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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Home is where the tub is

The bathtub is gaining popularity as apartment owners covet them and exotic varieties are making a splash in the market
The Straits Times - April 5, 2014
By: Natasha Ann Zachariah
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Home is where the tub is For a condominium in Choa Chu Kang, 0932 Design Consultants cast the tub on site and left the cement and screed as a finish (above).

A jacuzzi bath-tub trumps more closet space, as far as hedge fund manager David Hong is concerned.

The owner of a 2,300 sq ft apartment in One Tree Hill recently extended his bathroom so that he could put in an imported $25,000 Carron Bathrooms tub. It has 16 massage jets and chromotherapy lights, and sits under a windoe, offering a slice of azure and clouds when one soaks in it. A window opposite affords a view of lush greenery outside.

To create the 9 sq m bathroom, he hired interior designer Bu Shukun of Architology Interiors. The designer widened the bathroom by 2m and removed an old walk-in wardrobe to fit in the swanky tub.

"My wife had to sacrifice a bigger walk-in wardrobe," says Mr Hong, in his 40s, who has a 14-year-old son.

"But after a long week at work, de-stressing is much needed and desired. The tub lets us have two people in there, so we can just hang out with each other and really relax."

"It's not your usual bathroom," he adds, "and I intend to use it often."

Since the bath renovation was completed in November, he has used its piece de resistance about three times so far.

Once considered a space-chewing luxury by pragmatic home owners in modest apartments, the bathtub is getting a relook these days. And new exotic varieties on the market are making them harder to resist.

"Having a bathtub helps make your home look more luxurious and that helps improve its resale value." says Mr Roystern Goh, co-founder of 0932 Design Consultants, which has done four bathtub projects in apartments over the past three years.

Prices can start from $400 for a basic tub and can go up to the tens of thousands for fancier ones with features such as jets, lights and hydro-massage functions.

Materials range from acrylic to more expensive materials such as cast iron and volcanic limestone.

Bathroom suppliers such as Hafary, Sansei, Carera Bathroom and Wan Tai & Co offer a wide range for most homes.

An alcove tub helps maximise space as it is walled in with tiles. A free-standing tub, especially claw-foot ones, makes for a great conversation piece, but comes with the eye-sore of exposed plumbing. Corner bathtubs, which are usually five-sided, with a triangular basin, are a godsend for weird bathroom plans.

Some home owners are even importing traditional soaking tubs from Japan to replicate the feeling of being in an onsen.

Kobe-based Italian architect Iacopo Torrini makes customised soaking tubs out of hinoki wood from the Kiso Valley in Nagano prefecture, central Japan.

He says that his 12-year-old company, Bartok Design, has received around 10 orders for such tubs from Singaporean home owners in the last three years.

The tubs are sent here via sea or air, and takes between two weeks and a month to arrive. The cost of each tub varies depending on the size, but to ship a 1.2m-long tub here would cost about US$5,000 (S$6,300) in total.

"It's a very niche product," says Mr Torrini. "But people are looking for it because it's very easy to use. You don't need any Western-type piping. It's just like a large basin that you fill with water and drain after you're done."

With regular use and good ventilation, he adds, the tub can last up to 20 years.

Sold on the idea? Here comes the practical bit.

Design firm Altered Interior's design director, Ms Christina Choong, estimates that it costs about 30 per cent more to install a bathtub, compared to a regular shower.

Apart from the cost of the tub and water spout, she says, "there's also the cost of the tiling around the tub and ensuring that the base of the tub is waterproofed well".

Picking the best tub also depends on the plan of your bathroom.

On average, bathrooms in HDB flats can fit a tub between 1.5m and 1.6m long. HDB regulations state that home owners cannot construct a water tank in bathroom but the rules allow for ready-made bathtubs.

Mr Goh of 0932 Design Consultants adds: "There are many rules and regulations to what kind of bathtubs are allowed, in particular in HDB flats. For example, the pipes must be easily accessible for maintenance. Home owners should do their homework before they buy particular tubs, which might not conform to the regulations of HDB."

Maintaining one is not difficult, says Mr Ramlin Nawee, advertising and design manager at Wan Tai & Co, a sanitary wares, bathroom products and accessories retail and supply group in Changi South Avenue 2.

"Cleaning and maintaining an acrylic bathtub is no different from maintaining a wash basin," says Mr Nawee.

Regularly remove soap and other residue from the tub with a soft, non-abrasive cloth, he advises. "Most stains can be removed with warm water and liquid detergent. Adding a dash of white vinegar with water will also do a great job of eliminating mildew on silicone and it is cost-effective."

Home owner Matthew Tan has both a shower and a bathtub in his master bedroom in his five-room HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio. He decided to get interior designer Marc Wong of Linear Space Concepts to include a bathtub as his wife wanted one when they moved in in 2010. They combined two bedrooms into one and enlarged the bathroom. The free-standing, 1.5m-long tub, which he got from a shop in Balestier, cost him about $1,500.

Mr Tan, 37, who works in technical software sales, says the tub is not a white elephant: they use it twice a month.

He says: "It's something nice to have in the house."

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