Designing a Customised Bathroom Retreat
The bathroom is evolving from an oft-ignored utilitarian space into a private retreat for indulgence and relaxation – we look at the trends and offer some ideas to turn yours into a personal sanctuary
Contemporary bathrooms are no longer what they used to be: functional spaces where one performs daily ablutions in a perfunctory manner. These days, one is more likely to pause and linger, relaxing in the rainshower or unwinding with a good soak in the bathtub. The advent of technology has been an important driver in this trend. Advances in manufacturing processes and material finishes (on faucets, for instance) have given rise to tactile surfaces that heighten the pleasure of even the simplest acts, such as turning on the tap.
Shower systems now come with digitally programmable temperature settings to create a customised experience. On the flip side, the plethora of electronic gadgets that rule our lives has made us want to escape the incessant white noise, and the bathroom offers the last bastion of privacy and tranquility. Take a look at a few of the key trends and influences that are shaping this space, and some of the latest products that reflect these inclinations.
A Sanctuary Suite
Bathrooms are becoming extensions of living spaces. “Your bathroom is the only place in the house where you have complete privacy,” asserts Rene Maan, managing director of bathroom specialist Interior Affairs, which carries brands such as Grohe and Kaldewei. He adds: “These days, Blackberrys, cellphones, computers – they all drive you nuts. The only place you can be completely alone is your bathroom. Your bathroom needs to be a place where you can relax. The trend for having LCD TVs in bathrooms, we don’t see that happening, because that is exactly why people go to the bathrooms, to get away from all that stuff.”
Axor’s ShowerHeaven Body Zone, an overhead shower system with or without lighting designed by Philippe Starck, is the next best thing to showering under the rain, while its Urquiola and Massaud collections, designed by Patricia Urquiola and Jean-Marie Massaud respectively, are self-contained sanctuaries unto themselves, characterised by ergonomic forms and tactile, sensuous surfaces.
Personalising The Experience
Kohler Artist Edition
With more choices available these days, consumers are wont to cherry pick the systems that work best for them and assemble them in a bespoke fashion.
“I think personalisation is a real big trend,” says David Kohler, President and COO of Kohler. “Customers today can get anything in the world they want. So what they want are unique things. With the Numi Toilet or the VibrAcoustic Bath, you can have your own music and change all the settings to personalise it to what you want. Then with the Artists Editions, you can find unique pieces to create a unique powder room or environment you want in your master bath.”
Perfectly encapsulating the trend, Axor’s Bouroullec collection comprises 85 individual items, including washbasins, bathtubs, shower heads, faucets, mixers and shelves that can be combined in an endless variety of ways. For instance, the faucet and handles can be freely placed where one needs them: within easy reach of children, on the left for left-handed users, or just to accommodate one’s personal taste.
Grohe Nova Light
“In the end, everybody has the freedom to decide what solution would best suit them,” explain designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Grohe’s LED-based Nova Light, available in more than 200 colour nuances, adds a distinctively personalised touch to any bathroom, while its stylish Ondus range allows users to digitally customise their preferred water temperature.
Technology is becoming smarter, more intuitive, and more engaging than ever before. Brands like Kohler are bridging the gap between technology, ergonomics and sensuality. The VibrAcoustic Bath, for instance, serenades bathers with musical numbers while sending sonic vibrations through their bodies, bringing about deep relaxation: a boon to perennially stressed-out workaholics.
Other products are sure to strike a chord with tech-savvy, gadget-obsessed Singaporeans. The Numi Toilet, for instance, features a touch-screen remote designed to resemble an iPhone. ‘Apps’ allow users to control the lighting, music and flushing system.
“One of the really interesting things about our company is the ability to use high technology and combine that with high artistry and craftsmanship,” explains Kohler.
“When you look at the glass pieces and the decorative items, no other company plays with as many materials or wants to do things that are beautiful objects that delight your senses. The VibrAcoustic bath – we spent years developing that. We hired composers to create pieces just for the bath to maximise relaxation. We spend a lot of time thinking deeply about this stuff!”
Apart from functionality, technology has also had a profound effect on aesthetics and durability. Kohler’s PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) faucets undergo a process that vaporises a coating finish material, rendering them resistant to scratching, corrosion and tarnishing. And though simple in appearance, Grohe’s Allure Brilliant and Zucchetti’s Bellagio series of faucets and mixers belie the complex technological procedures involved in their production, resulting in sleek, ergonomic form factors that are as much a delight to behold as they are to touch.
Water conservation is just as important in Singapore as it is in the rest of the world. “Fundamentally, let’s not forget that water is the world’s most scarce resource,” says David Haines, CEO of Grohe. “As a company we take that very seriously. So we’re also the greenest company in our industry. Our products use a lot less water than others.” The firm’s Allure Brilliant faucet is equipped with the proprietary EcoJoy system that ensures economical water consumption while at the same time providing an optimal flow of water.Meanwhile, Zucchetti’s Isystick, designed by Matteo Thun and Antonio Rodriguez, won the 2011 Green Good Design Award for the innovative way it manages and controls the flow of water so that there is minimal wastage. “Isy is a system that speaks the language of essentiality; it is not a design operation, but an idea designed by water,” explains Thun.
Pictures courtesy of respective brands
This story is adapted from "The Perfect Sanctuary", published in Singapore Tatler Homes Apr-May 2012 issue.