We speak to Phil Etherden, managing director of The Albion Bath Co, about luxurious freestanding baths, working to room size, and why Essex is just perfect for him
What was the big idea behind launching Albion Bath Co back in 1996?
Our mission since conception has been to create the ultimate in luxurious bath tubs that combine the best qualities of cast iron, but with modern technology. Back in 1996, after looking at the market, it was clear that only two materials were available at the time: acrylic and cast iron.
Acrylic, which is a soft plastic, became popular in the 1970s due to ease of manufacture and low cost. However, acrylic’s properties fell short of what the customer wanted, whether it was an issue with its strength, overall look, or the fact it was easy to scratch. These shortcomings remain true to this day.
Cast iron baths have been used for over 120 years. Although often considered as the ‘real thing’, cast iron has many drawbacks, such as excessive weight, incredible heat loss from the bathing water and are also prone to surface chipping. Homeowners also found that liquid cleaners would ruin the white interior surface.
So, after two years of intensive development, I formed a new unique material: Iso-Enamel. This was developed from an amalgam of special minerals and stone powders, which ensures that our baths will retain heat in the bathing water, giving bathers the ultimate luxurious experience for longer. It is also less than half the weight of cast iron – so customers can have the cast iron look without having to spend hundreds on reinforcing their bathroom floor. Believe it or not, the average weight of an Albion tub is a mere 70kg.
What was the company’s ethos then and does it remain the same today?
Absolutely! We have always and will continue to offer the finest in luxury bathroom products direct to the customer. Whether it’s our iconic British baths, brassware, showers, shower enclosures or bathroom furniture, we have all the ingredients needed to turn the bathroom into a soothing sanctuary. If there’s anything that the last 18 months has taught us, it’s that we all need to turn our homes into places of peace and wellbeing.
What would you say makes you unique?
There are a few factors that I believe make us really stand out. Every single Albion Bath is hand-made in our UK-based factory. We are passionate about preserving manufacturing in the UK. By being involved at every stage of a product, from conception to final creation, we can ensure we produce the highest quality products. We are also proud to sell directly from our Essex showroom, which allows us to cater for specific needs and requests so that each Albion product has a personal touch, something that is often lost in today’s internet age.
As I’ve already mentioned, our Iso-Enamel baths really make us unique. The material will happily stand up to all cleaning products, even limescale removers, with no fear of discolouration, scratching or chipping. Over the years it has allowed us to faithfully recreate the shapes of iconic classical bath designs that other manufacturing materials simply cannot accommodate.
We are also able to colour match the exterior of our baths to any of the Farrow & Ball or Dulux Trade colours, offering endless scope for interior design. In addition, we also offer our exclusive ‘burnished’ finishes in gold, iron or bronze. These luxurious metallic finishes are ideal for adding a sense of glamour in any bathroom.
A freestanding bath adds a real touch of luxury to a room. Is this why you wanted to produce them?
It certainly is. For a luxurious, spa-style bathroom a beautiful, deep, freestanding bath is a must. The bath is still the focal point of the bathroom and, where space allows, we find that a full-sized bath is usually the first choice for our customers wanting to create a luxury space.
Freestanding baths are available in many styles, single or double ended, along with many possible feet or plinth options to choose from. There are also a great range of versatile, over-bath shower systems available meaning one can achieve a luxurious spa-like feel which is still practical for family life too.
At Albion, we’re always looking to push the boundaries of bathing enjoyment. We wanted to get the fun factor of a freestanding tub into a small bathroom – so the Tubby roll top bath was born. With its generous depth, you can get fully submerged, but at only 1200mm long, it can grace a small space that may otherwise be redundant. Amazingly, the Tubby has created a trend for putting a small bath into bedrooms. I guess its testament to the appeal and versatility of this lovely bath tub.
As well as the fabulous Tubby collection for small bathrooms, we also offer a large range of freestanding baths and roll-top designs for standard sized spaces – with some up to two metres in length. The flagship tub is the Aegean ‘bull nose’ style freestanding bath that goes up to 1800mm in length and harks back to the original Fire Clay bath of the early 20th century.
What bath collections are you creating right now?
We are developing three new larger models to complement our Torre range. Currently our Tubby Torre collection is available in three lengths of 1195, 1300 and 1400 (mm) long, and our new models will extend the range up to a size of 1810mm long. These will be launched later this year, so keep your eyes peeled.
Your factory and showroom is based in Weeley. What would we find there if we visited?
We are proud to produce our baths, shower enclosures and furniture at our Essex factory in Weeley. In our showroom customers will discover a selection of baths ranging from luxuriously large roll-top baths to the more compact Tubby. The showroom boasts a superb assortment of brassware, heating and storage to cater for every bathroom, large or small. From traditional to contemporary designs, our expert team are always on hand to advise and help you select the best option for you.
Are you proud of your Essex roots?
I am very proud of my Essex roots. Essex is surrounded by beautiful countryside and lush forest, has a host of celebrated and distinct independent restaurants and businesses, as well as the sunniest coastline in the UK. It’s a lively, vibrant county with its own charming character and reputation.
What does the future hold for Albion Bath Co?
Iconic designs, British manufacturing and high-quality handmade products have all been key to the success and growth of The Albion Bath Company. We will build on these strong foundations and continue to lead the way in innovative iconic designs. I love designing and presenting new products, it’s my favourite part of the business, so let’s just say the future is looking exciting!
Phil Etherden, MD, The Albion Bath Co
Tel: 01255 831605