The tub with crystal-clear qualities

Lori Gardner with one of her specialized tubs covered in crystals at Fleur De Lys in Costa Mesa.
(DON LEACH, Daily Pilot)

Editor’s note: This corrects the location of Fleur de Lys in the photo captions.

COSTA MESA — What’s the next best thing to bathing in treasure? Try bathing in a tub adorned with 46,000 glittering Swarovski crystals.

Newport Beach resident Lori Gardner, 44, designed the Diamond Bathtub, a 19th century-style clawfoot tub bedazzled with thousands of pink crystals — a recognition of breast cancer research.

The tub is on display at Fleur de Lys, a Costa Mesa gifts, home goods and novelty items retailer. The bathing item acts like a shimmering beacon to customers passing by the store windows, said sales associate Meredith Reyher, 29.

“Customers love it — it pulls people in from the parking lot,” Reyher said. “Everyone wants to know how much it is and if it’s for sale.”

While the price this tub and others custom-made by Gardner may be what has dissuaded most casual customers up to this point — with their prices ranging from $5,000 to $45,000 — this crown jewel of the fully-usable tubs has attracted the interest of some high-profile clients, Gardner said.

Well-known faces from “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” Playboy magazine and L’Oréal may soon be taking dips for ornate photo shoots, she said.

The tub is also available to rent for store displays or as a decorative centerpiece for a lavish party, Gardner said.

And with the completion of her first baby-sized tub, Gardner now has a transportable sample of the made-to-order creations available through her recently launched custom tub and interior decorating business, The Diamond Bathtub.

Gardner first got the idea for the tub about four years ago when her job as an interior designer collided with a teen trend her two daughters followed: crystal-covered cell phone accessories, she said.

The mother of four and substitute teacher at Andersen Elementary School thought that decorating the tub would be a good summer job for her daughters.

It took three years, or more accurately, a collective 300 hours of backache-inducing, careful labor to glue, by hand, each of the small round crystals to the side of the tub — all while juggling school, work and family obligations.

“There were times when it was tedious,” Gardner said. “But other times I’d get going and not want to stop. The time just flew by.”

The first tub was a learning experience; she estimated that a custom order would take about 16 weeks.

While her company is still getting off the ground, Gardner said she has sparkling dreams for the fledgling company’s future — such as glittering tubs in a rainbow of colors.

Also, what had started as a fun thing for her and her girls has now become a fundraising opportunity for breast cancer research. Similarly, Gardner has plans to donate a portion of each tub sold to various charities, she said.

Crystals can be selected from about 100 different colors, with each representing a different charitable cause.

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