Self-care and wellness have become a top priority in the past two years, leading homeowners to seek bathroom designs and products that allow for total relaxation and provide a refuge from the stress of the outside world. While a move towards spa-inspired retreats in the bathroom – especially the master bath – was well underway before the pandemic, the demand for personalized spaces that allow homeowners to tend to their health and wellness is now even higher.
“People are looking to turn the bathroom into a temple of wellness, and trends are emerging around this need,” says Eric Phelps, president, North American sales for The Engineered Stone Group/Acquabella, which has established a U.S. headquarters in Jasper, GA. “Warm-minimalism, Wabi-sabi, Mid-century… All these trends have something in common: clean lines, comfort, practicality and invites to relaxation. Freestanding baths and low-threshold shower bases are ideal for this emerging design trend,” he remarks.
Freestanding tubs are increasingly popular in these individual relaxation havens. “With an increased value placed on self-care and wellness routines, especially as 2022 begins to unfold, trends throughout the home are seeing greater emphasis on fixtures and design applications that are thoughtful and positively contribute to these practices at home,” stresses Tim Schroeder, president of Duravit North America, Duravit USA, based in Duluth, GA. “The integration of the freestanding bathtub remains a fixture in expanding rejuvenating possibilities in the bathroom – pure, frills-free and the ultimate solution to creating a perfect oasis.”
Features, finish and size for tubs and other therapeutic products, such as steam, are highly personalized. “Our clients are very keen on bespoke!” exclaims James Lentaigne, creative director of Drummonds based in Normandy, Surrey, England. “Our tubs are completely customizable, available in a range of different sizes and finishes, meaning we are not limited to prescribed sizes or styles.”
This demand for customized solutions brings about the need for a wide range of choices to make home hydrotherapy experiences – steam, jetted and soaking tubs, and/or sauna – truly unique for the consumer. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Spa Experience at Home
Amid all the uncertainties in the world, people need to relax, and they want to do it in the comfort of their own home. “Wellness in the home is a huge trend affecting home renovation and new construction,” observes Martha Orellana, v.p. of marketing at MrSteam, based in Long Island City, NY. “Homeowners want a place to relax and de-stress, and want their bathrooms to house more spa-like qualities.”
“People just want to go somewhere to relax, and right now, that place is the bathroom. Over the past 22 months, people have invested greatly in creating a more relaxing and calming space in their bathrooms,” agrees Samantha Bock, marketing director for Fleurco Products, based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Bathtubs – and other therapeutic products – are a great place to start. “The bathroom has gained a lot of prominence in recent years, going from being a place of hygiene to becoming a room in which to relax and enjoy self-care. In this sense, users are increasingly looking for bathtubs in which they can fully immerse themselves and combine it with spaces that invite disconnection: neutral colors, small details that make us happy and spacious and well-distributed spaces,” adds Phelps.
“As more homeowners place emphasis on holistic wellbeing within their homes, spa-like bathrooms are rising to the top of industry trends. Bathrooms are moving beyond just being a bathroom – they’re a space where one can relax, rejuvenate and recharge,” reports Justin Storm, group product manager for Irvine, CA-based House of Rohl, which includes the Victoria + Albert brand of freestanding tubs. In a recent survey conducted by the company, he adds, half of the respondents indicated that they want their bathrooms to feel like a personal spa.
Maria Evraets, senior product manager at Kohler, WI-based Kohler notes, “The bathroom, which once could have been looked at as a stark and task-based environment, has evolved into a warm and inviting space for self-care,” says Evraets, “a place to prepare for the day, to refresh, to wind down and to escape. The top reason people bathe today is to relax, both mentally and physically.”
Abundant Self Care
The past couple of years have illustrated the value of taking care of oneself. Time spent at home allowed homeowners the luxury of setting aside time to relax and recharge, emphasizing the need for hydrotherapy products that support this goal.
“The events of the last few years have made people more aware of their surroundings and encouraged them to think about how their home makes them feel,” explains Lentaigne. “Achieving a sense of wellness and wellbeing within interiors has become a top priority for many of our clients. Alongside our luxurious, comfortable tubs, they also want to incorporate areas in the bathroom where they can relax and take some time out.”
Evraets believes that the emphasis on the benefits of self-care has impacted the likelihood of including a tub in the bathroom space. “Now, more than ever, people are adjusting their routines to include self-care [and] time for themselves. This trend is reinvigorating the focus on the bathroom/bathtub for more than just basic functional [or] foundational needs.”
Throughout the pandemic, homeowners have looked for ways to add therapies they may have previously sought elsewhere to their own living space. “Homeowners are focused on finding ways to bring wellness practices into their own homes rather than going out to a spa,” Orellana states. One way they’re incorporating wellness into their bathroom is by using a steam shower, she adds. “Steam showers have the potential to provide 40+ benefits such as removing toxins in the body, helping to relieve stress and opening nasal passages by acting as a natural expectorant.”
Patrick Weidl, director, business development for ThermaSol based in Simi Valley, CA, offers, “We’ve been extolling the benefits of steam and creating your own personalized home spa experience for decades. As the world contends with COVID-19, we are seeing even more interest from designers and homeowners wanting to create and experience a self-care system at home, rather than going to their gym or spa.”
“The self-care trend shows no signs of slowing down, and why would it?” remarks Bob Gifford, director business development for Hastings Tile & Bath based in Ronkonkoma, NY. “It’s so important! What value do you put on your own health?”
With this move towards peaceful relaxation, soaking tubs are hot, manufacturers say. And these soakers are most often a freestanding focal point in the bath.
