We spend a lot of time here on homethangs talking about big, luxurious dream bathrooms, the sprawling kinds of remodels you’d see on TV or in a magazine. But not everyone has a bathroom big enough to accommodate all the luxuries of a designer bathroom, or even one with enough space for a separate tub and shower. That’s why I want to take a little time to talk about bathtub shower combinations, and how to get one you’ll really enjoy, that will look good, and that’ll last you a long time.
One of the key drawbacks of most bathtub shower combinations is that they remove a lot of choice in terms of the type of tub you’re getting. Depending on the model you get, that can mean exactly the opposite of a luxury bathroom remodel – tubs that are too short, too shallow, or both. But shower tubs don’t just cater to the apartment crowd. It’s entirely possible to find bathtub shower combinations that have almost as much soaking room as a large soaking tub. You might not be able to get a built in whirlpool tub, but you can at least get something that has enough room to stretch out and enjoy a bubble bath.
If you’re particularly lamenting not being able to have a separate shower and tub, think about it this way: with a shower tub combo, you might not be getting the sprawling soaking tub you want, but you will be getting a much larger shower space than you probably would otherwise. If space is a factor, chances are that taking up the room you need for a freestanding tub would leave you with maybe enough room for a corner shower stall – the kind you knock your elbows on the walls of every time you use it. A bathtub shower combination gives you much, much more room to move around when you’re taking your daily shower, even if you have to sacrifice some of the luxury for your weekend bubble bath.
Historically, bathtub shower combinations are made of a single piece of shaped acrylic or fiberglass, which is just about as uninteresting looking as it is difficult to install. But more recently manufacturers have begun to address both issues, selling shower tubs in multiple pieces (the side walls, back wall, and tub) that can be moved separately and interlock to be perfectly water tight. Pieces that, maybe more importantly, have a faux-tiled finish on them. For example, many higher end shower tubs are available in a variety of colors, with glazed, imprinted tile patterns that recreate the style of a tiled shower without the expense of installation or the muss and fuss of grout.
The tile designs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from tubs with “tiles” as small as about an inch to ones that are a little more than a foot square, so even if you can’t completely customize your shower tub with your favorite Italian marble, you can at least get a look that you like, and that’s more finished than a smooth, unadorned acrylic surface. It’s a seemingly small difference that can have a big impact on the way your bathroom ends up looking, especially if you install a shower door rather than a shower curtain. Together, a good shower tub and a glass shower door make for a clean, finished space that will look like a much bigger investment without actually being one.
Plus, many newer bathtub shower combinations also come with built in shelving or storage, making it easy to keep your shower organized without the clutter of a lot of temporary shower caddies or wire racks. And because the shelves are integrated into the body of the shower tub itself, the look is seamless and streamlined, whether it’s a swooping shelf that traverses the length of your shower wall or a lovely, built in corner-caddy.
Something else to consider is that many bathtub shower combinations are now being designed with an eye toward an aging population. While you might not yet be at a stage where you need shower seats or grab bars, depending on your age and your desire to stay in your current home, choosing bathtub shower combinations with these features can be a good way to preemptively ensure your continued independence into the future. These age-in-home shower/tubs have features that can easily be changed or upgraded over time, or added or removed as needed, like a shower seat that locks firmly into place, but that is lightweight and easily removable, or built in shower bar reinforcements so you can easily install a shower bar at a later date if you don’t need one at the time of purchase.
Having a small bathroom is never a best case scenario, but neither does it have to be a kiss of death for your bathroom design. Modern manufacturers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to give the old standby bathroom shower combo a slightly more designer air, and provide a little luxury comfort and flair for the rest of us.