Tub thumping

09 Apr, 15

Owner of Ablutions Luxury Bathrooms, Stuart Irving calls for joined-up thinking

OK, so it’s the “end of the bathtub in 10 years” says the guy from Methven. To me, this is obviously more of shower manufacturer’s wish than it is a serious prediction. But, nevertheless, his throwaway remark might be nearer the truth than even he might realise! I say this because I can’t see that, even if the bathtub was in mortal danger, that the industry that produces it is very much interested in the survival of the species. Let’s have a look at what our bathtub manufacturers have come up with in recent years that might just prove that, in spite of the signs, they do in fact have active R&D departments and clever marketing people.

The right choice?

Take one manufacturer for example – it has ended up with a range of over 90 rectangular baths – enough you might think to ensure no stone has been left unturned in making sure that all popular options have been catered for. Not so – a designer requiring an 1800mm or 1900mm length bath with a width of 700mm, which is the maximum width possible in UK bathrooms has, out of the 90 on offer, only one to choose from. And this is, arguably, a boring, single ended twingrip bath – the likes of which has been around since the sixties and will never be pictured in a shortlisted entry for bathroom design awards. Is this not a totally crazy scenario? Do we really need 90 vaguely similar options? However, the same manufacturer does provide a tub with low height and thin-walled minimialist style which deserves more than being lost amongst 90 others.

Freestanding realistic choice

And what about the rise of the freestanding bath – how many have you seen fitted that either : (a) look great in a wide open space but have absolutely nowhere to put your Kindle or your G&T or (b) have been squeezed into a 2sqm bathroom but with only spiders and toilet roll inners being anything like the beneficiaries of the uncleanable space created. In my company we always fit freestanding baths into a half deck. This converts the space that is awkward to clean into a display area that adds value to both the form and the function of the bath. This does have a cost but is it beyond the wit of the industry to offer an optional shelf that could be fitted to one side or the other? Besides making a good soak more pleasurable this would also help to both eliminate standpipes and make for a far more civilised design using conventional bath-taps/fillers.

Sponsored Video

Taking the P

Then there’s the P- shaped bath – I wonder how many people have swallowed the perceived ‘advantages’ put forward by a silver tongued salesman? Then realised, the first time they used it, they realised that they’re still wedged into a 700mm space just the same as they were with their old bath – the difference now being that their feet are languishing in a water and energy wasting area the size of a small lake. And no, getting the benefit of the wide end by using the bath the wrong way round is not an option unless you want an both an uncomfortable vertical backrest and to be sat on the plughole. Yes, for me, the P shaped bath is a real triumph for illogicality and muddled thinking if ever there was one.

Tall question

What about height? How many manufacturers actually think about this or give any importance to the question of the height of their product? OK so you can lower a bath but this is a concept that is totally over the head of most manufacturers as a bath likely comes with a panel that just about retains its integrity when fitted as supplied – but is a total embarrassment in need of ‘viagra stiffening’ – to any bathroom specialist that dares to cut it down in height. Why can we no longer source a dropsided bath? There are real benefits in a dropsided bath but the last time I saw one it was in the era of Pampas and Avocado.

Whilst having a bit of a rant, how many manufacturers who are still putting a pop-up waste/overflow hole beneath the tap ledge – even when the bath has central tapholes? This practice plays straight into the hands of 6 foot, 6 stone, double-jointed fitters as it is only they that can easily sort it when the pop-up jams. It’s not exactly rocket science to put the waste/overflow hole opposite to the taps is it? Better still leave the bath undrilled.

More joined-up thinking

In my business, over the years, we have done many things our own way simply because it was the only way we could get what we wanted. Often we have made suggestions as to how products might be changed, or marketed differently, but without exception it has always been the case that the manufacturer in question ‘knew best’. As I see it those manufacturers that ‘get over themselves’ and accept out here in the real world of KBB they have customers working at ‘the coalface’ that might just have an idea or two for them to ‘take to the Milan show’ – then the more we might accept “sorry they are all at the show in Milan at the moment” when we need some help. As I see it the KBB industry needs a stronger bond between its suppliers/manufacturers and its retailers/fitters and the parties from both sides that get together the quickest will be the winners. It’s all about ‘feedback’ so, coming back to the question of “the end of the bathtub in 10 years”, if any manufacturer would like some assistance in helping to prevent this then I certainly have a few ideas to throw into the mix.