From technology-enabled spa products to retro materials, CLARK KELLY explores some of the top trends
Our lives today are a blend of traditional and contemporary, outdoors and indoors, luxury and basic technology. As you might expect, bathrooms are increasingly required to mirror these developments.
In the future, the bathroom will be taking on greater importance within the canon of the home due to a variety of factors, says Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the German Sanitary Industry, which organises the Pop-Up My Bathroom trend forum at ISH, the world’s leading trade fair for bathroom interiors, held in Frankfurt each March.
Chic spaces: Shades of grey are
growing in appeal
“The hectic pace of the times we live in, the need to recharge our batteries, the desire for retreat, meditation and self-realisation – all those things are turning the bathroom into the universal nerve centre of the home. And in this important space, we no longer want to live with floor-to-ceiling moss-green tiles, we want to spend more time in there. There’s huge renovation potential that’s just waiting to be activated,” he says.
Technology, innovative materials and new products such as flush-fitting shower trays and cosy bathroom furniture are all driving the trend towards spaces that are welcoming and engaging. MEI highlights three major trends for specifiers and project designers to keep in mind.
The days of bathroom singers have given way to functioning spaces that, quite literally, sing and dance. The integration of technology into every aspect of design and manufacturing has spawned iPad-controlled bathrooms, infrared taps and waterproof entertainment systems. If a car can recognise its driver and click the seat into the right position accordingly, why shouldn’t the bathroom follow suit and be wired up as a single unit programmed to serve the individual needs of its user? This can be achieved both by digital technologies and intelligently designed products which, thanks to minimised components, can be made extremely slender indeed when necessary. For example, Touch-free faucets such as eMote, which uses infrared technology to react to an approaching user, are already in use at malls in Dubai.
Bright hues: Colour is moving into
Philippe Starck’s Axor Starck Organic, manufactured by Hansgrohe, combines technology, ecology and economy into a minimalist design that combines soft shapes and flowing transitions with intelligent functions. The range’s basin mixers harmoniously meld the waterspout and temperature control function into a beautifully unified product, featuring a revolutionary water jet system, which consists of 90 individual outlets that produce pearls of water when prompted, creating an immersive and sensual water-based experience – using only 3.5 litres per minute. Temperature and water flow can also be controlled with a simple twist of the nozzle at the top and bottom of the mixer.
With water conservation a major issue in the region, Dornbracht has teamed with Sieger Design, Square One and Meiré und Meiré to bring a new technology into bathrooms this year. The product, Smart Water, integrates the many options for digitisation in the bathroom by networking the various components of the bathroom with one another, while conveniently simplifying and individualising the applications involved. With separate dials to control temperature and water volume, and an easy-view display that calls up pre-programmed settings, the decentralised arrangement makes it possible to separate the installation of controls and water outlet. “The bathroom is becoming digital,” CEO Andreas Dornbracht said in a media statement. “Even today, smart tools are the foundation for the bathroom and the kitchen of tomorrow.”
Blended spaces: Bringing luxury
back into the bathroom
Other new products take advantage of our inter-connected lives. Swiss company Crosswater now offers a way to use iPhones to control water delivery in the bathroom, making it easy to do away with bath taps, while allowing users of a digital app to fill bathtubs or turn on showers before even stepping into the bathroom. Precise thermostatic control ensures water temperature remains constant at all times regardless of fluctuations caused by home appliances being used at the same time.
Manufacturers are also using inter-connected technology to cater to users’ demands for customised, spa-like experiences. Grohe Spa’s F-digital Deluxe, exhibited at IMM Cologne 2013, is a modular shower concept that integrates users’ iPods to bathe the shower in ambient light or fill it with soothing steam, to the accompaniment of their favourite tunes, of course. The concept allows for fully customised combinations of head and body showers as well as of the available lighting, music and steam modules. Lighting and sound modules installed in the other zones contribute to a pleasant spa ambiance which is further enhanced by the rectangular Allure Brilliant faucets from the Grohe spa collection.
However, this year’s hot new trend is the waterproof TV. Bagno Design’s BagnoVision product cleverly incorporates a 19-inch tall high-density colour TV into the bathroom mirror, allowing users to catch up on their soaps while soaking in the bath. Each mirror TV comes complete with Bluetooth technology enabling connectivity to other devices such as MP3 players, besides waterproof remote control, speakers and radio.
COLOUR VS GREY
When it comes to colour, bathrooms are either grey or shot through in vibrant tones – there’s barely any middle ground between the two extremes. According to a February design survey by the North American National Kitchen and Bath Association, grey colour schemes in both kitchens and bathrooms have witnessed a dramatic escalation since 2010, particularly over the past year. Used currently in 56 per cent of bathrooms, shades of grey are growing in appeal as they are seen as creating chic, sophisticated spaces that many consumers desire.
