Top bathroom trends
These days nobody wants to end up in a retirement home. People would much rather have a smart new bathroom with a wellness tub, comfy bench and big, modern ‘walk-in shower’, and there are even those who dream of a make-up table complete with big mirror. But what exactly does the one thing have to do with the other? A great deal – in fact, for many people, everything. But it’s not just a question of tastes: quality of life is what’s at stake here.
An increasing number of people are coming to realise that it is their bathroom that will eventually decide whether or not they can live a self-determined life well into old age. And it’s never too early to start thinking about it. In fact, it’s something that should be taken into consideration as soon as there are children in the household: the little ones ought to be able to use the bathroom independently without their alarmed mothers having to watch over their every move. And if dad wants to enjoy his power shower before he sets off for the office, he shouldn’t be driven to despair just because junior has manipulated the shower settings.
What people will be looking for in future is therefore a bathroom that can satisfy the needs of very different users. An ‘Easy Bathroom’ based on multi-generational principles, simple, practical and timelessly beautiful: a room for youngsters and for old people who don’t feel their age. Disabilities, whatever their nature, should not be the prime concern when planning a bathroom. Instead, the ultimate goal is to omit anything that would discriminate against certain individuals. It is the art of reduction that makes the difference.
The ISH will be showcasing some convincing examples in Frankfurt am Main from 15 to 19 March 2011. The world’s leading trade fair for innovative bathroom design, sustainable sanitation solutions and eco-friendly building services engineering will be presenting visitors with the most important developments in the bathroom for 2011/12. One of them goes by the name of ‘Easy Bathroom: As simple as it gets’ and describes the trend towards a universal bathroom concept.
Categories like standard, set styles, designer or disabled-friendly bathrooms are becoming less relevant – firstly because people’s design expectations have risen enormously, even when it comes to standard solutions, and secondly because there is a growing need for ‘in-between’ bathrooms – solutions located somewhere between an original designer bathroom and a neutral standard solution, between ‘barrier-free’ and convenience. A straightforward, elegantly simple bathroom without too many ostentatious frills where it’s easy to feel good. But also a bathroom for the ‘in-between’ years, when its users want to enjoy the luxury they are able to afford at this point in their lives, equipped in such a way that it enables them to preserve their independence well into old age without constantly reminding them that they are getting older.
In view of this background, the bathroom sector is developing product lines and attractive design concepts for bathrooms that permit ‘unrestricted’ usage even beyond the customary construction standards – whilst nevertheless satisfying the highest aesthetic demands. At the same time, intuitive usage is just as important as an easily accessible wash basin, shower, toilet and bathtub. After all, technology is meant to make our lives easier, not more complicated.
Besides slip-resistant surfaces, level-access shower trays and sufficient freedom of movement, those planning or furnishing a bathroom only have to stick to a few simple rules to create a bathroom that satisfies the needs of as many people as possible and, if necessary, can be transformed into a senior-friendly or even disabled-friendly bathroom that conforms to all the usual standards. If they opt for a system of sturdy false wall elements that can with-stand the forces exerted by retrofitted grab handles, subsequent adaptations are no problem.
These days there’s no need for the bathroom to look like a rehabilitation facility either. In principle, the still-dominant trend towards minimalistic furnishings and XXL showers as well as the growing desire to integrate the bathroom with the living space are certainly compatible with an age-appropriate bathroom design. Wide glass doors for a level-access shower, some of which can be folded right back against the wall or seem to hover above the floor, are the perfect solution for a modern, loft-like bathroom in which, should the need arise, the user can manage all by himself – even in a wheelchair. And nowadays anybody that isn’t as steady on his feet as he used to be can choose from a wide range of neutrally designed solutions for vertically and horizontally fitted grab handles.
Rounded edges and slip-resistant flooring or tiles don’t just protect frail people from injury, they’re safer for children too. And everybody benefits from a low wash basin with plenty of storage surfaces: it’s perfect for applying make-up and makes it easier to perform daily hygiene routines or wash squirming toddlers. Even so, anybody planning their bathroom with an eye to the future should opt for a space-saving or concealed sink trap when fitting washbasin cabinets so that, if the need arises, they can be removed or repositioned in order to create space for the necessary leg room and seating. There are other useful details that the industry is already equipping the corresponding products with: grips or handles make it easier to pull things within easy reach when using a stool or wheelchair. And if the mirror is hung sufficiently low, it doesn’t need to be tilted in order for wheelchair users or children to see themselves in it. The industry is responding to older consumers’ safety and convenience needs with hygienic surfaces and product features such as shower toilets, heated fixtures or fittings equipped with safety lights.
More than anything else, however, an ‘easy’ bathroom is human. It is geared towards tolerating mistakes, doing some of the thinking for its users and conveying a sense of normality. That is why even the technology is at the service of its human users. It only helps as much as it is needed before disappearing from view again. Once the settings have been made, all that’s needed is a push of a button to activate individual programmes with complex sequences. But the buttons have to be big enough and installed low down. That way, dad isn’t the only one who can enjoy a customised wellness routine: granny and the kids can pamper themselves as well.