Wider and deeper than standard bathtubs, supersized garden tubs offer an immersive, spa-like bathing experience that is increasingly becoming a must-have in upscale homes and apartment bathrooms that are large enough to accommodate them.
What Are Garden Tubs?
In current interior design and real estate jargon, the term garden tub generally refers to the types of freestanding, deep soaking bathtubs that have grown in popularity in homes in recent years.
Contemporary garden tubs range from sleek minimalist oval forms to reproductions of 19th-century French roll-top bateau-style tubs that are said to have been named for their resemblance to the bow of a ship. You can also find garden tubs in round, rectangular, or asymmetrical shapes. Fabricated in a range of modern materials from porcelain-enameled steel to fiberglass, they vary in cost, appearance, and heat-retaining properties.
Why Are They Called Garden Tubs?
Legend has it that modern garden tubs are a contemporary spin on the bathtubs of the 18th-century elite in France and England. In the days when indoor plumbing and a dedicated room in the house for bathing was not yet de rigueur, and everyday folks frequented public bath houses, aristocrats are said to have placed their mobile bathtubs in or with a view toward the garden, hence the name. These days, however, garden tub seems to be an American catchphrase. France’s interior design publication Marie Claire Maison refers to these fashionable freestanding tubs as "baignoire îlot" (literally, bathtub island) and the UK’s Living Etc. magazine uses the phrase garden bathtubs to reference a mini trend of placing outdoor bathtubs in the actual backyard.
No matter what you call them, garden tubs are perfectly suited to our self-care-obsessed, stay-at-home times. But like any high-end home design feature, garden tubs present both practical advantages and drawbacks to consider before you take the plunge.
- Larger water capacity allows for full body immersion for a relaxing, spa-like soak
- Because they are separate from the shower, they require less cleaning
- Creates a sculptural focal point for the bathroom that screams luxury and appeals to buyers
- More expensive than standard tubs, making them inaccessible for many
- They take up and require a lot of bathroom floor space
- May require extra plumbing work, depending on placement
- Too deep to bathe young children comfortably
- Not suited for many older people or those with mobility issues
- Require copious amounts of water, which has financial and environmental costs
Still considering a garden tub? Check out these inspiring images of garden tubs in modern homes to get you dreaming about the possibilities.
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The beautiful Patina Farm designed by Giannetti Home in Ojai, California, features the platonic ideal of a garden tub in a dreamy setting made for shutting out the world.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Old and New
In this historic California house renovation, Austin, Texas-based interior designer Erin Williamson chose an oval-shaped garden tub with clean modern lines that updates the bathroom without distracting from its original features.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Into the Wood
Designed by Peter Zumthor for Living Architecture, the Secular Retreat holiday house features a deep rectangular soaking tub positioned in front of a low window overlooking the rolling hills in Devon, England. The wood adds warmth and contrast against the minimalist rammed concrete and stone finishes and silver toned plumbing hardware.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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Positioned in front of a large double shower, the sleek modern garden tub in this luxurious Greenwich, Connecticut, bathroom designed by Manhattan-based Studio DB has its own marble backdrop that creates drama and gives it a sense of place.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Black and White
This cozy bathroom tucked under the eaves of Shingle House, located on the shingle beach of Dungeness in England, was designed by NORD (Northern Office for Research and Design) for Living Architecture. A black bateau-style garden tub fills the space, adding a graphic focal point that plays well against the painted white wood paneled walls and airy ceiling height, poised under a skylight to provide a sky view.Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Santa Barbara, California-based interior designer Jessica Risko Smith of JRS ID outfitted the bathroom of this modern concrete, redwood, and steel new build along California's Gaviota coastline with an oval garden tub positioned with a view of blue skies, and a wall of dramatic floor-to-ceiling tile.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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In this Tribeca loft designed by Manhattan-based Studio DB, an interconnected primary bedroom and bathroom features a garden tub anchored by a smattering of hexagonal tiles that creates a built-in bathmat carved out of the wood floors.Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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The contemporary garden tub in this luxury Soho penthouse bathroom designed by Studio DB has a floor-to-ceiling view of New York City.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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All the Angles
In this angled mountain house bathroom designed by Emily Henderson Design, a garden tub hugs a trio of windows, offering a bonus view of the vaulted, angled, wood-paneled ceilings.Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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For this contemporary Texas High Country bathroom renovation, interior designer Erin Williamson chose a sleek garden tub positioned in front of a large picture window with a view of the lake.Continue to 11 of 11 below.
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In this spacious Paris bathroom, an antique copper, porcelain-enameled bateau-style garden tub recalls the baignoire bateau of times past and creates a focal point in a room with an original black marble fireplace and terracotta tomette tiles on the floor.