Words by Juliet Austin
Documented in the colourful histories of each great civilisation, the art of bathing is long recognised for its vital social function, as well as its ability to promote health, wellbeing and peace of mind.
From Turkish steam baths to the fashionable bathing emporiums of the Greeks and Romans, bathing rituals have been observed throughout the centuries and around the globe. Taking a nod from the past, several innovative companies are opening the floodgates on a new era in bathroom design, placing bathtubs centre stage in the bodacious boudoirs and wondrous washrooms of the fashion elite.
Keen to honour the steeped history of Humanity’s natural inclination to seek solace in water, bathroom design companies blend modernity with imagination, transforming the traditional ‘old soak’ into an autonomous design element. Experimenting with fresh shapes, sizes and textures, avant-garde materials give these tubs license to splash out. Designed to pamper, gone are the austere days of throwing the baby out with the bath water – the future, it seems, is about languishing in the lap of luxury. Vasca Dune. Photo courtesy of Antonio Lupi Designs
The shape of things to come
In an effort to redefine the bathing experience, Tuscan firm, Antonio Lupi Designs goes outré, using a crop of premier Italian designers to produce statement pieces that pack strong visual impact. Combining minimalistic shapes and sinuous lines with the pragmatics of comfort and usability, whimsical limited edition masterpieces, like Anne and Patrick Poirier’s Vascabarca – a hand carved dream of a bath in the form of a solid stone row boat – delight alongside the soft, organic lines of Dune. Bereft of hard edges, it cradles the body in an oasis of wellbeing. Hollowed out of a single monolith, Arca’s smooth, elliptical moonstone curves juxtapose dramatically with a raw, textured exterior, while Cuna commands the room, its imposingly inclined backrest and high sides as inviting and noble as a favourite winged-back armchair. The design capabilities of mineral-based, technologically advanced composite material, Cristalplant®, introduce an exciting dynamic. Pure white, light and airy, it offers an alternative to sculpted stone, allowing for changes in appearance, placement and usability in order to deliver custom styles in a range of colours, while remaining accessible in price and weight.
View from a bath
Drawing on the age-old traditions of Japanese soaking tubs, where social bathing has less to do with cleanliness and more with spirituality, health and happiness, Diamond Spas’ custommade recycled stainless steel and copper baths are hand buffed, delivering jaw-dropping luxury within limited space. All Japanese baths come with a bench seat for comfort – perfect for bathing á deux. Corner tubs offer a modish design alternative, while the elegant, clean contours of the circular and oval soaking baths dazzle in their simplicity, their deep well design
“it cradles the body in an oasis of wellbeing...”
enveloping the bather in chest-high water and positioning them perfectly to enjoy spectacular views. Resplendent, nestled in an intimate oasis of tropical foliage or perched on a deck overlooking the endless Caribbean sea... one only has to close one’s eyes to imagine the transformative powers offered by the freestanding pièce de résistance, the Atocha Copper Tub. Holding the promise of purification and healing, its elliptical shape, constructed using four inch strips of welded copper, is an irresistible retreat, but it is Italian design powerhouse, SICIS who take the prize for tapping into the ultimate hedonistic experience.
Let them eat cake
With a capacity of over sixty-five gallons, SICIS’ Audrey range reconnects bathing with a bygone era of Hollywood glamour. The brainchild of designer Massimiliano Della Monaca, the regal retro tub breaks the mould, taking the form of an outrageously high heeled stiletto, “like an oversized version of a classic Barbie shoe”, clad in precious, handmade mosaics in the infinite chromatic variations for which the company is renowned. Bold geometrics, expressive florals and stylised motifs can be customised to suit those with a taste for the unusual. Described by Eleonora Milano of SICIS as, “An object of sculpture: beautiful to see and pleasurable to use,” Audrey tubs are not for shrinking violets. Flamboyant and unashamedly hip, SICIS’ tubs scream decadence, no longer content to be restricted to the confines of a traditional bathroom but right at home in the spotlight of the living room, bedroom or even garden.
How far we have come from the painted terracotta bath discovered in King Minos’ palace; from the days of Pythagoras’ ‘eureka’ moment and Cleopatra’s milky wallowings. As each generation strives to combine form and function in ever more creative ways, seeking out the restorative power of water, one has to wonder how the future will top the innovative and visionary designs of these twentyfirst century masters, who invite us all to place bathtubs on a pedestal in order to rekindle the long lost art of bathing in luxury.
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