If you don’t think wood and water go together very well, wait till you see this range of gleaming vessels taking luxury bathing to a whole new level. When properly finished and sealed, wood can be a surprisingly durable and waterproof choice, and manufacturers specializing in producing custom wood bathtubs often take a sculptural approach, making each tub a uniquely gorgeous centerpiece for your bathroom.
Typical tubs are made from either ultra-affordable (but kind of ugly) fiberglass, porcelain-enameled steel, or if you’re lucky, cast iron. Each of these materials has its own pros and cons; while cast iron clawfoot tubs have lots of vintage charm, they’re exceptionally heavy when full of water, which can damage the floors beneath them. Wooden tubs, on the other hand, are often made using boat-building techniques, so they’re lighter in weight than they look.
You might be thinking, ‘Sure, they’re pretty, but what about cleaning?’ When they’re maintained as recommended, wooden bathtubs are no harder to clean than any other material. In fact, they can hold up surprisingly well over time. Whereas scratches in fiberglass and enameled tubs tend to show up easily, damage to lacquered wooden tubs is less visible and can sometimes be repaired with a bit of polishing, depending on how it’s finished. Cleaning a wooden tub simply requires non-abrasive soaps and soft sponges rather than scrubs and detergents.
However, wooden tubs do require relatively finicky environmental conditions to prevent cracking over time, including maintaining a humidity level between 40-60% in the home and avoiding the use of heating and air conditioning in the bathroom. And while you might imagine that these tubs should be kept dry when not in use, lack of moisture is actually more of a problem. Wooden tubs should be used at least three times per week to keep them ship-shape, so to speak.
Seattle-based NK Woodworking Design is one company producing stunning sculptural hardwood bathtub designs, each one handcrafted from sustainable domestic and exotic hardwoods. The Lotus design is made of strips of tropical sapele wood, molded into the shape of a tub, sanded and lacquered. The geometric walnut soaking tub boasts a traditional-meets-modern aesthetic, and the jetted walnut tub looks downright palatial.
Alegna, a design firm based in Switzerland, is known for an elegant series in which massive blocks of wood appear to be hollowed out in the center for an effect that’s practically begging you to slip inside. The company makes use of its decades of yacht-building experience to produce their watertight designs, which are made of high-pressure compressed veneers saturated in resin.
Finally, there’s the elegant shell-shaped Ocean Shell tub by Bagno Sasso Mobili, a Japanese-style vessel that sits in a bed of stones to prevent the tub from overfilling. The Italian manufacturer uses technology from Formula 1 racing to achieve those hydrodynamic curves and minimalist fixtures in matte stainless steel complete the effect.
These tubs are so visually pleasing, you might be tempted to place them in the center of your living room just to show them off. Admittedly, they don’t come cheap — each one clocks in at a five-digit price tag — but if you’ve got the cash, you can justify it as a double-duty piece of functional fine art.