The article below by Stacey Wiedower reflects what I have been seeing here in East Tennessee. More and more bathroom remodels are eliminating the spa tub I favor of putting in tech rich spa showers. They can come with a myriad of high tech features including steam, mood lighting, built in sound systems, multi temperature controls and multiple water outlets and jets. It may be a surprise to you but most of the baby boomers I talk to who are doing bath remodels favor the spa showers because of the difficulty we have as we get older climbing in and out of a tub. In addition, many are concerned about the water use that a large tub can require. When I ask about the ability to “lounge in a hot bath”, most say that a hot tub is much more useful!
Read what Stacy has to say!
Massive whirlpool tubs are so last century.
By Stacey Wiedower
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, a massive whirlpool tub in the master bath was the ultimate in luxury. Often built alongside a much smaller separate shower, the tub’s existence in the en-suite bath meant: I’ve arrived.
Fast-forward a quarter-century, and these tubs are ubiquitous and considered a necessity for resale. But lately, more home owners are asking themselves why.
“At my house, I’ve got a huge bathtub, and the very few times I’ve ever filled that tub up, I start running out of hot water,” said Martha Fondren, director of sales and marketing with Grant & Co., a Collierville-based home builder. People used to take a bath, fill up a huge bathtub, and sit in there for a while. But they just don’t have the time anymore, and it’s a huge waste of water.
That’s why Fondren’s employer has begun to shift its focus away from the tub to what it calls the king spa shower. Grant & Co. offers the optional feature in homes ranging in price from $160,000 to more than $350,000.
Master suites still include whirlpool tubs because people expect that, Fondren said, but more important are roomy, glass-enclosed, tiled showers with features like benches, body jets, and rainfall shower heads.
“The emphasis on the giant garden tub is no longer there,” she said. “Now the emphasis is on, ‘What can I do with my shower?’ People want a spa experience in the shower. It helps them release stress and tension.”
Stefan and Isabella Gertsch didn’t think twice about eliminating the tub when they completed a master bathroom addition in their East Memphis home. Their new en-suite features a large walk-in shower with two shower heads: One up high for Stefan, who’s 6-foot-7, and one at standard height for Isabella.
“We decided not to add a tub,” Isabella Gertsch said. “Personally, I don’t like the bathtub. It’s dirty water in the end, and it’s just not my preference. I like a big shower with tile that invites you to take a shower. Stefan’s a tall guy and he needs space, and I really like space also, so we wanted to have something comfortable, inviting.”
Germantown home owners Joseph and Jessica Cate came to the same conclusion in their recent master bathroom remodel. Short on space, the Cates chose to remove the original tub from their en-suite bath and replace it with a large zero-threshold shower.
“The biggest influencer was our previous house in Colorado,” Joseph Cate said. “We had a real five-piece master bath, and we noticed that primarily, I mean 99.9% of the time, we just used the shower. Ideally, we would have still had a separate shower and a tub, but we didn’t have the space, so we decided to go with the shower.”
Linda Wingo, interior designer and owner of Wingo Design & Interiors, said she’s finding that clients younger than 40 are the ones most interested in foregoing the tub or shrinking its footprint.
“I have several clients who love to take baths, but they’ve totally gutted their master bathrooms and focused on smaller tubs with larger showers,” she said. “Because nine times out of 10, most of us shower daily versus taking a hot, soaking bath.”
Jeff Cunningham, vice president of engineering for Jason International, a manufacturer of high-end hydrotherapy products, said his company has seen a move from very large tubs to smaller, more streamlined options.
“For example, 10 years ago we had tubs that held up to 160 gallons that three-plus people could fit into that were very trendy,” he said. “Today, it’s more about fitting it into a much smaller space. The typical bath sizes hot today are 30 to 32 inches in width and 60 to 66 inches in length. Those usually accommodate a small bathroom very well.”
Wingo often directs clients to standalone tubs, which can fit smaller spaces because they don’t require the built-in deck that can add as much as 15 inches to a drop-in tub’s footprint. However, standalone tubs can be budget-busters for many home owners, and typically they’re preferred for aesthetics as much as function.
“You can find them in anything from copper to solid surface to granite composite, and they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes,” Wingo said. “In the Vesta house I did, we had a standalone tub, and it’s such an eye-opener when you walk in that room. It becomes a piece of art.”
Ashley Deming, interior designer with the Memphis showroom of Robert F. Henry Tile Co., said that’s often what drives her clients to the free-standing option.
“Function isn’t important if the tub you have collects dust all but four times a year,” she said. ” If I take a bath, I want it to be a decadent experience.”
For that reason, Deming also recommends air baths, which provide bubbles without large, hard-to-clean jets. Cunningham said the latest tubs aren’t just smaller and easier to clean; they offer other benefits, too.
“An air bath has no plastic fittings inside, just small holes where air comes through,” he said. “It looks more clean, and it’s very contemporary-looking. (The air bath) is for relaxation mainly, and whirlpool is more about muscle therapy.”
Anne Canale, interior designer and owner of Anne Canale Designs, said she’s seen an increase in clients requesting to remove tubs from guest bathrooms. In the East Memphis home of Dr. Noel and Debbie Florendo, for instance, she replaced a tub with a walk-in shower to accommodate Debbie’s aging parents.
“Generally, the tubs that I pull out are in guest bathrooms,” she said. ” I think a lot of guest bathtubs are not used, especially for people who have older children. In general, the bathtubs aren’t used except when guests come, and the majority of people take showers, not baths.”
An exception to that rule is a home with small children, and designers emphasized that in all homes, it’s important to have a tub in at least one bathroom. When the Cates chose to remove the tub in their master bath remodel, they did so knowing they could use the tub in the guest bath down the hall for future kids.
“Any bath where potentially a kid is using it, you probably still want to have a tub,” Cate said.
Wingo said the factors she asks home owners to consider during a bathroom remodel are who’s going to use the bathroom, how they’re going to use it, and how important resale is to the equation.
“If they’re going to be living in a house less than five years, I design to sell,” she said. “If they’re going to be in it longer than five years, I design around the needs of the client. And if my client just doesn’t take baths, if it’s a waste of space, I say eliminate it.”
Originally published by Stacey Wiedower, Special to the Commercial Appeal.
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