Freestanding tubs, bigger showers are changing bathroom design

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Bathtubs used to be simple things. They were attached to the wall. There was a shower head at one end. You pulled a curtain to keep water from going where it wasn’t supposed to.

But like many other aspects of home decor, tubs and showers have gone uptown.

“People want their tubs to be the masterpiece of the bathroom,” said Thomas Phan, principal owner of Lifestyle Fixtures in Huntington Beach, Calif. One of the most popular ways to achieve that aura is with a freestanding bathtub, which sits in a prominent place and doesn’t abut any wall. “A freestanding tub sits in the middle of the bathroom,” Phan explained. “It says, ‘Look at me!’ ”

Clearly, you need some space for such a large hunk of plumbing hubris. But there are a variety of freestanding tub sizes now, so even smaller bathrooms can accommodate the look.

There are some challenges, Phan warned. “If you install one in a downstairs bathroom that’s on a concrete pad, that’s a little more work. You have to jackhammer through the cement floor to get your plumbing in. But in a second-floor bathroom it’s much easier.”

Another advantage of freestanding tubs: “They’re easier to clean around,” Phan said.

Freestanding tubs usually mean separate showers, and there are a couple of trends developing in that realm: size and accessibility.

“Bigger showers are getting popular,” said Joel Warners, president of Faucets N’ Fixtures in Orange, Calif. “It’s part of the growing acceptance in our industry that people shower 85 percent of the time. The shower shouldn’t be an afterthought or some small cubicle.”

Another trend sweeping bath and shower design is the concept of aging in place. “People want a shower and bath that are accessible and easy to use as they get older,” Warners

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