From granite to quartz to marble to stone, a wide variety of materials are being used – as long as they are grey. While granite tops the NKBA’s charts, quartz is a close second, possibly for the luxurious feel it offers.
On the other hand, as people get more adventurous, colour is moving from living rooms and bedrooms into bathing areas. Bright hues are surfacing in bath design trends, brightening existing neutral palettes – providing specifiers with an easy solution for remodelling and refurbishing jobs, say designers at British interiors supplier Victoria Plumb. Whether it’s with a new faucet finish, a vibrant wall colour, a playful backsplash – even a brightly-coloured sink – adding colour updates the bathroom.
“A brightly-coloured sink makes a delightful and memorable impact,” Kohler interior designer Diana Schrage said in a media handout. Last year, the company teamed with design guru Jonathan Adler to launch four bright and bold colours, including Palermo Blue, Greenwich Green, Piccadilly Yellow and Annapolis Navy, each available for both kitchens and bathrooms.
At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City this May, the company launched a coloured line of its Moxie showerhead and wireless speaker range. The speakers, sold separately, are available in chartreuse, navy blue, cherry red, and retro blue, as well as brushed nickel and polished chrome for those looking at grey accents.
Kohler performance showering product manager Leslie Bronson says the expanded offering doubles as a way for consumers to personalise shower décor and to colour-code speakers for each member of the household, allowing each member of the family – or hotel guest – to use their own Bluetooth-enabled device paired with their own speaker.
On the other hand, some professionals say bridging the gap will create truly unique spaces and that combining the neon and grey shades will liven up the space and keep it fashion-forward. Kohler offers a way to see how it looks with an app that allows the mixing and matching of sink colours with different faucet finishes, and sites like Houzz.com put more than half a million design photos at your fingertips.
As we lurch into a brave new future, where the familiar has been replaced by technologically advanced interiors we are yet to get used to, it seems we will spend the next few years in blended spaces, seeking comfort in retro pieces, yet looking ahead to customisable products.
The NKBA survey notes the popularity of transitional styles that seamlessly blend of traditional and contemporary, exceeded that of its traditional counterpart, which had been the clear topper in the pevious two years. In the latest survey, transitional styles in the bathroom are still positioned No. 1, currently used by 61 per cent of NKBA-member designers.
Meanwhile, our need to bring the outdoors in, a larger interiors trend this year, will see nature-inspired neutral tones and patterns being used across bathrooms over the next few quarters. In colour terms, this means neutrals, but it incorporates numerous textures and tones within the bathroom, using natural, outdoorsy materials such as wood, marble and stone work to achieve this look.
William Garvey’s Geo Collection of wooden furniture combines organic texture and warmth through a range of luxury wood baths, basins and shower walls. Hand-crafted from laminated teak composite which is then finished in a specially formulated marine polish, Geo is highly durable with a stain resistant façade. The UK company works with all types of wood and provides bespoke options for specifiers to combine other materials such as glass, metal and leather into the design.
These natural materials are being mixed and matched with contemporary pieces for blended designs. With its timeless, slightly retro feel, Grohe’s Grandera range caters to just the sort of customer looking for an upgraded luxury item that mixes old and new – and ties into the trend for bringing luxury back into the bathroom.
One item that immediately draws all the attention and works well with wood or chrome is the original and ergonomically advanced Le Cob bath, developed by internationally renowned designer Jospeh Liciardi. A homage to the iconic Chaise Lounge conceived of by Le Corbusier, from which Le Cob takes its name, this bath will unquestionably provide a focal point for the most exquisite of bathrooms. The simplicity of the Cameo White Corian and 19mm glass showcases a truly distinct bathing experience. The design inspires a sense of relaxation as the therapeutic sound of water trickles into a bed of pebbles, strongly influenced by Zen rock gardens.
Design trends: A blend of traditional
Also new to market is Sensory Sky, Dornbracht’s new shower product which aims to create the feeling of bathing in nature inside the home. Inspired by natural phenomena, with Sensory Sky, different types of rain, fog, light and fragrances complement one another to create complex choreographies. Readjust sharpens the senses with warm fog and light rain, Release cleanses, while Rejoice protects, envelops and stabilises – with water droplets glistening in the colours of the rainbow.
Finally, spaces also need to reflect multiple functions, says Wischmann. “Quite apart from basic needs like going to the toilet, showering, washing or cleaning your teeth, you can easily come up with at least 50 other needs if you think about it: undressing or washing the children, putting make-up on, reading a book, making a phone call in peace or sharing experiences with the family are just a few examples of the needs a bathroom planner can factor into his designs,” he says.
Could the bathroom be the new living room?