Pop up my bathroom!
Text: Frank A. Reinhardt, Claudia Wanninger
Bathrooms are becoming more and more homey: As straightforward as the major trend in 2011 might sound, its impact on the sanitary sector and conceptual opportunities with regard to bathroom design are revolutionary. And expectations as regards aesthetics and functional fittings are rising accordingly. The most important future trends include bathroom interiors, green bathrooms and easy bathrooms. These involve functionally differentiated spatial concepts that move “away from the wall”, sustainable bathroom design that goes “back to nature” and the concept of a comfortable bathroom that makes life easier for all generations. A trend report.
Bathroom interiors: Away from the wall!
The future of the bathroom lies on its use of space. It has less to do with stylistic categories such as “country house bathroom”, urban style, and retro-chic, and more with the design of different spatial concepts. The decisive question for anyone building a house and planning a bathroom is no longer what they should put on a wall, but rather how they perceive the room spatially and divide it up in terms of function. As with the kitchen and living room, the bathroom and sleeping quarters are increasingly being regarded as belonging together, and designed such that they lead into one another. It is not just the trend towards seeking security in one’s own four walls that is responsible for this, hotels frequently boasting unique design solutions for comfortable set-ups have also had an influence on what is expected of private bathrooms. Modern ranges are now geared to the individual interpretation of spatial concepts. They enable bathrooms to be divided into various zones, for example into a cleansing area fitted with shower and WC, and one in which to relax. It is not, however, just about partitions, sliding doors and various forms of wooden décor that link the design of the bathroom with the other living areas. The change is much more far-reaching and extends to the concept behind, and design of the products themselves.
This does not just apply to bathroom design, however, as other living areas are also opening up. This also makes smaller footprints more spacious, and blending living areas in which private and social life takes place – living, working, eating, and cooking – is reflected, among other things, in open-plan kitchen layouts. Walls are being opened up or taken down completely and replaced with islands, partitions, sofa systems, cupboards and shelves.
Furniture is increasingly being used to differentiate between zones and functions, and this applies just as much to bathrooms as well As such, state-of-the-art bathroom design prefers products that boast this architectural feature; they can be used to create an atmosphere all of their own, and private areas can be partitioned off. Efficiency is not the major concern here. but rather a pleasant ambiance, and dividing the increased space into zones that meet specific needs. Because it serves enjoyment and relaxation as well as hygiene, body care has begun to play a more significant role in our life style: It is increasingly being divided into different facets such as bodily hygiene, purification and refreshment, facial and beauty care, daily routines, switching off and relaxing, dressing and even fitness and socializing. Bathroom interiors means looking for individual solutions in order to adapt the division of space to individuals’ habits and ideals.
Green bathrooms: Back to nature!
It’s the simple things that make one dream of a “green” bathroom: on a fine morning strolling over a mossy lawn, still wet with dew, that lies just beyond the French windows; catching the soft water of a dousing jet in one’s hands; a shower that is like summer rain; smooth wooden floors with the fragrance of pine wood.
It should be obvious, though, that designing a green bathroom is not quite as simple as we perhaps paint it in the romantic image of a close-to-nature, back-to-the-roots lifestyle. On the contrary: a sustainable bathroom involves highly complex products and technologies. A green bathroom is a future concept that optimally combines water and energy-saving products, environmentally-friendly industrial production methods, the sustainable use of materials and a durable design.
Sustainable product concepts primarily aim to reduce water consumption, which in bathrooms is frequently connected to the use of energy for heating water. Flow restrictors, perlators, shower stops and cutting-edge shower head technology, with which small bubbles of air are pumped into the drops of water to produce a particularly soft, luxuriant showering sensation, can reduce water requirements without compromising comfort. Furthermore, single-lever faucets and comfortable thermostat fittings help minimize losses incurred when adjusting setting levels.
Sustainability in the bathroom is, however, a question of habit. It begins with pressing the economy button on the toilet flush and ends with a question of conscience: bath or shower? Fortunately there are now bathtubs with sophisticated designs and ergonomic moulds, which require less water for a high fill level. Showering is nonetheless far more economical: On average a full bath requires three to four time as much water as a hot shower. Soaking in a bath is nothing if not luxury – not just from an environmental protection point of view.
However, the green bathroom is not just about saving water. Water also means joie de vivre and sensuality – particularly in modern bathing culture. The huge popularity of attractively designed fittings, which orchestrate the water sensually and make it appear natural, demonstrates how important it is for people to have contact with water as a natural element. Dousing jets, of which there are now economical models available, and fittings that dispense water without any pressure mean complex technology is no longer required and make us aware of how valuable water is as a natural resource.
Fans of the green bathroom have a relatively easy time of things when it comes to choosing the material for their sanitary fittings: There is hardly any material that in terms of production and building-related biology are as harmless and quality-wise as durable as ceramic. At most steel enamel bathtubs and shower trays are more indestructible and durable. The warranties of up to 30 years some manufacturers offer put the high level of energy that goes into the production of enamel steel in a more reconciliatory light. That illustrates just how important timeless design and quality products are in bathrooms – as the most sustainable bathroom is one that keeps working for a long time and remains attractive for just as long.
The easy bathroom: It couldn’t be simpler!
Nowadays nobody wants to end up in a senior citizens’ home. They would much rather prefer a chic new bathroom with spa bathtub, relaxation bench and state-of-the-art walk-in shower, while some also dream of a dressing table with a large mirror. All in wood, stone-look or terracotta, of course. But what has one got to do with the other? A lot – for many people, everything. And it has nothing to do with taste, but rather about a deciding factor in terms of quality of life. More and more people are coming to realize that the foundations for a long, self-determined life are laid in the bathroom. And it is never too early to get started.
What people are going to be looking for in the future, then, is a bathroom that caters to the needs of a whole host of different users. An “easy bathroom”, simple, practical, and beautiful to boot. Timeless beauty: A room for the young, as well as for old people who do not feel old. When planning a bathroom, handicaps, whatever their nature, must not be the focus of attention. Rather, anything that would discriminate against individuals must be ignored. The skill lies in reduction.
Visually as well there can be nothing that is reminiscent of a convalescent home. In principle, the still dominant trend towards minimalist fittings and XXL showering, not to mention the increasing desire to integrate bathrooms in living areas, cater to the needs the elderly have of bathroom fittings. Walk-in shower trays, rounded edges and non-slip finishes, flooring, and tiles protect not only the frail, but also the very young from injuring themselves. And a low wash basin with wide shelf space, at which applying makeup is no problem and which facilitates daily body care and washing restless infants, benefits everyone. If there is sufficient space, subsequently making ‘universal design’ bathrooms such as these barrier-free is not a major undertaking.