Freestanding Tubs and Walk-in Showers: Trends in Bathroom Setups

As freestanding tubs and walk-in showers become more popular, traditional shower and tub combinations are falling by the wayside. However, modern designers are getting clever with how a tub and shower can play nicely together in the bathroom. Here’s a look at bath and shower combinations that are trending in the bathroom today.

Standalone Shower and Freestanding Tub Setups

Having a freestanding tub and a freestanding shower is the best of both worlds for many homeowners. Real estate investor and renovation expert Scott McGillivray explains why this is so.

He says that while showers are used more often, bathtubs can be important for a home’s overall value. Families especially are in need of bathtubs, so if your home is in a family-friendly neighborhood with lots of children, it might be smart to keep the bathtub (or install a new one if there’s room). The full bathroom can help with speed of sale as well as sale price.

But what’s the best way to make a freestanding tub and a standalone shower work in unison in the bathroom? Using a cohesive wall element across the bathroom is the first place to start.

Uniting the Tub and Shower

Floor to ceiling tiles can bring cohesion to a bathroom in a major way, Lauren Phillips at Real Simple writes. Whether you opt for chevron, penny or large slab tiles, there are many ways to adorn the walls of the shower and bathroom to create a unified look.

Another example of how to use tile across the tub and shower spaces comes from interior designer Ami Austin. This bathroom project features both a freestanding tub and a shower, with an accent tile wall behind the shower. It stops just short of the ceiling in an elegant arch design. Although this mosaic-inspired accent wall helps draw attention to the bathtub, the ivory color of the arch carries through across the other walls and the ceiling to make it all feel unified.

This cohesive tile strategy doesn’t have to be reserved for just the walls. Domino digital editor Anna Kocharian says that using the pool tiles across the floors, walls and shower space creates a look that’s both fresh and modern. It also eliminates visual barriers, making the bathroom feel more spacious. This is a great strategy for a smaller space, but might make a larger bathroom feel stark.

tile design

Architectural Elements

Tiles can work in harmony with architectural elements too. Most notably, consider installing a half wall between the bathtub and the shower.

Taking the place of a shower curtain or door, a half wall doesn’t offer much privacy — but it does create ample light and brightness in the bathroom. One example is the half-wall walk-in shower designed by Jenni Leasia Design, in which a classic marble wall and dark tile backsplash are combined for an ultra-modern feel.

If you’re looking for something more than just the diversified illusions created by tile, a sophisticated approach to the tub-shower combination is showcased by Debra Steilen at Traditional Home. In this bathroom, a freestanding bathtub is directly attached to the outside of a glass-walled shower.

This is the opposite from the traditional tub and shower combination, where one simply stands inside the tub and uses a showerhead in the wall. This approach is clearly designed for the master bath and creates an airy, light-filled, intimate experience.

Glass doors and a built-in shower bench can also create a bright ambiance and add functionality in the bathroom. In a Scandinavian-inspired bathroom featured by Jennifer Barger at the Washingtonian, a second upstairs bathroom for the children includes a bench in the large shower stall. The color is reflected throughout the space, bringing cohesion across the walls and including the water closet.

Separating the Tub and Shower

If you don’t want to unify the tub and the shower, keeping these fixtures separate is just as popular a trend. Specifically, mix and match tiles are an increasingly popular strategy for designating the standalone shower from the space around the freestanding tub, as seen in a bathroom designed by boutique interior design studio Bidgood + Co.

Here, a half wall and glass door between the tub and the shower creates a physical barrier between the two bathing spaces. Additionally, a clean and minimalist look is achieved by using monochromatic tiles of different shapes across these two spaces. White penny rounds in the shower offer a seamless, yet different look from the honeycomb tiles used around the shower and across the other walls.

Tile can create a sense of consistency and increased space by using the same tiles on the floor of the walk-in shower as on the bathroom floor, Kate Spencer at Tile Outlets writes. With the curb of the shower being created from a different style and color tile, it’s evident where the shower ends and the floor begins.

Wall art can achieve a similar demarcation effect, Olivia Heath at House Beautiful points out. Art is a great way to style a freestanding tub because it draws the eye towards the bathtub and visually breaks up the space between the tub and walk-in shower. This is an easy fix because it doesn’t require any additional tiling or construction.

unique tub design

Standalone Tubs and Showers

The freestanding tub is a classic symbol of elegance in the bathroom. If you’re looking to install a standalone freestanding tub without a shower, but you still want the convenient storage created by a tub surround, building a half tub surround away from the wall could be a great solution.

Interior designer Carla Aston shows how this is done, using a built-out shelf for decor or toiletries. It’s less of a commitment than a full tub surround but provides the same amenities.

If you’re set on having a tub surround, consider using marble for stunning effect. Colleen Egan at Architectural Digest showcases a home outside Paris that uses Calacatta marble on the walls, floors and tub surround. This is a deluxe approach to the tub surround, which is typically made from fiberglass or basic tile. The marble is a design element in itself, giving the tub an equally accessible and artistic feel.

If it’s a standalone shower you’re after, remember that most fall into one of two categories: a tiled shower or a prefabricated shower. Tiled showers, like the ones we’ve discussed, are usually walk-in showers that either use the walls of the bathroom themselves as their own, or have interior walls (glass or built-in) specifically designed.

McClurg Remodeling explains that prefabricated shower stalls can be fitted with a separate surround and simply installed in the bathroom. Or, they can come as a prefabricated walk-in shower made from fiberglass. These are a popular low-cost option and work seamlessly with a bathtub in the same space.

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