High design, technology and sustainability are shaping the bathroom
Building on a trend that has transformed the bathroom into one of the hippest rooms in the house, Hansgrohe’s designer brand, Axor, will later this year unveil a new collection created with the Bouroullec Brothers.
Fresh from a collaboration with Patricia Urquiola, the company has also extended its Axor Citterio collection, a collaboration with Milan-based architect and designer Antonio Citterio that was first unveiled in 2003.
The collection now includes a new type of mixer that aims at further optimising the comfort of the wash basin area, as well as a new overhead showerhead with a fully pre-assembled surface-mount shower system.
Citterio has also further developed his spatial concept for the modern bathroom. His 2003 concept focused on the segmentation of the bathroom into wellbeing and needs-oriented zones, by introducing transparent elements. “To me, time is the sublime expression of immaterial luxury,” said Citterio.
“And the bathroom is where I take time out for myself: to me, it is a place for retreat and regeneration. It is therefore all the more important that I adorn this space with selected, valuable and beautiful things.”
In the new, enhanced version of the Axor Citterio bathroom, an enclosed area in the centre of the room accommodates the toilet, with the wash basin, shower and bathtub placed along the outside wall.
This ‘room within a room’ links areas dedicated to sleeping and bodily hygiene, resulting in a comfortable, spacious environment where bathroom and bedroom harmoniously blend into each other.
“In this way, Antonio Citterio once again shows us how these two formerly separate rooms can increasingly grow into one functional, aesthetically pleasing unit that turns the bathroom into a fundamental part of modern living.
“By featuring a large window front and direct access to the garden in his wellbeing bathroom, the result is an abundance of natural light – in addition to the deliberate placement of his accentuated sources of light giving the bathroom a very comfortable, inviting atmosphere,” commented Philip Grohe, head of the Axor brand.
Teaming up with leading architects, interior designers and fashion icons has enabled bathroom companies to transform the bathroom into a space that is now as much about style as it is about function. “There has definitely been an increased emphasis on contemporary design, which is cyclical. I think contemporary design is becoming more ubiquitous in most markets around the world,” noted David Kohler, president and COO of Kohler.
Swiss bathroom manufacturer Laufen has identified two distinct, seemingly contradictory design trends making their way into the bathroom. “We are seeing northern, puristic, rectangular design, as well as Italian, organic, rounded design,” revealed Ivan Zupanovic, international sales and marketing manager, Laufen.
“Innovations in both sectors are very important for Laufen, because the demand is split between these two approaches. And, with its Swiss tradition of integrating influences from the north as well as the south, Laufen is in an excellent position to deliver both – and refine them with quality and finesse,” Zupanovic continued.
Responding to the need to create increasingly design-orientated products, Spanish bathroom company Roca has introduced Khroma, a collection characterised by colour. “Roca has brought colour back into the bathroom,” said Victor Schoone, country manager, Middle East, Roca.
The collection is available in ‘passion’ red, ‘street’ and ‘silver’ grey, and oxygen blue. “We give people the opportunity to keep the sanitary ware in white but to bring colour in, in the form of colourful toilet seats and covers and furniture,” Schoone said.
The need for sleek, innovative bathroom solutions has also been recognised by Geberit, which has responded with its Monolith collection. “The elegantly-designed Geberit Monolith is a perfect alternative to toilets with visible cisterns.
“It is compact and flexible, opening up a nearly unlimited application range. Installation of the entire system is completed in a single operation, with the new installation ready for use within just a few hours,” said Guy Wilson, head of Gulf region, Geberit international sales.
Promoting a brushed aluminium and glass finish, Monolith is characterised by clear, simple lines and high-quality materials. “With its slim profile, the Monolith can be fitted into almost any bathroom without impinging on space and is ideal for the retro-fit market as it conceals marks from previous floor-standing pans and there is no need for any complex plumbing alterations,” explained Wilson.
Another important factor currently shaping bathroom design is the increased uptake of technology.
“Along with this design-led transformation, we are seeing a move towards greater functionality as hi-tech conveniences which form part of daily life are now emulated in the design and function of sanitary fixtures and fittings,” Wilson noted.
