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Bathtub vs. Shower: Budgeting To Get A Luxury Bathroom You’ll Love

“Luxury” means something different to everyone, whether you’re talking a good meal, a favorite outfit, or the perfect spa bathroom. So while no one can have it all, when you’re planning your next remodel, you can make sure to get exactly what you want. Whether you love a hot shower or a long bath, articulating your priorities before you start a renovation might be the most important first step in getting a luxury bathroom you’re really happy with.

Luxury Bathroom: Team Bathtub

Axel 68" Freestanding Tub With Faucet BT-770 from A&E
Axel 68″ Freestanding Tub With Faucet BT-770 from A&E

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Decorative bathtubs are a perennial favorite of luxury bathroom design. Though popularity tends to shift between whirlpool tubs vs soaking tubs and freestanding vs built-in tubs, having a big bathtub at the center of your bathroom is a trend that rarely goes away entirely. If you’re the type to de-stress and unwind with a candlelit bubble bath, the tub should be where you splurge: on a bigger water heater, a bigger or more elaborate tub, or built in jets, heaters, or other high-tech features.

Tacoma 60" Drop-In Bathtub BT-0001 from A&E
Tacoma 60″ Drop-In Bathtub BT-0001 from A&E

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Choosing a luxury bathtub comes down to two main elements: appearance and features. Freestanding bathtubs tend to be quite a bit more expensive than their drop-in counterparts, but come in a wider array of shapes and styles and are ready to install as-is, while drop-ins have to have a mount built separately to support them – but also get a cool, custom mount to sit in. The difference between the two is largely aesthetic. The big differences in price between different types of luxury bathtubs shows up when you start looking at tubs that are much larger, ones with additional hardware – like whirlpool functionality – or ones made of an unusual material (basically anything other than acrylic).

Amara Bath Screen Shower Enclosure BS-019-CHR from A&E
Amara Bath Screen Shower Enclosure BS-019-CHR from A&E

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This is where it’s important to plan where you want your budget dollars to go: if you can’t afford both a copper tub and a built in sound system, it’s important to know which you’re going to get more out of in the long run. You also want to keep in mind that even if you prefer a bath to a shower, a bathroom that has a tub and no shower is always a harder sell than a bathroom that has a shower but no tub. Even if it’s relatively bare bones (and an accordingly small part of your budget), you want to be sure to include some level of shower functionality somewhere in your bathroom, whether it’s a full shower-tub combination or a nice freestanding tub filler with a claw-style shower handle.

Team Shower

Mona Neo Round Shower Enclosure SK-NR38 from A&E
Mona Neo Round Shower Enclosure SK-NR38 from A&E

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That said, if you’re not one to take more than the occasional bath, you won’t get much out of including a tub beyond a small bump in resale value. The good news is, big shower enclosures are popular enough to carry a luxury bathroom design on their own, no bathtub needed if you don’t want one. But splurging on a shower is a little different than splurging on a tub. While freestanding tubs differ more in style than total price or features (for the most part!), a luxury shower is a project you can scale up almost infinitely – as long as your budget holds out. That said, assuming you’re a mere mortal with limited funds, you want to think about what part of the shower appeals to you the most.

Taylor 48-RP Bath Screen Shower Enclosure SD-021-36x48-BLK from A&E
Taylor 48-RP Bath Screen Shower Enclosure SD-021-36×48-BLK from A&E

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The shower enclosure itself can be a star of your space, whether it’s a perfectly frameless piece of glass that opens up your bathroom, or a trendy screened enclosure that gives your space a hip, industrial feel. The tile you choose is also important. Tile is more expensive than acrylic shower walls and shower pans, but looks more sophisticated and finished. Similarly, having a tiled shower floor that transitions seamlessly into your bathroom is a peak luxury bathroom feature, but one that will up the cost of your project significantly.

Vista XI Shower Panel SP11 with Chrome Finish from A&E
Vista XI Shower Panel SP11 with Chrome Finish from A&E

Of course, all that has to do with what your shower looks like, and when it comes down to it, what the shower feels like is even more important. If it’s more important to have a spa-style soak than a shower that looks like it belongs in a spa, it can be worth diverting your budget away from the finishing touches and to the heart of the matter: your plumbing. A single shower head is okay; a luxury shower head is better; a whole lot of shower heads will give you that 360 degree bathing experience most people will never get at home. If you’re not quite ready to make the leap to totally overhauling your plumbing, a shower panel is the next best thing to a custom shower, and costs a fraction of the amount – both in terms of startup and ongoing operation costs.

Building a luxury bathroom is always a big-budget endeavor, but unless you’re going into a renovation with a blank check, you want to be sure you’re investing in features that will give you the luxury experience you’re dreaming of.