The Real Deal New York

Super soakers

Lave in luxury with a modern, minimal freestanding tub
By Lucia De Stefani | September 06, 2014 07:00AM

Looking to find lasting peace of mind? There’s no need for intensive or expensive yoga retreats. The solution may be closer than you think — as in just down the hall.

In recent years, bathrooms have evolved from basic functionality to ultimate retreats. The time we spend in these tiled rooms now extend beyond daily routines — upscale bathrooms are places that provide relaxing, luxurious experiences. “The bathroom is becoming an extension of the bedroom or of the living room,” says Luca Lanzetta, owner of an eponymous company that’s the exclusive U.S. distributor of high-end bath manufacturer Antonio Lupi. “The bathroom is no longer an element to hide but rather to show.”

The crown jewel of this increasingly high-profile haven? The bathtub. “Having a beautiful tub is luxury,” said Manhattan-based designer Caroline Beaupere, who describes the tub as the ultimate tool to escape the daily craziness of urban life. “When I take a bath I want to disconnect. It’s my moment.”

No longer content to be tucked into a corner, the tub has been elevated to the centerpiece of the washroom — both literally and figuratively. “In recent decades, we have rediscovered the beauty of freestanding bathtubs and have assigned them a new value of luxury,” said Matteo Thun, an interior architect who has designed several bath pieces. “This new value starts from the design: There are uncountable options for shape and size.”

Sales of freestanding tubs have increased in the past couple of years, said Mark Fletcher, a manager at bath showroom AF New York. While many New Yorkers prefer built-in tubs due to space concerns, he said, freestanding tubs are popular on the high end.

Whirlpool baths are still sought after for their hydrotherapeutic qualities, notes Fletcher — but true design mavens with money to burn are seeking out freestanding soaking tubs. (“At this level, people usually hire a masseur,” notes Lanzetta.) “It is a sculptural object of design, something to admire and to use for very special occasions, a luxury treat,” Lanzetta said.

Another advantage of a freestanding tub? They allow homeowners to think outside the box, so to speak. These tubs aren’t just for bathrooms; there’s an increasing array of sweet new spots for soaks: “At the foot of the bed, next to a wide window with a view, right on the door of a balcony,” Lanzetta said.

The options are about as limited as your imagination, and today’s tub designers are playing with materials, colors and shapes. But make no mistake: comfort remains the top priority. Ready to take the plunge? Read on for our top tub picks.

Teuco’s Accademia tub (above) plays with lines and patterns (and, in some limited editions, colors), unveiling a charming minimalism that winks to a lavish elegance. Simple but still luxurious, this tub sets new styling standards, combining neat geometry with the smooth curves of a more classical design. From $7,400; www.teuco.com

Antonio Lupi’s Dune recalls the sensual curves of the desert sands. The upper edges aren’t directly aligned with the base, providing an ever-changing view, depending on your position. Also available as a built-in. $18,400; www.antoniolupi.it

Clothilde from Waterworks is inspired by French copper tubs from the 19th century. Completely handmade — using historic artesian methods and tools — the streamlined copper tub has no visible seams or soldering joints; the interior is lined with tin to ensure water purity. $46,124.00; www.waterworks.com

Geometry and rationality are the quintessence of Cartesio, a rectangular bathtub by Agape. The flexible design, available in different sizes, allows the tub to work in a variety of installations: freestanding, alcove or built-in corner unit. Its edges can be produced in any thickness, and the built-in storage compartments add an extra element of functionality. From $15,000; www.agapedesign.it

Made of larch, the Ofurò bathtub by Matteo Thun and Antonio Rodriguez harmoniously mixes the essentials of traditional wooden Japanese bathtubs with a contemporary European shape. The material conveys warmth, while the depth and shape allow a relaxing immersion. $23,800; www.matteothun.com

The sinuous dunes of Egypt’s Siwa Oasis inspired the Dune bathtub collection by Caroline Beaupere. “The egg-shaped tub wraps around you like a cocoon, creating a safe and inviting space,” the designer explains. Made of a solid resin surface with either a rippled (shown) or smooth exterior; it will soon be available in stone. from $4,750; www.carolinebeaupere.com

The Papillon bathtub — pictured here in Carrara marble — provides a lavish bath experience, allowing for direct contact with a natural element. This tub by Stone Forest is also available in other materials, including granite and limestone. From $23,000; www.stoneforest.com

A bathtub with serious bling: 24-carat gold leaf envelops the exterior surface of the Mida bathtub from Devon & Devon, a tribute to a historic Florentine tradition. A transparent protection ensures trouble-free maintenance and a long service life. The tub’s feet have a brushed gold finish. $18,245; www.devon-devon.com

Curves embrace the bather (or bathers!) in this flexible DR tub by Agape. The idea behind the tub’s design is to create a “sensual and charismatic object” that still is perceived as friendly and fun. The tub is made of bent wood outside and solid surface inside; wall or floor mounted taps are available. $11,000; www.agapedesign.it