As such, Roca will soon launch a hi-tech version of its Khroma collection, Khroma Robot. With electronics incorporated into the vitreous china of the sanitaryware, users can control the shower and bidet function, they can open and close the toilet seat and cover, and even heat up the seat and cover at the press of a button.
“Technology is really starting to permeate all products,” Kohler commented. “Not technology for the sake of technology, but technology that really enhances the experience and provides a different level of functionality.
“So, we have products that make your whole showering experience digital, with a system that can control light, steam and music, as well as the showering experience,” he said.
“We have a new experience in baths called VibrAcoustic technology. You’re really seeing technology in all the product segments, and the price points are coming down as well, so I think you’ll see it incorporated into the bathroom more and more moving forward,” Kohler predicted.
However, while contemporary design and technology are playing their part, the single most influential factor currently impacting bathroom design is sustainability. The challenge facing bathroom manufacturers is finding an approach that makes business sense.
“We look at sustainability because we believe it’s the right thing to do, not the right thing to say,” said Kohler. “But the right sustainability strategy is one that firmly integrates business principles with environmental principles.
“It has to make sound business sense and if you work hard at it, you can find a win solution for the environment, a win solution for the business and a win solution for the consumer. That’s what we want to focus on as a business,” he pledged.
Creating products that are sustainable but do not force consumers to sacrifice on comfort is critically important. “In the bathroom we handle our most important consumable – water – basically for cleaning the body. So, our responsibility is to optimise this process with water saving technologies, without corroding the cultural magic that is inherent in this act: taking a bath means cleaning the soul in many cultures,” Laufen’s Zupanovic pointed out.
Geberit has placed sustainability at the very forefront of its agenda, and was recently named amongst the top 10 most sustainable companies in the world by Corporate Knights, a Toronto media company that has published its first-ever ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable companies.
“Corporate Knights research group worked with two different asset management firms to evaluate companies based on ten environmental, social and governance performance metrics, including energy productivity, waste productivity and CEO-to-average-worker pay ratio. An 11th indicator was added for ‘transparency’.”
“The honour of being named among the top 10 most sustainable companies further supports and validates Geberit’s continuing commitment to being environmentally responsible in everything we do. Focus on sustainability is part of our culture,” Wilson said.
Intelligent companies are taking a multi-pronged approach to sustainability. This involves lowering their footprint as a business, with more intelligent manufacturing processes and facilities; creating new and innovative products that contribute in lowering energy and water consumption; and using their global positioning to educate consumers on the importance of sustainability. As Wilson pointed out: “Sustainability is an all-encompassing approach of which water conservation forms just one aspect”.
Ultimately, sustainability for the sake of sustainability is not a realistic proposition. Companies are under incredible pressure to develop solutions that are accessible, affordable and, most importantly, palatable to the consumer. For example, the Roca Group is holding off from launching waterless urinals as it believes that the general population is still largely resistant to the concept.
“Our commercial department has taken the decision not to launch any waterless urinals yet,” explained Schoone. “There is a small percentage of people that are very happy with waterless urinals, and a large number of people that do not like them. They do not yet offer the comfort level that you need. We may be an innovative company but if people don’t like your innovations then you only harm yourself.”
For Jim Westdorp, group president, kitchen and bath, Kohler, it is a question of re-educating the market. “In the past there has been a perception that water saving plumbing fixtures didn’t perform as well as products that used more water.
“And, admittedly, there were some issues with that with the very first generation of low-flow water closets.However, those days are long gone and Kohler has been working tirelessly to dispel this myth,” he said.
Kohler is focusing on finding ways to constantly enhance the overall showering experience, without promoting increased water consumption. “We are looking for ways that you can still enjoy that type of experience but not consume as much water.
“We spend a lot of our time inventing things that produce less water. You can also talk about introducing music or satellite radio, and other things that enhance the experience,” said Kohler.
“Steam, for example, is a great addition to a shower. It consumes very little water and offers a great experience. A great shower experience does not have to be about how much water one consumes,” he concluded.