Bathrooms, Interiors

Love Your Bathroom Again (Part 1: The Tub)

Confession:  Bathrooms used to be my least favorite room in the home to design.  This was problematic because I design a lot of bathrooms.  I never used to feel jazzed up about selecting finishes for bathrooms and I think I know why.  It’s a room that is fairly predictable.  There’s a toilet, sink, mirror, lights above or beside the mirror, sometimes a tub or a shower and then there’s tile.  Lots and lots of tile.

Here’s another more real reason I used to shy away from bathrooms:  there’s been a few decades of design out there that I don’t love for bathrooms.  I don’t like big, inset tubs.  You know, the kind of tubs that you have to walk up slippery tiled stairs to get into.  The kind of tubs that never get warm because your hot water heater isn’t big enough to accommodate them.  The kind of tubs with empty space around them equivalent to the size of Kansas.  I have other problems with bathroom design and I will get to those in the upcoming weeks with some solutions.  Let’s focus on the tub this week.

Do you keep the tub?  In Master Bathrooms it’s usually a debate between spouses of – do we keep a tub in there or get rid of it and put in a larger shower?  For a while, the trend was to take it out and put in the larger shower.  I don’t know if I’ve just had a string of clients recently who use their tubs or if the trend is swinging back towards having a bathtub in the Master Bathroom but I’ve noticed that a fantastic master suite right now includes a tub and it’s usually a freestanding tub.

Here are a two different ways to incorporate a bathtub, make it look luxurious while steering clear of the acres and acres of being tile problem.


If you’re into cozy and traditional or if your master bathroom is short on space – an inset tub might be for you.  I haven’t had a client use one of these in a long time but I love the way they look.  For people who don’t have master bathrooms, this might be a nice way to dress up another bathroom in your home.

Inset tub
Look at this beauty! Warm, comfortable and if mustard’s not your thing, it can be painted. (Photo Source)
inset tub in an alcove
Another inset tub – this one with an arched alcove above it. Notice that both of these tubs have concealed storage on either side of them. (Photo Source)

I think that inset tubs should get a piece of stone or quartz on top of them rather than a tiled top to get the right look.  The face of the tub can also get stone or quartz or could be tiled if you are worried about splashing.  I look at these paneled bathrooms with love but I realize that anyone who has a child who wants to bathe in the room would be continually mopping up water off of the wood.

inset tub with marble
Here’s a simple inset tub with a marble top and marble tile on the face of it. I like this layout – there’s not quite enough room for a freestanding tub and this is a handsome spot. It’s not my style, but the layout works well.  (Photo Source)
marble clad tub
Here’s a really stunning moment with an inset tub. If you find a natural stone that you love, consider cladding your tub in it! (Photo Source)


My clients have been taking out the large, inset, boat-like tubs for years and putting in freestanding tubs.  Think of these as adding a large piece of sculpture to your room.  There are a lot of different options out there – I recommend going to a few plumbing showrooms and sitting in them.  I take my clients out and it’s always interesting to see that not every tub is comfortable to every person.  If you’re going to spend money on the freestanding tub you might as well have your Goldilocks moment.

Your freestanding tub does not need to be carefully centered and alone by itself.  Devote the bigger space to a luxurious shower – this is what people use the most on a daily basis.  The bathtub can sit in a corner and still be beautiful and usable.  I think I prefer the cosy corner – it looks warmer!  Don’t feel like you have to clad every inch of your bathroom in tile – it’s cold, echoes and can be expensive.

Clawfoot bathtub
I love a clawfoot bathtub. I like the vintage look it brings with it. (Photo Source)
freestanding black tub
Here’s a great alcove for a freestanding tub. You will see it different ways, but I prefer the plumbing just like this if you have room. Centered and at the back of the tub. Tub fillers can be very pricey – so be ready for it! (Photo Source)
black clawfoot
Another black tub! I didn’t plan it and I’m not even particularly drawn to it, but it appears to be a trend. I love the black floor here leading into the fantastic shower. The wood ceiling is killer too! (Photo Source)
clawfoot tub in an alcove
Here’s a freestanding tub in an alcove that would normally host and alcove tub. If you want your clawfoot but don’t have much room – this would work! Also note this is a wall mounted tub filler – another space saver. (Photo Source)
tub with yellow tile
A sweet little attic alcove tub! I love the cheerful yellow tile. (Photo Source)
freestanding sculptural tub
I love the look of this – notice there’s no tile on the walls here – just board and batten. It’s simple and when you’re tired of white – just re-paint! (Photo Source)
rectangular tub
I don’t love where the tub filler is located, but it does draw my eye. What I like about this is the warm look to the room achieved with the creamy paneling and the art ledge. (Photo Source)

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” Sylvia Plath










4 thoughts on “Love Your Bathroom Again (Part 1: The Tub)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s