage shelf that blends into the tub’s refined appearance. Offered by Wetstyle, the tub incorporates dual backrests in either contemporary or traditional interiors. The soaking tub is available in a choice of matte or glossy finishes.