For some, the an­swer could be chang­ing

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Home & Garden -

When I was growing up, it seemed as if ev­ery tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial break fea­tured at least one ad­ver­tise­ment that showed peo­ple (read: women) en­joy­ing the ben­e­fits of a bath. In the ’70s and ’80s, Jean Nate ran ads that showed a woman step­ping out of a lux­u­ri­ous bath and re­fresh­ing her­self with the pop­u­lar apres-bath scent. And who can for­get the “Cal­gon, take me away!” ads? The catchy slo­gan be­came a ver­bal cry for any woman who needed a well-de­served break. But in to­day’s fre­netic, dig­i­tally paced world, tak­ing baths — and own­ing bath­tubs — has, to some, be­come a thing of the past.

If one looks to ho­tels as a sign of the state of the tub, many of the newer bou­tique ho­tel brands such as Canopy by Hil­ton have done away with bath­tubs al­to­gether. In­stead, each bath­room is out­fit­ted with a bar­rier-free walkin shower.

Gary St­ef­fen, the global head of Canopy by Hil­ton, says the com­pany con­ducted years of re­search, in­clud­ing a sur­vey of more than 9,000 trav­el­ers, and found that their guests most val­ued func­tion­al­ity. Canopy’s rooms fea­ture extra stor­age for ameni­ties, door­less “open” clos­ets and walk-in show­ers — all help­ful for a trav­eler with a time­crunched sched­ule.

The stan­dard rooms at the Drafts­man Ho­tel — a new prop­erty in Char­lottes­ville, Va., that is part of Mar­riott’s Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion — also have bath­rooms out­fit­ted with walk-in show­ers only. But the bath­rooms in suites have tubs as well as walk-in show­ers. The im­pli­ca­tion is that the tub sig­ni­fies lux­ury, only af­forded by those who have the ul­ti­mate lux­ury: the time to soak in that tub. The no-tub trend ap­plies to homes as well. Miller­ton, N.Y.-based ar­chi­tect John Allee says that al­most all of his clients would pre­fer not to in­stall bath­tubs and usu­ally do so only for re­sale value. When they do re­quest a tub, it’s usu­ally for the mas­ter bath­room only, and it’s a free-stand­ing soak­ing tub (he of­ten uses Vic­to­ria + Al­bert’s con­tem­po­rary, sculp­tural Barcelona model).

“Many of my clients are past tod­dler time (ex­cept for grand­chil­dren) and will put in a tub/ shower combo only if there is a log­i­cal place, like an extra guest suite,” Allee says.

Even his clients with younger kids only in­stall a func­tional kid-wash­ing tub if they have three or more full baths. Allee the­o­rizes that his clients’ move­ment away from in­stalling bath­tubs is a com­bi­na­tion of our cul­ture’s fas­tid­i­ous hy­giene and our busy sched­ules. Re­laxed bathing is a lux­ury and a ther­a­peu­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, nei­ther of which seem to be in­ter­ests of Allee’s busy clients.

Dolores Suarez and Caro­line Grant, who head the New York­based de­sign firm Dekar De­sign, say most of their clients need a tub and a shower. In their ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s of­ten a his-and-her sit­u­a­tion, in which one prefers baths and one prefers show­ers, so cre­at­ing a des­ig­nated space for the tub is es­sen­tial. And if there are chil­dren, they say a tub is crit­i­cal as it’s the safest and most fun way to bathe them.

Michael Rankin, a man­ag­ing part­ner at TTR Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Re­alty, feels dif­fer­ently. As one of the top real es­tate agents in the D.C. area, he says his buy­ers still want tubs, but that they don’t nec­es­sar­ily need them.

“Ev­ery­one is too busy, and time is short, but when you fi­nally have a quiet mo­ment — and that may only be ev­ery month or two — peo­ple still de­sire a bath,” Rankin says. He equates the bath­tub co­nun­drum to that of the din­ing room: “A din­ing room might only get used four or five times a year, but the buyer still wants a house with one.”

Rankin also makes it clear that hav­ing a tub, par­tic­u­larly in a mas­ter bath­room, is a sign of lux­ury that his clients ex­pect. “Free-stand­ing spa tubs and walk-in show­ers with rain shower heads, hand-held fix­tures and nu­mer­ous body sprays are mas­ter bath­room musts.”

Nancy Tay­lor Bubes, an­other top D.C.-area agent and as­so­ciate bro­ker for Wash­ing­ton Fine Prop­er­ties, has a per­sonal bias be­cause she loves a bath and doesn’t go a day with­out tak­ing one. But she has found that the market has changed, par­tic­u­larly in ur­ban ar­eas.

“Young pro­fes­sion­als are liv­ing in smaller places and seem to pre­fer the walk-in shower con­ve­nience be­cause it’s quick and easy,” Tay­lor Bubes says. Plus, a walk-in shower de­sign is low main­te­nance; with fewer parts to clean and fewer cor­ners where mold can get caught, walk-in show­ers are a bonus for busy fam­i­lies. Tra­di­tion­ally, Tay­lor Bubes says, bath­tubs were al­ways in­stalled in the hall bath for the kids’ use, and the mas­ter bath was out­fit­ted with a shower only. But over time, mas­ter bath­rooms got big­ger, and tubs got ar­chi­tec­turally fancier. Even­tu­ally, high­end buy­ers be­gan to ex­pect to see free-stand­ing lux­ury tubs in mas­ter suites.

“Some­times I feel like tubs are the fire­place of the bath­room — they are the cen­ter­piece, the fo­cal point of the bath­room,” she says. “Many peo­ple still want both tubs and fire­places, but the re­al­ity is that they don’t use ei­ther as of­ten as they might think.”

“In­ter­est­ing,” Tay­lor Bubes pon­ders, “fire­places and tubs — the places we re­lax around — could both be on their way out?”


In to­day’s fre­netic dig­i­tally paced world, tak­ing baths — and own­ing bath­tubs — has, to some, be­come a thing of the past.

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