Tubs Soak Up Far East Influence

More homeowners are soaking for relaxation as soaker tubs gain popularity.

The soaking tub trend within the bathroom spa trend is fueled by Far Eastern influences, specifically Japanese. In that country, soaking tubs are more vertical and deep, which provides a pleasing aesthetic for some Americans. But most soaking tubs in this country are a bit longer, wider and somewhat shallower for easier access.

Many Americans also want a little more from their soaker tubs than just the ability to hold 250 gallons of water or more. Ann Roever, senior product manager of Kohler's bathing products division, says these features include such things as effervescence; the ability to turn on only a few jets for a bit more water agitation; and full-blown massage features where all jets are turned on. Many tubs also include aromatherapy (using scents as a relaxation aid) and chromatherapy (using color for relaxation).

Soaking by the Numbers

"The trend began in the mid-1980s with the physical fitness and health craze, as well as the cocooning trend," Roever says. "In the '90s, we saw the trend surge and evolve into an interest in yoga and day spas. Now the trend is moving into the home."

Bringing the spa into the home isn't cheap, though. While most soaking tubs don't require the pumps and additional plumbing of a traditional whirlpool tub, they are usually larger in size and cost more to manufacture, so their prices generally fall in the same range. Ultra Baths can range from $1,400 to $5,000. Japanese-style soaking tubs in copper or stainless steel start at around $4,500. Kohler's flagship Sok tub costs nearly $6,000. As always, the more features a tub offers, the higher the price tag.

But buyers aren't letting that slow them down. "With a day at the spa costing $400 or more, homeowners are instead investing that money into their bathrooms and benefiting over the long haul," Roever says.

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