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Appliances: Soothing Submersion

Linda C. Lentz

A traditional soak tub allows you to immerse your body almost completely in hot, steamy water. The interior is free of whirlpool or air jets. There are no motors, no pumps, and no noise. The water is still and tranquil, providing a sublime setting for a good, long soak—one of the oldest and most basic luxuries known to civilization.

A growing number of artisans, designers, and manufacturers from around the world have rediscovered the simple pleasures of bathing. Their updated designs are the perfect remedy for a society ever more in need of relaxation. These tubs let you fully enjoy the soothing water, regardless of how little time you have to spend in its embrace. “You may not have two hours to bathe at the end of the day, but you might have at least 25 minutes,” says Ann Sacks, president of the eponymous bath and tile company. Her collection of bath fixtures includes the 32-inch-deep Onzen, a Japanese-style soaker made from acrylic, a material that excels at holding heat—you never need to add hot water after the tub is filled.

Aesthetics are also important to the soak-tub experience. While still large, bathrooms—and tubs—have shed the excesses of past decades. This trend became evident as early as 1992, when French designer Philippe Starck created one of the first freestanding modern tubs, the minimal, troughlike Edition 1 in pure white acrylic for Duravit.

The Irish interior designer Clodagh uses this approach with her Zen tub. Made of sensuously smooth concrete, it measures 66 inches long by 41 inches wide by 22 inches deep, and was designed to take center stage in a space free of clutter. “Anything that creates confusion is anti-luxury,” Clodagh says.

In Stockholm, architects Mårten Claesson, Eero Oivisto, and Ola Rune made a Japanese-style rectangular stone tub for a private townhouse. The designers wanted the tub to have a solid, substantial appearance, and they wanted it to be deep enough for the water to cover your shoulders when you are sitting upright. Now called Mood, it will be produced by Boffi sometime this year.

Following the same rectilinear lines, Kohler's sok is a 231¼2-inch-deep tub-within-a-tub for those who cannot do without bubbles in the bath. It fills with gently effervescing water that flows over the brim and into the outer tub. A built-in heater keeps the water at the desired temperature.

The two tubs that architect Giampaolo Benedini designed for the Italian manufacturer Agape satisfy physical, spiritual, and visual needs. His Woodline tub, made from marine plywood, has a floor contoured like a curvaceous chaise longue that lets you recline in absolute comfort. The other tub, called Spoon after its elongated bowl shape, allows the water to cradle the body for a womblike effect.

Both designs were beautiful enough to catch the attention of Nasir Kassamali, founder of the upscale home furnishings emporium Luminaire. Kassamali says the Benedini tubs are more than just bathing vessels: “People used to bathe to scrub their skin. Now we do it to bathe our soul.” 

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