The two most popular luxury bathroom additions are, generally speaking, sprawling walk-in showers and big, luxurious soaking or whirlpool tubs. But while you probably realize going in that building a new shower from the ground up means lots and lots of tile work, you might not realize that many designer bathtubs – especially whirlpools and other drop in bathtubs – require similar finishing treatment. Freestanding bathtubs take care of themselves, but any time you’re upgrading from a simple acrylic tub to a more sophisticated drop-in bathtubs, you need to spend as much time planning the bathtub mount as you do deciding on the tub itself. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Easy Does It
One of the simplest ways to integrate a new drop in bathtub into your bathroom is to build your bathtub mount out of the same tile you use for the floor. Because bathroom tile flooring should be water tight and slip proof to start, there shouldn’t be any conflicts of interest (so to speak) in the type or quality of material, and it means you can have your drop in bathtub installed at the same time as the rest of your floor. The biggest advantage of this type of installation, though, is that it visually integrates your bathtub into the rest of your bathroom, giving you a stately, sophisticated look (especially if you opt to build your bathtub mount out of a high quality stone tile!) and a nice sense of grandeur.
Step It Up
If you’re getting a big, grand drop in bathtub, you need to give it the treatment it deserves. In a bigger bathroom, that means not just building a simple mount but fully staging your tub. At the least, that means including at least one elegant step up to help you in and out of the tub. Turning a simple bathtub mount into a whole raised window seat with a beautiful stone surrounding is a great way to turn your bathtub into a place you can really unwind and feel pampered.
One of my personal favorite looks for a drop-in bathtub (and, of course, one of the most complicated and expensive to pull off) is foregoing the bathtub mount entirely and mounting your tub directly into the floor. Now, again, this definitely has its limitations. You’ll have to make sure you have enough room under your floor for the underside of the drop-in bathtub (and any mechanisms, if it’s a whirlpool), hollow that space out, and build a wooden support frame inside it. But the final result is pretty spectacular, with a seamless finish and pool-like step-in bath that will open up your bathroom space and add a totally unique visual flair. This design works especially well in nature or Asian inspired bathrooms with a lagoon-like feel and a little extra open space.
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If you find that you’re a little short for space between the current level of your floor and whatever happens to be beneath it (a ceiling or foundation), you can combine a step-style bathtub mount and a floor-mounted installation with a small, elegant step. It will give you however many extra inches of space you need to make installing your drop in bathtub doable while still more or less maintaining the in-floor look you’re going for, as well as the open-air feel this type of installation affords.
If you’ve fallen in love with a particular tub that happens to be a drop-in, but aren’t big on the idea of building an elaborate bathtub mount for it, you can find a middle ground. Instead of the big, sprawling beauties pictured above, you can build a bathtub mount more closely fitted to the contours of your drop in bathtub. Especially for an oval shaped tub, this can mean a smaller footprint and a sleeker finish. That said, tile isn’t particularly curve-friendly, so if you’re going to go this route, you’ll probably need to opt for a (more expensive) custom cut stone, or a more flexible material like wood, to pull it off.
Would You Wood?
While most drop in bathtub mounts are made of stone, ceramic, or porcelain tile, you can also get a spectacular, luxurious look from a wood (or at least wood patterned) bathtub mount. While tile of any kind has a more classic look to it, wood can leave a very different impression. Choosing simple wood paneling rather than tile or expensive custom cut stone can give your bathroom a more natural, casual finish. In this same light it’s important to remember that not every drop-in bathtub has to be mounted in tile. After all, the weight-bearing part of the bathtub mount is the wood frame. Anything that goes on top of that is pure aesthetics. You can even add simple panels of wainscotting, beadboarding, or even an elegant crown molding to help camouflage and integrate your bathtub into a historical bathroom, and on a much smaller budget.
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