Showers Becoming the Norm?

The bathtub isn't nearing extinction, but it may be getting closer to the endangered species list, at least at hotels catering to business travelers.

Red Roof Inn's new NextGen prototype is designed without a tub — instead featuring a walk-in shower — and the trend appears to be gaining in popularity around the industry. Some of the reasons for the change: a cleaner look, a more luxurious feel and a belief travelers aren't taking baths anymore. Most agree the trend started at home, with consumers opting for the walk-in shower over a tub in their master baths.

“We did a lot of research,” says John VanDenBerge, senior vice president design and construction for Red Roof. “After seeing trends in the marketplace, we decided this was the way to go.”

By excluding a tub in the new design, Red Roof was able to use the space and money for other upgraded components, like opaque glass walls, a vessel sink, granite countertop, wood-like floor and spacious walk-in showers with spa-like showerheads.

“The fact we don't have a standard tub helped us pull off the other things,” VanDenBerge says.

The top half of the interior wall of the shower is made of opaque glass and connects to the bedroom wall and the front portion of the shower features a large opening and floor-to-ceiling clear glass. A sliding opaque glass door connects the bathroom and bedroom. There's no shower curtain or door and VanDenBerge says it was extensively tested to make sure water didn't seep from the shower into the vanity area.

“There's no door or curtain to clean, so there's no concern it's not clean,” he says. “That builds on one of our leading elements of having a highly hygienic guestroom and bathroom.”

The opaque glass adds to that, keeping the room bright and airy. It also doubles as an art element, in both the bathroom and bedroom, VanDenBerge says.

Shower-only bathrooms aren't becoming commonplace only at limited-service properties. The new InterContinental San Francisco has 90 rooms with separate showers and baths, with the rest of the 460 rooms split evenly with just tubs or showers. IHG's newer boutique brand, Hotel Indigo, is largely without tubs.

“I find that business-style hotels prefer shower-only rooms,” says Rachel Fischbach, a vice president with Brayton Hughes Design Studios. “Oftentimes a four-fixture bathroom (separate tub and shower, sink and toilet) is offered as an upgraded amenity. Most of the five-star hotels we design have both.”

Noah Taft, vice president of marketing and sales for California Faucets, has seen the trend as well. He worked with the Pod Hotel in New York City a couple of years ago and it was designed with shower-only rooms.

“It's more elegant, more sophisticated” says Taft. “Standing in a tub, with the shower coming down, is not nearly as classy or as sophisticated as having your own (shower).”

From a sales perspective, he says, the more fittings the better, of course, but if someone chooses to go shower only, they'll likely upgrade in other areas with a bigger showerhead or extra body sprays.

From the design perspective, Fischbach says shower-only rooms offer more flexibility.

“Showers are almost like see-through jewel boxes when they are encased in glass,” she says. “We can line the walls with interesting stone and glass tile materials. We can situate them so they have views to the room or exterior.”

The trend, as it usually does, appears to have started at home. Check out just about any show on HGTV (Home and Garden Television) and you're likely to see a huge walk-in shower being featured.

“People want spa-like experiences at home and when they travel,” Fischbach says. “The large showers with frameless glass enclosures and rain showerheads or wall-mounted pressure showerheads definitely can help create that.”

VanDenBerge agrees: “I do believe the residential side certainly led this. People in their homes primarily take showers, so that's what people like traveling. In home design you see more luxurious and bigger showers.”

Red Roof's feedback during consumer testing confirmed guests rarely used the tub for bathing, making the new design a minimal risk.

Red Roof, VanDenBerge says, will allow owners to build some tubs into the new prototype, although “we're strongly encouraging they build a majority with the showers.”

Red Roof has two NextGen prototypes under construction (Beaumont, TX and Locust Grove, GA). The new bathrooms are capable to be retrofitted, VanDenBerge says, and some select company-owned locations will renovate to install the showers.

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