“Undoubtedly, soaking tubs are the star product of the season,” stresses Phelps.
“Soaking tubs, in particular, emulate the spa experience and offer a serene sanctuary where function marries mindfulness,” Storm adds.
“We think people are trying to destress from the past two years, and since wellness and self-care are still important, people are seeing the value in what a good, long tub soak can do,” Gifford states.
Freestanding tubs are being integrated into designs in bathrooms both large and small. “We are seeing an increased interest in the integration of freestanding bathtubs across a variety of bathroom designs,” Schroeder reports. In 2021 Duravit USA introduced two 63″ compact freestanding bathtub designs, he adds. “Perfect for compact bathroom designs, these introductions allow designers and homeowners/apartment owners to consider a freestanding solution when it previously might not have been possible.”
As homeowners incorporate options they might have once found at a spa in their own homes, converting the shower space to include steam is becoming increasingly popular, manufacturers say.
“The days of steam being a luxury only a few can afford are over. People are realizing that the wellness benefits outweigh the cost,” reports Orellana. “We are seeing more homeowners opting for larger showers and enclosing their current walk-ins to be equipped for steam. By enclosing the shower, it transforms the space into a tranquil steam room,” she says. In some remodels, she adds, they have even seen homeowners including a bathtub inside the steam enclosure to save space and add to the “spa” feel.
Flexibility is important, as different users have different needs. Orellana reports, “We offer different therapies to best tailor the experience to each individual.” These include chromatherapy, music and aromatherapy, which she says is one of their most popular therapies.
Weidl notes, “We are finding that chromatherapy and sound therapy remain extremely popular; what’s more relaxing than enjoying ambient chromatherapy lighting while listening to your favorite music, all while taking a shower or steaming?”
Orellana remarks that homeowners are adding steam to all size showers. “Perhaps before we were seeing more luxurious, grand remodels that had included steam but, as more and more people tune into the benefits of steam and find that they can easily incorporate it into their everyday lives, they are adding steam showers to smaller showers, secondary bathrooms, etc. A homeowner doesn’t need to have an extravagant budget or a ton of space to fulfill their dreams of steam,” she says.
Advances in technology are important to tub trends when they elevate the experience, manufacturers say. “Technology that can simplify and amplify any bathing experience or routine is a win,” offers Evraets.
“Technology has become a common addition in bathroom remodels as it provides homeowners with a simpler way to relax, while also creating a more efficient experience,” Orellana explains. MrSteam products use technology to allow users to enjoy the wellness benefits with ease, she adds, such as controlling the steam shower from anywhere with a mobile device or using voice command with Amazon Alexa.
“Technology is evolving very fast, and it is becoming more and more available to users,” adds Phelps. “In the bathroom, hidden plugs, an anti-fog system, mirror lighting, cabinet lighting or even bathtub lighting, stand out. Waterproofing technologies are improving and, as a result, you are seeing a rise in the wet room look.”
As these advances occur, expectations for high functionality rise, Weidl offers. “If you have built-in shower speakers, they should offer high-quality sound and customization. If you are integrating chromatherapy lighting into your steam or smart shower, you should have the ability to finely tune the colors and ambiance.” He notes that ThermaSol’s ultimate goal is to ensure that their products are engineered with the latest technology for all customers to enjoy seamlessly. Updates, such as new and improved features to the ThermaTouch Steam & Shower Control, are automatically downloaded and installed, he adds.
Spa-inspired bathrooms lead some consumers to choose soft, soothing colors, while the desire to show off their personal style can lead to more bold selections, manufacturers say. Tub colors are more often an integral connection to the overall design of the space.
“I think we are starting to see more textures and colors incorporated in bathtubs,” Bock says. “The tub can now be more relative to the overall trend of the bathroom, whether that is modern, rustic or traditional.”
“Homeowners want customizable products that showcase their style,” Storm stresses. “Tubs that come in multiple colorways – ranging from soft, cool colors to bold and bright colors – are a trend that we expect to remain popular for years to come.” Warm, relaxing colors like blues, greens and grays are a popular option because of the rise of spa-like bathrooms, he adds.
“The trend is towards neutral and earthy colors such as beige, brown or gray,” agrees Phelps.
On the flip side, “More and more of our clients are opting for bolder finishes, such as copper, in order to make an impact within the space. Maximalism is very much on-trend, and many people are experimenting with daring patterns and bright colors,” Lentaigne remarks.
The footprint of the bath is growing, some manufacturers say, and the size of tubs is following suit.
“Smaller exterior footprints with larger interior bathing areas are emerging as a key feature,” Phelps notes. “The bath serves equally in form and function and, as showers continue to evolve in the form of low-threshold options, a tub that complements the look is almost as important as the functionality of the product.”
“Homeowners should evaluate their bathroom space before selecting a tub, but House of Rohl has seen increased interest in oversized, deep tubs that provide roomy comfort,” Storm reports. “Tubs that include shapes like sloping waves or minimalistic angles are also trending.”
“Large tubs are back!” exclaims Bock. “People now want tubs that will hold two people for the ultimate experience.” Tubs with deck mounts and curve hugging, sculpted features are most popular, she adds.
On the other hand, “Compact spaces and a return to urban living are key factors that are poised to impact bathroom design trends in 2022,” Schroeder offers. Duravit has a new 63″ cast freestanding tub category for North America, creating new possibilities for small-scale bathrooms, he says.
“The beauty of stand-alone tubs is that they are available in so many shapes and sizes,” Gifford stresses. ▪