A Bathtub in the Kitchen?!

July 29, 2020

Don’t be surprised to find several older New York City apartments with a bathtub in the kitchen. That may have some buyers or renters with a lot of questions.

As the New York Post reports, these listings tend to make a splash when they hit the MLS. Here’s the reason behind this bizarre kitchen amenity: In the early 20th century, lawmakers in the city mandated all residences to have a sink and bathtub for sanitary reasons.

“But where are you gonna put a tub? Those apartments are small,” Jason Eisner, an educator manager at the Tenement Museum, told the New York Post. “The only place to really put a tub would be what [was expanded to become] a larger room, as a result of having to put the sink in.” The kitchen became that prime spot.

For units that have not undergone a renovation since the early 1900s or have not had pipes or plumbing relocated—well, don’t be surprised to find a tub or shower in the kitchen.

In June, a studio in New York City was listed for $1,650 a month that featured a shower in the kitchen. The apartment description read: “Luxuries or weird? Kitchen or bathroom vibes? You decide. Weird, but good-priced if you don’t care (or do care and wanna be a weirdo).”

Another ad for an apartment in Chinatown reads: “THERE IS A BATHTUB IN THE KITCHEN.”

The New York Tenement House Act of 1901 sought to address unhygienic conditions at the time. It regulated access to air, light, water, and indoor plumbing. The reforms became mandatory in 1905 and mandated features such as one toilet on the floor for every two families, a sink in every kitchen, a tub, and gas lighting.

But in modern times, kitchens and baths usually stay separate. Some residents are transforming their kitchen bathtubs into a prepping table with a custom board to lay over it when entertaining or turning it into an oversized ice bucket to chill beer or lobsters.

Nevertheless, when there is a bathtub in the kitchen, it will undoubtedly raise some attention—and, perhaps, plenty of questions.