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A Second Look at Japanese Soaking Tubs

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For centuries, the Japanese have enjoyed a relaxing ritual of steaming in neck-high water at the end of each day. Like other aspects of Japanese design, this simple yet harmonious custom has become popular the world over, as extra-deep soaking tubs are incorporated into modern bathrooms and backyards. Here's how it's done.
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  More than just a clever cover, the ipe wood shell of Mark Erman's San Francisco backyard spa, thanks to its 40-foot tracks, niftily navigates the rocky straights between spa shelter, dapper deck, and bespoke buffet table. Photo by Jeremy Harris.

    More than just a clever cover, the ipe wood shell of Mark Erman's San Francisco backyard spa, thanks to its 40-foot tracks, niftily navigates the rocky straights between spa shelter, dapper deck, and bespoke buffet table. Photo by Jeremy Harris.

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  Even in a compact space, like Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser's 580-square-foot abode in LA, you can carve out room for a soaking tub. Here, custom shoji-inspired screens conceal the closet and extend to provide privacy for the adjacent shower and soaking tub. Photo by Joe Pugliese.

    Even in a compact space, like Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser's 580-square-foot abode in LA, you can carve out room for a soaking tub. Here, custom shoji-inspired screens conceal the closet and extend to provide privacy for the adjacent shower and soaking tub. Photo by Joe Pugliese.

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  For a rustic, DIY take on the soaking tub, look to this prefab home in Joshua Tree National Park. Nighttime hikes often end at the the “cowboy” hot tub where Smith soaks his feet: two nested Hastings galvanized livestock feeders. The tub is surrounded by a Veranda faux-wood deck and fed with hot water from the house’s solar hot-water system. Photo by Misha Gravenor.

    For a rustic, DIY take on the soaking tub, look to this prefab home in Joshua Tree National Park. Nighttime hikes often end at the the “cowboy” hot tub where Smith soaks his feet: two nested Hastings galvanized livestock feeders. The tub is surrounded by a Veranda faux-wood deck and fed with hot water from the house’s solar hot-water system. Photo by Misha Gravenor.

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  Japanese-style soaking tubs make especial sense in cold-weather locales, like Minneapolis, where bakery owner Greg Martin whipped this building into a modern confection. The master bathroom departs from the cool tones used throughout the house in favor of warmer, neutral-toned marble tiling, which wraps around a large soaking tub. Photo by Cameron Wittig.

    Japanese-style soaking tubs make especial sense in cold-weather locales, like Minneapolis, where bakery owner Greg Martin whipped this building into a modern confection. The master bathroom departs from the cool tones used throughout the house in favor of warmer, neutral-toned marble tiling, which wraps around a large soaking tub. Photo by Cameron Wittig.

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  Crunched for space and budget? American-made, mass-market manufacturers like Kohler are in the soaking tub game, too. For this family home in San Francisco, designing two narrow bathrooms–one with an encroaching concrete retaining wall—required major creativity. A four-foot-long Kohler soaking tub is a major space saver, a foot shorter than the standard size. Photo by Daniel Hennessy.

    Crunched for space and budget? American-made, mass-market manufacturers like Kohler are in the soaking tub game, too. For this family home in San Francisco, designing two narrow bathrooms–one with an encroaching concrete retaining wall—required major creativity. A four-foot-long Kohler soaking tub is a major space saver, a foot shorter than the standard size. Photo by Daniel Hennessy.

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