Since their advent in the late 1800s by American, John Michael Kohler, bathtubs have evolved — from the very first one made of a cast-iron horse manger and a decorative base covered in an enamel finish, to more intricate modern-day designs.
They have transformed from a functional feature to being the focal point in the bathroom.
Bathtubs range in structure, shape, form and fitting; from the built-in to free-standing ones that offer one the luxury of soaking longer.
Although not widely found in Kenyan homes, free-standing bathtubs are very stylish.
These tubs are designed not to have any sides connected to or into a wall and instead stand either on fitted bases usually referred to as claw feet, or on a bottom designed to support the tub’s full weight. They bare placed anywhere in the room, even in the very middle of the bathroom.
Tony Njoroge, the operations manager at Diamond Lighting and Interiors, a lighting and sanitary ware dealer based along Nairobi’s Kijabe Street acknowledges that in Kenya, the norm has usually been the use of the traditional bathtubs fixed against walls.
Many developers hardly buy free-standing bathtubs with the few sold to hotels, he says.
“Ideally, when one embarks on constructing a house, they ought to acquire all the accessories and finishes required, then start building a house that will accommodate these items. But in Kenya, it is the opposite. People build the house first then buy the finishes and accessories. This is why bathrooms in many households tend to be so small that they cannot contain a free-standing tub,” says Tony.
Many homeowners, he notes, do not really fancy very appealing bathrooms. It remains a space hidden away for just showering for about 20 minutes.
“But an ideal bathroom should be a relaxing place, where you can take a dip at the end of a tiring day, relax in the tub for at least two hours; have a glass of wine while in there and even have a beautiful view of the outside world — through a large enough window. It basically should give one the feel of a spa,” he says.
These tubs, he notes, are usually big enough to offer — even a couple, the perfect romantic relaxation they may desire, at the comfort of their homes.
They also hold a large volume of water and many are built using a material that keeps the water warm for longer periods.
Lydia Njuguna, the managing director of Cristol Ceramics, another sanitary ware firm based in Nairobi also admits that the concept of free-standing bathtubs has not quite caught up with a majority of homeowners in Kenya.
This is partly due to the higher cost compared to conventional bathtubs.
With a price tag ranging between Sh100,000 and sometimes as high as Sh900,000 per fitting, they say these bathtubs are not easily affordable and are usually perceived to be a reserve for high income earners.
The normal bathtubs cost between Sh12,000 and Sh17,000, depending on material used. “The price depends on the material used and the source market. Acrylic bathtubs are among the highest-priced free-standing tubs, while those made with the normal ceramic are not as costly. There are also others made of fibreglass,” says Tony.
He adds that the tub’s accessories including the mixers, are also expensive. They are usually made of brass with a chrome finish.
“For one, the bathtub has a special tap fitting (mixture tap) that is hardly easily available and one such tap could cost from Sh20,000 to Sh40,000,” says Lydia.
These tubes are a much better option compared to others, because of a number of reasons.
“When it comes to functionality, they are 100 percent better than the normal bathtubs that the majority of people have installed in their bathrooms. They are hygienic, more appealing, are much easier to clean and are also easily accessible especially when washing them,” Lydia says.
Tony adds that when it comes to cleaning, the fact that free-standing tubs can be placed at the centre of the room, enables the cleaner to move around and clean from all sides, even underneath.
This is quite unlike the traditional tubs whose cleaning is a tiresome task, which sometimes leads to neglect of seeping water and consequent growth of mold which the discharge a decaying odour.
The two ]advise that when one wants to invest in these tubs, certain conditions need to be met.
Free-standing tubs typically take up more space in the room as compared to most of the other tub installation options. Do not squeeze them into a corner of the bathroom.
One should also have a good water heating system installed in the house, for the obvious reason of providing the sufficient water required in the tubs.