I got a great email from a reader yesterday urging me to do a tub post, because she's considering remodeling her bathroom -- thank you for your email, it's a great idea. Her question to me was specifically about soaking tubs and the advantages or disadvantages of various styles, as well as materials that retained heat. Jets aren't her thing because of how much of a pain they are to clean, and frankly, I've never liked the idea of jetted tubs. It's just never the look I go for if I'm starting with a clean slate -- save it for the backyard and wine coolers ;)
I pulled a few images that are always my go-to's when concepting. To me, they are all timeless and upscale from top to bottom, and all of them have awesome tubs.
Also, what a great treatment with the panel moulding-esque treatment to the tub. A really inexpensive trick with pencil that makes the shower/tub area feel very custom and elegant.
M. Elle Designs
Like you're surprised to see this one. I think it is on every designer's brain permanently. The tub from Lefroy Brooks is insane. I would die to even be in the same room with that tub. And what do you know, Kohler is making a verrry similar one.
This is how I like to do drop-in tubs. I prefer to incorporate them with a wainscotting-type surround and top it with stone. The same goes for "unincorporated" free standings: make it a statement of it's own if for some reason a traditional soaker doesn't work for you. For ideas, Michael Smith's Kallista tubs are all shown on the website like this.
Turner Davis Interiors
I think this is a great example of an amazing tub in a small bathroom. This tub is probably up against a corner, but it still feels luxurious because we get the wonderful shape and it was probably a creative solution for a small bath. Kohler, I believe, has corner tubs in this style.
Another silver tub, I know, but it's a great shape so indulge me. The bottom is more contemporary and the sides have a more severe angle to them. To me, it's a more masculine tub, almost industrial, and it would still be beautiful done in a monochromatic scheme.
On to options. I have to come clean, I love Faucetdirect.com. I think it's an awesome resource and their pricing is consistently great. I buy fixtures, fittings, the whole lot right from them because I've had great luck and their inventory on high-end items is extensive. Most of the tubs from below are from them and even on sale.
Porcher - $1000.05 (on sale)
Cast iron drop-in, I'm not as crazy about the shape, but overall it's a good looking tub that still incorporates cast iron at around the 1k mark. Because, of course, cast-iron is out there, but the challenge was to find them at the lower price range. In a traditional bathroom with high-end finishes, I think this shape would work well.
Porcher - $882.05 (on sale)
It's acrylic, but personally, I think that unless you upgrade to a radiant or inline heat system, you're never going to win the battle against cooling water. Cast iron will help, but if bath time is your only "me time" you probably are hiding out in there for awhile... it's not just me... right?
Kohler - $768.72
Another acrylic tub, but by Kohler and a great shape and an amazing price.
One of my first stops for cast iron tubs are always the salvage yards. This cast iron tub happens to already be in great condition and is gigantic - it's a two person coming in at 75". But because this one is already near perfect, you'll pay for it. I've found tubs in terrible shape and had them re-furbished at a cost that doesn't even compare to what I would have paid for one in good condition. To find a salvage yard near you, try searching for terms similar to "architectural building salvage (insert your city)." You will be surprised at the hole-in-the-wall places that pop up near you. Craigslist too -- I've driven way too far to pick up tubs, but for $150 bucks, it's worth it!
I also couldn't resist this cast iron beauty. It's beautiful and while it's not in the cheap and cheerful category, I don't think it's unreasonable for a freestanding soaker made from cast iron.
And while it's definitely not in the inexpensive category, for serious bathers who don't want to lose heat, MTI makes a large assortment of tubs with "Thermaltherapy" options. They have a number of patents out there so to a certain extent, they have got bathtub heating cornered. Their inline heating system is operated with on/off switching and does not necessitate jets in order to work. It gently recirculates the water -- no disruptions and no cooling off. Additionally, they have a "Radiance" heat system that can heat the tub itself, much like a radiant flooring. No chilly tubs and cold metal when you put your shoulders against it.
Good luck on the remodel, Katerina! Go for it, it's always worth it.