Don’t throw out the bathtub

When luxury spa resorts and day spas burst onto the scene a decade or so ago, overworked, stressed-out adults the world over were seduced by images of people relaxing in fluffy white bathrobes in impossibly serene surroundings.

Massages and body wraps aside, people were captivated by the simple notion of devoting precious minutes, even hours, to themselves.

But why should this peaceful respite from the daily grind be limited to vacations and special treats? Why shouldn’t we bring a little of that luxury into the home, and enjoy a daily indulgence?

More and more, people are doing just that, says Anthony Martucci, owner of Artistic Glass & Interiors. They are setting aside more space for, and spending more money on, creating beautiful, spa-like bathrooms at home.

The oversized showerheads that create that delightfully soft rain-like experience at the spa can now be installed in the home, and many people are choosing to allocate the bulk of the budget to a fabulous shower, and making do with less costly toilets and sinks, says Matthew Rivas, sales representative at the Bath & Kitchen Gallery at A.L. Thompson’s.

Although rain showers can be two to three feet across, for the home, the 10-inch shower head, which is fixed into the ceiling, sells the most, he says.

“It’s at the right price point where it’s not ridiculous, but it’s big enough to give you an enjoyable shower.”

The space allocated to showers is definitely increasing, according to Anthony. People are putting in benches to sit on, and still leaving space to walk around in the shower, he says.

A rain shower can be accessorised with body sprays, which emit water horizontally, steam generators for a detoxifying effect, mood lights and even speakers. All of these can be adjusted digitally, so you can choose from a pre-set menu of invigorating, soothing or de-stressing shower experiences.

Don’t throw out the bathtub, warns Matthew.

“A lot of people are taking bathtubs out and replacing them with showers, but I always tell them not to take out all the bathtubs,” he says.

“You need to keep at least one, or it hurts the resale value of the property. Say a couple with a baby buys that house – they will need a bath to bathe their baby.”

Free standing bathtubs – a reincarnation of the claw-footed tub of the Victorian age – are striking to look at, comfortable to lie in, and are a good option where space is limited. As fixing faucets to the wall is not always practical or attractive with free standing tubs, you should only install these if you have a separate shower, adds Matthew.

When there isn’t sufficient space for both a bath and a separate shower, a Jacuzzi tub that you can shower over and enclose with glass may be the best choice.

Tubs that incorporate water jets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the vast 22-inch deep, 42-inch wide two-person tub from Kohler, to oval tubs and shiatsu massage tubs with jets positioned to hit pressure points along one’s back.

An alternative to Jacuzzi-style jets, the bubble massage system – which relieves aching muscles with hundreds of air jets rather than a dozen or so water jets –  is growing in popularity. 

“The drawback of the Jacuzi water jet system is that it only massages the area the jet is directed at,” explains Matthew. “Air jets give you a full body massage as the water becomes so turbulent.”

It is also worth bearing in mind, Matthew says, that when you drain your bath, the Jacuzzi system collects three to five gallons of water in the system. If you don’t use the Jacuzzi frequently this water will become stale and is trapped in the mechanism until the next time you switch on your jets. The bubble massage system, on the other hand, collects less than a teaspoon of water.

For the ultimate in serenity bathing, though, the infinity edge bathtub design from Kohler is hard to beat. The tub is filled to the brim, much like infinity edge swimming pools, and allowed to overflow into a catchment groove and re-circulated.

Ultimately, when selecting your bathtub, Matthew says, choose one that is the right size and shape for the person who will be using it the most. If you select it based only on looks, it could lead to years of unsatisfactory bathing.

The clean, straight lines of modern faucet designs and the matt, grey toned brushed nickel finish are by far the most popular options in Cayman. It’s worth spending more on beautiful faucets and opting for a less expensive sink, as it’s the faucets that catch the eye and will be appreciated most, Matthew says. In Cayman there is a definite trend towards the ultra-modern look in bathrooms. However, be aware you will pay more for the contemporary look.

“Anything modern is pricier than its traditional counterpart,” he warns. “You are paying for the design; you’re not paying for better quality.”

Installing new faucets is also one of the simplest and most cost-effective means of updating the look of an older bathroom. Basins

A variety of different bathroom basin designs have, in recent years, replaced the traditional porcelain sink that was held up by a porcelain stand. Vessel sinks (that sit on top of the counter) have been incorporated into many new bathroom designs in recent years. Available in a variety of colours, patterns and materials, they can certainly add a modern touch to a bathroom – but it’s worth considering their practicality for a master bathroom, warns Matthew.

Vessel sinks require extra-tall taps, which are more expensive, to reach over the lip of the sink. In a bathroom where the countertop is peppered with bottles, brushes and toiletries, such sinks are not the best design.

Integrated countertops, where the sink and surrounding countertop are moulded from a single piece of glass, porcelain or acrylic, lend a clean, uncluttered look. But if you’re looking to save a few dollars, Matthew recommends considering the under-mount sink, which sits below a separate countertop.

“It’s a waste of money to buy an expensive sink and then hide it under granite. Better to get a more economical sink and spend what you save on beautiful faucets and countertops,” he says.

The overall look
Homeowners are trying to achieve that calm, clean and airy feel in their bathrooms, says Anthony. Frameless glass shower or bath enclosures coupled with elegant lines and simple designs create an impression of size, space and clarity in the bathroom.

Add in sumptuous showers, baths and accessories that were once only available in spas, and your daily ablutions will be transformed. No longer will you be struggling to find “me time” – instead you’ll be wondering how much longer you can reasonably stay in the bath.  



Matthew Rivas of A. L. Thompson’s
Stephen Clarke