Spotlight Space #1: The Bathroom
A new series exploring the changes in individual hotel spaces, and what these shifts mean for designers, operators and suppliers alike.
Over the past decade, the bathroom space has been redefined. What was once a room for ablutions and flying visits is now a sanctuary. Both form and function have evolved to express meditative lifestyle and wellness values, whilst the infusion of technology has seen bathrooms become a place to truly tune into one’s body. Closer now to luxury spas, contemporary bathrooms generate a sensory experience unlike any other room in house or hotel.
This shift has not occurred under any one specific aesthetic, as both minimal modernist and classic fixtures have found room to grow. The former looks to futuristic and technology-enhanced styles for increasingly medicinal purpose, whilst the latter recalls the opulence of palatial baths and Victoria era elegance to channel a sense of private decadence.
At HIX 2022, Europe’s leading brands will showcase their latest collections, representing the best in sanitaryware, fixtures, showers, tubs, installation systems and more. In this issue of Spotlight Space we’ll take a look at how these manufacturers and designers are transforming the bathroom space and what it means for the hotel experience.
Following the health anxieties of COVID guests are more acutely attuned to their bodies than ever before, and a wave of technology is set to allow a greater degree of physical and mental personalisation. Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet (cover picture) has the capacity to alter everything from seat temperature and air freshening to ambient light and music, all controlled from a dedicated app and digital interface, whilst Roca’s smart products have been designed to ensure easy use across multiple family generations whilst offering a more hygienic cleaning process.
At the same time, medical facilities from boutique opticians to hospitals have started to channel the experiential values of hospitality in a bid to increase guest satisfaction, and this exchange will mean advanced medical technology moving the other way. Indeed, a google project from 2020 that envisioned a future bathroom space incorporated wearable health monitoring devices along with noninvasive fixtures like colour-monitoring mirrors and a weight-scale mat.
At a time of both environmental turbulence and a cost of living crisis, operating sustainably is a powerful driver of both sales and cultural resonance. Whether this is helping users reduce their water waste or creating entirely new material composites that last longer and send less to the landfill, a drive for greener supply chains has resulted in bathrooms that actively work to reduce the stresses of life beyond the body.
Grohe’s Sense water security system can be used to monitor usage and limit damage in case of a leak, ensuring developers and guests alike that the room is in good shape, whilst on a larger scale Hansgrohe’s strategy will see all international locations operating carbon neutrally by the end of 2022. Both promote a guilt and worry free experience and furthers the idea of the bathroom being a sanctuary away from the worries of modern living.
At Milan Design Week 2022, Laufen showcased a vision of bathrooms to come with a special installation titled ‘The Shape of Things’. Comprising a showcase of the classic IlbagnoAlessi range reimagined within digital spatial environments by Snohetta, an iconic collection from the past was infused with a sense of the futuristic. In the reverse, the brand’s 2021 Lua range was set amidst Rome’s Casa Albero for a series of product photographs, placing a contemporary collection amidst a staple of retro 1960s brutalism. Fusing elements of new and old, the next great shift in the bathroom sector will be the end of rigid boundaries between classic and modern; Indeed, no longer does ‘minimal’ strictly mean modernist, and the days of ornate taps belonging exclusively to historically-inclined design sensibilities are numbered.
The result will be a more familiar and less clinical hotel bathroom space, as the uniformity of single styles gives way to more organic and personal aesthetics. This follows the rise of imperfect wabi-sabi styles throughout the 2010s that remind the user of a human element in these increasingly immaculate pieces. As a tide of technology runs the risk of alienating guests with sterilised setting, this is perhaps the easiest way to balance the scales.
: This time it’s personal
Hotel bathrooms must serve the many whilst remaining intimate. Allowing guests to customise elements like colour, light and scent can help them take ownership of the space.
: A Wealth of Health
Following an influx of technology, hotel bathrooms will soon be able to monitor elements of physical health, but guests may not immediately take to such procedures. Non-invasive monitoring features contained within existing bathroom components like mats and mirrors will take the edge off.
: Clean Freaks
Self-cleaning fixtures and bacteria resistant materials are becoming more commonplace and affordable. For guests that have just lived through a pandemic, this extra level of reassurance will help transform a space into a sanctuary.
: Remember the Name
Bathroom amenities are some of the most regularly stolen hotel items. Use this to your advantage by creating a line of hotel-branded shampoos, conditioners and travel-size gels and stay fresh in the mind of guests as they take your products along to competing properties.