Near our lakeside summer cottage in upstate New York is a charming old house built in the 1920s. Its original owner was an accomplished wooden-boat builder who used his skills to install an oak tub in the master bathroom. It’s simple and rustic, yet beautifully crafted and finished. If he were still around, I’d get him to make one just like it for us. The idea got me looking at the current market for hardwood tubs, which is bigger and more various than I expected. Here are three examples that caught my eye.
Ofuro tubs, traditionally made of Hinoki wood, a type of cypress, are ubiquitous in Japan. While American bathtubs are generally used to get clean, the ofuro is used to soak in and relax by more than one person, so showering before entering is obligatory. Ofuros are deeper than standard American tubs to allow the occupant to sit upright while immersed to the neck. And usually they are square rather than rectangular or oval and don’t have sloped sides. Driftwood Tubs, a workshop in Jamestown, Ohio, hand makes a range of Americanized ofuros using native hardwoods, including an elegantly minimalist solid-maple model, whose rectangular shape, gently angled sides, and warm natural finish would make it a terrific addition to any bathroom.
Founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife team Hugues and Sita Revuelta, Karpenter is an Indonesia-based manufacturer that specializes in beautifully designed, meticulously crafted contemporary wood furniture. Many of their most distinctive pieces are made from solid American black walnut, including a stunning rectangular stand-alone bathtub. It’s has a decidedly sculptural presence, with slightly curved sides, rounded corners, and a gorgeous natural-oil finish. Karpenter also produces a number of equally attractive solid American black walnut sinks, wash stands, cabinets, towel racks, and mirrors—all designed by Hugues Revuelta—so you can create a seriously stylish walnut bathroom suite.
Some Driftwood Tubs ofuros stray quite far in style and shape from the Japanese original. A case in point is Driftwood’s clawfoot tub in hickory, which makes use of the contrast between reddish-brown heartwood and yellowish-brown sapwood to create an attractively striped tub. The form of this ofuro recalls the classic footed tubs, made of cast iron and lined with porcelain, that were considered the height of luxury in late-19th-century American bathrooms. As with all the company’s ofuros, the hickory tub is sealed with a transparent fiberglass membrane, so the wood doesn’t get wet and the surface feels as smooth as traditional porcelain. Not coincidentally, the coating means Driftwood’s hardwood ofuros meet all standards for ANSI and ASME building codes in the U.S.
4288 Alleghany Trail
Jamestown, OH 45335