The Art of the Tub Filler

Published: April 2, 2018

When it comes to today’s bathrooms, which often boast minimalist designs, neutral palettes and clean lines, character and luxury appear in the details. The tub filler (pictured above is Black Morris from Devon & Devon) is one of those small elements that give the bathroom another touch of glamour. Since freestanding tubs have become popular again, this fixture has come alongside it as an indication of stature and value in the bathroom.

“Choosing a tub filler may seem like a small factor, but regardless of whether the installation is freestanding, deck mount or wall mount, they are an important design element,” said designer Lori Carroll of Tucson, Ariz.-based Lori Carroll and Associates. “Tub fillers can provide another level of relaxation and luxury to a bathroom design.”

View a gallery of new tub filler designs HERE.

Looking Back at the History
During the 17th and 18 th centuries, country homes in England and France with indoor bathrooms exposed their plumbing because there was no need or desire to tear into the walls. The pipes ran up the corners of walls, and chases were built in downstairs rooms to hide those pipes, but when they arrived in the bathroom, the functional aspects were exposed.

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Indoor plumbing was still very rudimentary until the 1920s and 1930s, until American hotels started driving the need for convenience and simplicity in their plumbing. Similar to today, these trends then spread from the hospitality world into residential homes. In the 1980s, homeowners turned to showering over bathing, and in particular the freestanding tub became less popular.

“It’s only been in the last 20 to 30 years that freestanding baths have been revived, as a statement of luxury,” said Greg Rohl, vice president of marketing for ROHL. “They are more expensive to buy, take up more space and require more time to use than a shower, but they demonstrate the values and good taste of the owner.”

When composite materials were introduced, it became possible to make more sculptural, contemporary shapes so a freestanding bath could fit a modern bathroom as well as a traditional one. The rise of the freestanding tub has driven a huge increase in tub fillers – particularly the single hole/post tub fillers, which are popular because the designs are more modern and easier to maintain and clean.

What Clients Want
“It’s all about the eye-catching design. When paired with a sculptural freestanding tub, these fixtures provide a focal point for the room, setting the stylistic tone for the bath,” said Noelle Giblin, senior director of faucets and fittings for LIXIL Americas. “From classic to contemporary, freestanding tub fillers are now offered in a wide variety of styles to enhance the décor of any bathroom.”

The most significant function of a tub filler is how efficiently it supplies water, and fixtures vary on how many gallons per minute it takes to fill a tub. Manufacturers have perfected the inner workings to assure optimum flow; most models now have a ceramic disc cartridge that assures handles move smoothly and faucets stay drip free.

“Since bathtubs hold 55 gallons or more, consumers definitely do want fillers that can fill the tub quickly,” said Bob Gifford, director of business development for Hastings Tile & Bath for VOLA. “Tub fillers are not required to have low-flow restrictors, which is why they can fill tubs more quickly.”

Because of their practicality, hand showers are also in demand.

“A tub filler with a hand shower is a real benefit to hair washing and rinsing in the bathtub,” said Ryan Ramaker, director of product development, Hansgrohe U.S. “It’s also an easy way to clean the inside of the tub after each use and maybe even to give your dog a quick shower.”

New Fixture Innovations
According to Carroll, tub fillers today are scratch, spot and fingerprint resistant and are available with antimicrobial-protected finishes. Manufacturers have also added features like thermostatic technology to tub fillers; this option allows for precise temperature control. The newest tub fillers also include attached, coordinating hand showers that rotate 360 degrees at the base for greater control and reach.

“As technology and style continues to evolve, I imagine tub fillers will become even more automated, ergonomic and refined,” said Carroll. “Digital bath fillers that control temperature, water depth and even add a choice of fragrance are being perfected.”

Manufacturers will also start offering freestanding tub fillers in a wider variety of finishes. Today there are limited options in the market if a homeowner wants to match other decorative elements with a specialty finish, such as antique brass or polished gold.

“It is very important that the tub filler complements the other fixtures in the bathroom,” said David Emmons, marketing director for Newport Brass and GINGER. “Design and style is oftentimes more important than functionality in these applications.”

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