Wellness- and tech-driven designs are at the forefront of these personal spaces that are setting new benchmarks for style and sustainability.
Bathrooms are no longer the mundane spaces they used to be. In the context of commercial interiors, they’re the new lobbies that warrant as much attention, if not more.
From simple functionality to being a perfect canvas for creativity, innovation and sustainability, bathrooms are redefining personal spaces with a new panache. A plethora of new products that address functionality and efficiency with as much importance as the form, are inspiring designers to create spaces that work well not only for their clients, but also the end users.
Despite being a trend-driven subject, washrooms also need to embody a sense of timeless appeal. What are the factors at work, when considering what makes a bathroom design rise above its utilitarian need? CID talks to the experts to discover the popular trends this year.
The new-age bathroom doesn’t just look smart, it thinks smart too. “Latest technology is playing an increasingly important role in bathroom design,” says Toni ElKadi, Duravit’s head of projects, Middle East. “Groundbreaking materials characterised by consistent sustainability in terms of materials, processing and design are increasingly available for the bathroom.” For example, the SensoWash Starck e shower-toilet seat has a replacement spray head, energy-saving mode and additional features such as a night light. The slender and elegant remote control for all the SensoWash shower-toilet seats is discreet and completely intuitive to operate.
With bathroom manufacturers investing heavily in research and development of new technology, there is, undoubtedly, an availability of a wide range of sanitaryware. Quality control plays an important role in ensuring the longevity of bathroom fittings and electronics. The various functions found in shower toilets are illustrative of the developments that have taken place in the field of electronics.
Swiss firm Geberit emphasises functional reliability in all its products “Only products that pass the numerous tests carried out under climatically extreme conditions in Geberit’s electronics laboratory are launched on the market,” says Louise Pitt, Geberit’s marketing manager. “Depending on the specifications, we carry out tests at temperatures from -20 to +70°Celsius and humidities of between 30 and 99%.”
The Geberit AquaClean Mera shower toilet, designed by Christoph Behling, illustrates how technology is becoming an integral part of bathroom furniture. Laden with sensors, the high-tech fittings make hygiene and ease of use as important as the physical design. From cleaning to drying and odour extraction, all the functions are automated, eliminating touch-operated mechanisms. “Good design is inseparably connected to functionality and performance,” says Pitt.
This feature makes it possible to operate public toilets in commercial spaces, which often see heavy traffic, in a straightforward, resource-saving manner. “Products for public sanitary facilities have to meet a huge range of demanding requirements, from hygiene and easy maintenance to safety in everyday use and protection against vandalism,” says Pitt. “In addition, the conditions and equipment of a publicly accessible sanitary facility are a calling card and advertisement – for companies, transport operators, sports centres and municipalities alike.”
All the reputed companies behind bathroom fittings unanimously agree that technology should facilitate and not complicate people’s lives. It’s not just about adding futuristic elements which do not serve any real purpose.
Trending in 2018
In spaces such as bathrooms, where sustainability, ergonomics and user-friendliness are top priority, aesthetics need to be carefully considered, balancing both form and function. Holistic bathroom design has been gaining ground steadily, and most companies in the field have responded by offering entire bathroom furniture, in addition to faucets and showerheads. “Duravit offers uniform furniture consoles and mirrors with lighting, among other items” says ElKadi. He cites the latest Luv series by Danish designer Cecilie Manz as one of Duravit’s latest offerings, which combines Nordic style with new technologies, colours and materials. “It’s the first collection where Duravit has used matt glazes in soft tones on the outside of the wash bowls providing a contrast to the high-glaze white ceramic on the inside,” he says.
Innovation also plays a vital role in developing new styles for bathrooms that mimic spa retreats. “With a special focus on ergonomics, Ritomonio’s products allow guests to be immersed in a complete wellness experience,” says Luca Ritmonio, head of the Italian sanitaryware manufacturer.
There are a number of options from minimalist to bigger and bolder statements, keeping in mind the brand identity of the spaces they’re being designed for. Features such as chromotherapy and hydrotherapy in the shower areas are being widely used in luxury properties. “Items that once would have been at the very top end of the market, such as larger bathtubs, floating appliances, power showers and indulgent technology with spa jets and steam rooms can now be included in a bathroom’s design for lower investment compared to previous years,” says Guy Wilson, managing director – trade and projects, MEA, Sanipex Group, which represents well-known bathroom brand, BagnoDesign.
“The direction of bathroom design is towards clean, organic lines, a combination of natural materials, bold colours and classic styling with a modern twist,” Wilson continues.
While bathroom design appreciation in the UAE has always been stressed upon, in the more emerging regional markets, there is a more pronounced preference towards luxury brands in the hospitality space. “We provide luxury bathroom solutions for niche demands,” says a Fantini spokesperson.
Customisation, too, is surfacing as not only a design feature, but also as a branding tool for commercial interiors. Names such as Ritmonio and BagnoDesign offer a host of possibilities to create a signature look by way of colours, textures and finishes. From brushed tones to matt black and gold, Ritmonio presents a number of options to choose from, to suit the style and context.
“Spaces designed with personalisation are on the rise,” says Wilson. “Contrasting natural textures, such as wood with warm metallic finishes, brushed nickel and BagnoDesign’s unique new Zanzibar finish, are much in demand.”
In addition to rimless toilets, companies such as Duravit, BagnoDesign and Roca have also launched combined bidet and WCs, which not only maximises space but leaves enough room to include other furniture items. Wilson also shares that while chrome continues to take the lion’s share of the brassware market, the shift towards alternative finishes, and juxtapositions over colour and pattern, are creating new trends.
In terms of material innovation, bathrooms provide a trendsetting milieu to designers, without taking away from the functionality. One of the noteworthy trends to be seen this year is the comeback of
concrete. While it has been a favoured surface finish for industrial-inspired interiors, it’s now being applied to products as well, especially in bathrooms. Ritomonio has recently introduced concrete faucets and mixers, as part of its designer series.
In another variation, these concrete fixtures can also be customised in a range of vibrant colours, apart from the original concrete shade. “Bold basins are also another trend for 2018, in such materials as marble, metal and glass,” says Wilson. On the other hand, Italian brand Fantini anticipates more interest in stainless steel, as well as more tactile materials.
Keeping it sustainable
When it comes to environmental awareness, bathroom manufacturers are walking the talk with some credible actions.
Wilson of BagnoDesign says: “Particularly for commercial buildings and hotels, where designers are working to meet stringent sustainability regulations, it becomes even more paramount.” He suggests incorporating such practices as water-feature brassware, low-flush sanitaryware and energy-saving lighting.
Geberit’s brand philosophy, which is deep-rooted in sustainable principles, is extended to their collaborators, too. “Geberit products are durable and ecologically efficient; they significantly help lower water consumption,” says Pitt.
Spanish brand Roca has taken it further by teaming up with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) to supply low-flow faucets, named Dubai Tap, to mosques and public spaces. “Lower water consumption is certainly one of the strongest sustainable trends this year,” says Victor Schoone, Roca’s country manager, Middle East.
A similar feature is seen in Fantini’s Milano collection, which has a progressive cartridge to allow the delivery of water with a clockwise rotation to reduce water wastage.
With technology intersecting with trends and sustainability, bathroom spaces are becoming a reflection of the current design movement, emphasising quality and user-friendliness.