Where do you stand on hot tubs? Do you try desperately to banish all thoughts of Hugh Hefner as you suppress an embarrassed British snigger at the sight of one? Are you Scandinavian at heart and think how bracing it would be to streak across the terrace on a snowy winter’s morning and jump into the bubbles? Or is there a touch of the SoCal about you and the mere glimpse of a hot tub sees you planning your “bellini and bikini” parties. If so, you’ll be wanting the Luxema 800, the deluxe $26,000 split-level variety that includes a built-in bar, TV and sound system.
Whatever your view on hot tubs, one thing seems certain – the London skyline will soon be peppered with the jet-set waving to one another from their steamy, bubbling rooftop pools as top-end developers include them as must-have accessory for residents of the capital’s multi-million pound penthouses.
Paddington Basin may not match Miami for dreamy waterfront views, but buyers of the duplex penthouses at 3 Merchant Square – priced from £3.4m (020 7993 7393) – can gaze across W2’s canals from the hot tub on their huge decked terrace. The view is more bucolic – you could even watch the Oxford v Cambridge boat race glide by – from the four penthouses at Queen’s Wharf next to Hammersmith Bridge. “The hot tub is a great piece of added luxury. They bring that element of prestige,” says Alex Greaves, CBRE’s associate director of residential development, who is marketing the penthouses from £4.75m (0207 205 2973).
Other high-end London developments with rooftop tubs are 127 Shoreditch, whose £4.75m penthouse (020 7101 2020, hattonrealestate.co.uk) has one on its wraparound terrace. Definitely one for those who want to be seen.
Buyers of the £8.5m Triplex Penthouse or the £8m Ophelia Penthouse at One Tower Bridge (020 7871 0011) can luxuriate in theirs while soaking up the postcard views. “We wanted to create a usable yet luxurious outdoor space which feels like a private members club and hot tubs make the ultimate viewing platform all year round,” comments Jacob Sullivan, Berkeley Homes (South East London) head of sales. “They are certainly the most relaxing way to enjoy panoramic views of the London skyline.”
We British are clearly learning to love a hot tub. Holiday Lettings report that they are one of the most asked-for features in luxury UK holiday homes, with searches for hot tubs in country houses or “swanky flats” rising by 250 per cent in December 2014 compared with a year before.
“They are definitely a tick box for the international super rich and some houses have two – one inside next to the swimming pool as a built-in spa, and one outside as a “feature” area,” comments Alex Newall from property advisors Hanover Private Office. There’s something quite sexy and decadent (not to mention exhibitionist, given the probable proximity of your neighbours) about having a hot tub in the city – wallowing in your warm water high above the masses trampling the pavements below.
In semi-rural surroundings such as on Surrey’s Wentworth Estate, where Vilebrequin-toting owners are very partial to these millionaires’ pleasure troughs, it’s all about soaking up the peaceful views across golfing greens and countryside. “We recently acquired a £10m property there for a high profile client which has a sliding glass roof and stairs leading up to a private terrace with a hot tub, wet bar and modern shower,” says Newall. “There’s no escaping it – we’re embracing the American lifestyle.”
Other agents remain unconvinced that we can ever do hot tub culture with aplomb. “They are expensive to maintain, unattractive and frankly still have a bit of a seedy image,” says Robert Bailey, a central London buying agent. “Developers put them in thinking it will entice buyers, but within a few years they are covered in dust and debris, never having been used.”
Jo Eccles, head of Sourcing Property is similarly scathing. “They’re a gimmick that doesn’t get used”, she says, while Camilla Dell, MD of Black Brick buying agency, thinks “they are out of fashion. People prefer to bathe in the privacy of an indoor spa – though they do work well in the country”.
Perhaps they might be converts if they saw the “hot tug” – the world’s first wood-fired hot tub that is half Jacuzzi, half motorised dinghy. Ideal for those whose property comes with a mooring. You can’t help thinking that pootling around on the water in a receptacle that is full of water can only lead to a sinking sensation. But the Dutch love them and it can only be a matter of time before they start to appear in St Katherine’s Dock or Chelsea Harbour.