What kind of bathroom spaces in commercial interiors are in vogue now?
Christian Mereiau (CM), founding partner, MMAC Design Associates: In the hospitality world, which is our core speciality, the bathroom is no longer designed for hygiene only. Hotel bathrooms are now comfortable living spaces providing relaxing spa-like experience. In all luxury segments, they are becoming bigger, brighter with clean architectural lines and sophisticated light scenes.
Hilda Impey (HI), design principal, FF&E, Wilson Associates: I believe sustainable is the new smart. Regardless of the aesthetics, a growing consensus among designers and operators regarding current sustainable challenges is taking an important place in the industry. Making knowledgeable and responsive selections that have low impact on the environment is expected from any designer. To convey the message and statistics of the impact and benefits of the selections on the project in the long term is crucial for decision makers. The investors expect to save by purchasing low cost solutions however there are manufacturer studies and research that prove substantial savings in medium- and long-term scenarios.
I feel positive to witness how suppliers are spending resources on valuable research and product development by using technology and proactively proposing viable solutions for the market. Look at the Dyson Air Blade Wash + Dry hand dryer. It combines in a single touchless unit a tap, and a hand dryer that dries hands in 14 seconds with filtered air. The multi-function design helps to save space in the washroom and reduces the problem of water dripping on the floor as users move from a handwashing area to a separate hand drying station. It is up to 39% quieter, lower running costs by reducing less than 98% on paper towels, lower CO2 emissions, uses 52% less water, filters that capture 99.95% of particles the size of bacteria 0.03 microns from the washroom air.
What are the key principles of functional and visually appealing bathrooms?
CM: New hotel customer want space. To do so in a compact area, designers are rethinking bathrooms by either expanding outwards against the façade windows, opening them up with sliding partitions or replacing dry walls by glass partitions. Large rain showers, free-standing bathtubs and wet rooms combining both are very much an integral part in all our upscale hotel bathroom designs.
HI: In terms of visually appealing, bathrooms have always been an interesting space that should convey various concepts to make them successful. The following concepts are a must for a successful bathroom design irrespective of the final use. It should have a suitable layout that incorporates a functional flow and technicalities such as suitable ventilation and concealed systems showing only what we want to show; functional sanitary selections that not only look good but work well for the location and type of bathroom; suitable floor and wall finishes that address safety and aesthetics; and a mix of functional concealed lighting and decorative ambience.
Which surface materials work best in commercial bathrooms?
CM: The minimalist bathroom look is very popular, but designers are trying to make the contemporary hotel bathrooms a little warmer and more fun. White, grey and earth colours are always present, but we’re starting to incorporate stronger colours, especially in the tiles. We play on appearance by opting for bigger tiles which, in addition to giving an illusion of size, reduce the number of joints and provide a sense of luxury.
New and unexpected materials are also making an entrance in the world of bathroom design. Back-painted glass panels are a great support to introduce fun and graphic components to bathrooms. Wood is already making its way to the bathroom space. It gives a warm and natural atmosphere to the room and can either be integrated into the fitted furniture or on the walls & floors. Designers are now also embracing more industrial looking materials such as metal bathtub and washbasins, walls of brick, wax concrete on floors and countertops, and rustic untreated wood.
HI: There is a recent interest in having fun with digital printing — we can create bespoke and tailored experiences. Nowadays, we can print on almost any surface while achieving budget, commercial performance and functionality. HP is reinventing the printing processes with the new R2000 printer, which is the first printer to directly print on to rigid services like, wood, glass, tiles and there is no need to put a protective layer on top. With this technology and together with surface manufacturers the possibilities are endless.
In many food and beverage outlets, bathrooms are a statement feature. What drives owners to invest more money in designing these spaces where guests will not spend much time?
CM: Bathroom experience is meant to be private, but negative experience in the bathroom can completely ruin a restaurant experience.
In a study, 86% of customers draw comparison between the visible cleanliness of public toilets and the cleanliness that can be expected in the kitchen. Even if the facilities are simple in design, they should be always pristine — therefore, easy to maintain.
This being said, it is clear that a unique washroom is so unexpected and that people can’t help but talk about it. It can be an emphasis on the restaurant’s concept, corporate and social involvement. It can be goofy, luxurious, classic, minimalist and sober, but it should never be a wasted opportunity to highlight the brand identity.
HI: As socialising is one of the key drivers in our society, bars and restaurants are not only required to be successful because of the expected interior design, quality of food and service, but because of the extended experiences throughout the space.
Bathrooms are one of those spaces that certainly impact your memories and perceptions of the space; from an exclusive and sophisticated experience to a clubby and funky one. I always remember Crazy Bear cocktail bar's bathrooms in London. It is surrounded by a glamorous, communal sink and concealed mirrored doors.
With the challenge retail operators are facing due to online shopping becoming popular, retailers are looking for new alternative ways to strengthen customer engagement and any opportunity to increase the number of customer touchpoints. Merging bathrooms in F&B experiences with retail is a powerful phenomenon; it results in new and endless opportunities, concept experiences and a compelling customer journey.
The result of this fusion between lifestyle, leisure and retail not only results in additional sales but also in an enhanced experience. Look at Soho House joint venture between Cowshed and Soho House concepts. Soho House hotels have an online shop that evel lets you to buy their sanitary fixtures.