One trick we've seen to transform an off-the-shelf bathtub into something special and custom is to enclose it with a surround. Sometimes, this is a marble rim cut to the shape of the bathtub opening and finished on the side with yet more stone. Other times, it's trimmed out in millwork. Here are a few examples of such treatments:
• 1 a contemporary concrete rim by Concrete Age Artworks
• 2 A slate tile surround would be cheaper than a slab. This one's via Better Homes & Gardens.
• 3 Paneling surrounds this tub for a classic look, also from Better Homes & Gardens.
• 4 A limestone and wood surround at the Smith Residence by SkB Architects.
Have you seen this done or used a tub with such treatment? How do you like it? We've found it can be quite expensive, but it can completely transform a not-so-pretty bathtub into something spectacular.
One word of advice: Watch out for how exactly the surround's rim joins the tub: you definitely don't want it to become impossible to clean where the two materials meet. If the tub is dropped into the surround (as in examples 2-4), this won't be a problem. But if the tub has a rim mounted over it, that detail needs special attention (think of an undermount sink and the joint between it and the countertop).