The essentials: 20 of the best bathtubs

Let’s retrace the design history of a piece of furniture poised between functionality and wellbeing that over the last decade has gone through a phase rich in experimentation thanks to the evolution of materials.

Cristalplant®, Corian®, Cristalmood®, LivingTec®, Tecnoril®, Korakril™, just to name a few. The search for new materials for sanitary ware has never been as rich in experimentation as in the last decade. Lighter, satin-finished and warmer, “softer” to the touch, sometimes in unexpected colours, the bathtub has updated its appearance, re-launching a season of rediscovery which, not by chance, has gone hand in hand with the rise in popularity of freestanding models, which are now also commonly found in the bedroom.

Now that the bathtub is taking centre stage again, the most luxurious models do not coincide with the highest technological performance, although such models do exist. Domotics, chromotherapy, and programmable hydro-massages are all part of the latest high-end options. Yet, true luxury seems to prefer the inescapable concreteness of the material, its weight and texture: the number and options in the field of stone bathtubs have also grown in recent years as if to testify to a return to a primordial taste for the role and ritual of taking a bath in a tub.

Ofurò, Matteo Thun e Antonio Rodriguez, 2011. Courtesy Matteo Thun & Partners
Ofurò, Matteo Thun and Antonio Rodriguez, 2011. Courtesy Matteo Thun & Partners

Throughout history, our relationship with the bathtub has been fickle. From being an essential habit of cleanliness and wellbeing for the Romans and many others, the habit of taking a bath fell into disgrace when people wrongly started to believe that water was a germ vehicle. It was only when this belief was overturned – Pasteur’s discoveries and the construction of sewage systems played a key role in it – that taking a bath became a form of personal hygiene.

Today, the bathtub has certainly transcended its mere “functional” dimension to take on a role of comfort and complicity among all the beauty rituals. It is a “place where you put your thoughts in order”, according to a phrase attributed to Ettore Sottsass, a small “room of one’s own” amidst steam and bathroom tiles.

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