- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Like computers and cell phones before them, hot tubs and fountains are the latest luxury-item-turned-household necessity. Rich Remsburg, who freely admits hes biased because hes the sales manager of Atlantic Spas in Chantilly, understands the benefits of water.
"Its very beneficial to your health, and it relaxes you," Mr. Remsburg says, citing the Arthritis Foundation and the Diabetes Foundation as two health advocacy organizations that have praised the therapeutic value of spas. "Its very relaxing and soothing, and it lets me sleep really well at night. I go home, sit around for 30 minutes, and boom, Im falling right off.
"The business around here has been incredible, the number of people looking to do this. The majority of our business is outside tubs, and we sell a lot of big ones," he says.
More and more Americans seem to be following the lead of Mr. Remsburgs clients, whether building hot tubs in their basements or buying aquariums for the living room or just putting a small indoor fountain on their home-office desks.
The reason, says Deborah Burnett, a registered interior decorator and building contractor in Tennessee, is the "pendulum" of fashion, which seems to be on the move again.
"Unlike the 90s, where people were basically couch potatoes who came home to escape, what people are finding out now is that once they came home to escape, they very quickly became bored," Ms. Burnett says. "I may be safe from the outside, but now Ive got to do something to the inside of me. I have to find myself again."

'Mindless tranquillity'
Ms. Burnett and many of her colleagues are finding that homeowners and harried families are turning more and more to water as an indispensable part of their interior design or redecoration because of "all the things water does for us."
"Thats why so many people are fighting to buy property by the seashore or lake looking out over the water," Ms. Burnett says. "It brings out the mindless tranquillity for all those people who dont have three or four million dollars to spend on a postage-stamp-sized lot" by the ocean.
Many of those people do have the money to install an indoor spa, and Steve Hammock, president of Hot Springs Portable Spas, says the hot-tub market is booming. He says about 400,000 units (among all brands) were sold last year and agrees with Mr. Remsburg that hot tubs are becoming more of a staple item among consumers.
"You can look back at the history of American consumerism and see a lot of things that started out as luxury items that over time became more of a necessity in peoples lives," Mr. Hammock says. "We hope hot tubs are moving in that direction.I know theyve had a hedonistic reputation in the past, but thats so long ago now. People are seeing all the other benefits of havinga spain their home and that its not such a luxury thing."
Spasand fountains provide more than just physical benefits, says Holly Polgreen, vice president of Carlyn and Co., an interior design firm in Great Falls.
"People have such a daily grind, its crazy," Ms. Polgreen says. "We get a lot of clients who are interested in making their home a sanctuary, and adding a hot tub or a fountain extends that feeling a little bit. Its also an economical thing to do for a lot of them, too. Prices have really come down, and people are making more money, so they can consider adding things like a hot tub. And the Internet has made it easy for people to do their own research and decide what they want. It used to be you would say to yourself, 'Where am I going to find a fountain pump? Now you just get on the computer and find one in no time. There are all sorts of do-it-yourself kits out there."
Matt Barkley, a manager at Tropical Fish Lagoon in Silver Spring, says he has noticed more and more offices and homes tapping into the uses of water, particularly aquariums. Mr. Barkley has his own aquarium service company and finds himself busier every day.
"Its like having a slice of nature in your house," he says. "Especially in this crazy modern world, with all the suburban sprawl, I just think we all want a chunk of nature close by. Thats why you see so many ponds in peoples yards and fish tanks and aquariums in their homes."

Influence of feng shui
Ms. Burnett, who is certified in feng shui, says the ancient Chinese study of energy and architecture is growing in popularity as well, and that contributes to homeowners interest in water.
"What it boils down to is comfort," Ms. Burnett says. "It means different things to different people, but primarily its an expression of self. So many people find expressions of self in tranquillity, peacefulness, and water exemplifies that to no end. The sound of water, the visualization if you have an aquarium, you can watch the fish at eye level. You want that mindless enjoyment and not have to worry about making deadline or anything like that. Water provides that in a way that even TV doesnt. It gives you time to think — or not to think."
J. Mark White of the District-based GardenWise Inc., also sees an Asian influence in his clients incorporation of water into their homes and gardens.
"Were all leading hectic lives, and we want to come home and feel calm and refreshed," he says. "Nothing does that better than having water in the home."
Mr. White says he often uses large ceramic urns as fountains — and the focal point of a design. He also encourages clients to connect their homes and gardens so one almost "flows" into the other, putting outdoor elements such as fountains or koi ponds in the sight lines of the homes doors and windows, creating a strong visual connection.
Shirley Pritchard, who runs an interior design company in the Philadelphia area, says the growing trend of setting up home offices has led many families and homeowners to the concepts of feng shui and indoor water.
"When you bring your workplace into your home environment, youre diminishing that sanctuary aspect," Ms. Pritchard says. "That has become not only a problem that clients have to deal with, but interior designers, too. There is a major yearning for a peaceful, unstressful environment, and if water adds to that, fine. Well put it in."
"People have such a daily grind, its crazy. We get a lot of clients who are interested in making their home a sanctuary, and adding a hot tub or a fountain extends that feeling a little bit."

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