Bathrooms are a direct reflection of current lifestyles, and as aspects of human living evolve so will bathroom spaces and sensibilities.

Today’s trend is towards being clutter free: Large open-plan shower areas and wet room style layouts with wall hung sanitaryware and furniture. The future will provide multiple devices using invisible technology; offering luxury, convenience and style seamlessly integrated into our surroundings. So, discounting far-fetched fantasy, bathing areas of the future will involve several essential and very real factors: sustainability, technology and intelligent design; all key in bathroom innovation.

Key opinions from those in the know reflect what will characterise the bathroom of the future?

‘It’s become increasingly apparent that the bathroom serves as a space where people retreat to recharge through the incorporation of self-care rituals that assist in health and stress management. This trend has contributed to bathrooms being transformed into sanctuaries.

‘With that in mind this is an interior where a lot of waste can occur among users who are more aware of their impact on the environment, and I believe it will increasingly take more than good looks to keep them happy. The bathroom of the future will be all about technology, sustainability and good design, a hallmark of which will be the form and function of items that are in tune with the environment – and the user.’ Dessie Nikolova from DISTINCT Collection, official distributors of BETTE Baths.

Karen Robyn of Duravit SA says: ‘Heightened emotions contrast with state-of-the-art technology, soft forms meet geometric contours. New trends in surfaces, colours and materials round off the doctrine of holistic, individually designed bathrooms of unique quality. Wherever state-of-the-art, comfort-enhancing technologies are used, they’re always invisibly integrated and define the future of designer bathrooms.’

‘We’ll see soft organic forms that contrast with strong geometric designs that are reminiscent of post-industrial elegance. The details are sophisticated with interesting combinations of materials,’ adds Lynne Mausenbaum from Linea Brigio.

‘An increasing number of digital functions manage almost every aspect of life in 2019, using smart technology. With the increasing popularity of smart homes, a smart bathroom is a given, which offers smart living and more relaxation. One such innovation is RainTunes by Hansgrohe, which will provide the ability to control multi-sensory shower scenarios via an app. Amazingly, users will be able to touch, see, hear and smell these scenarios, transforming showering into a personal attraction,’ so says Shazeen Jooma of Classic Trading.

‘Depending on the programme, the user will see set sequences of images on a video screen. Acoustic soundscapes play in harmony with the respective choreographed water. Users can select one of these preconfigured scenarios at the touch of a button.’

Ronelle Badenhorst of Kohler: ‘Indeed advances in bathroom technology are very exciting and we’re seeing bathrooms of the future emerging at this very moment. The quintessential hi-tech bathroom merges conventional bathroom activities with technology, but in a seamless and stylish way that enhances the user’s experience. It’s about transforming and personalising all the aspects of the bathroom experience, either at the touch of button or through voice activation.’

With growing worldwide urbanisation – and South Africa’s major centres are a case in point – there is ever increasing focus on developing eco-friendly products and solutions. Resources such as water, electricity and waste management are of vital concern to government agencies and businesses. In order to compete – not just economically but with a view to addressing environmental concerns and sustainability; companies and municipalities need to consider smart technologies and eco design. Such anticipation will affect the design of bathroom fixtures and hardware and in particular, highlight the importance of efficiency and sustainability.

Sustainability and eco issues very obviously remain vital with regard to water usage and flow control. What is the latest in R&D?

The gradual diminishing of natural resources has necessitated a serious overview of how energy and water is used to best effect. And environmentally friendly options that minimise risk and achieve a high level of efficiency will be top of the list. Hot water will be used only when necessary, together with innovations such as eco cartridges and water flow rate limiters. The result? Up to 50 percent less water and energy usage.

Ronelle Badenhorst: ‘We’re very aware of water conservation given SA’s water-strained environment. Showers and taps are the most obvious area of focus and effective measures can easily be adopted just by changing the shower fitting or taps – it’s an inexpensive undertaking.’

Kohler’s anti-drip technology, a first in SA, reduces water wastage. The self-levelling ball joint reduces water dripping from the showerhead by up to 80 percent when closed. The increased number of nozzles also means a better showering experience. There’s more: Katalyst® is air-induction technology for showerheads that infuses two litres of air per minute into the water droplets, making them larger and warmer for a more luxurious shower experience, while saving on water consumption.

Shazeen Jooma: ‘Sustainability and eco issues have been at the forefront of innovation over the past few years. There are various water saving and eco-friendly taps and overhead showers available, which can reduce water consumption by up to 60 percent. Fortunately, water saving taps and showers are of high quality and remain affordable for the end user.’

Lynne Mausebaum: ‘Tapware is now eco conscious with basin mixer flow rates reduced down to minimum. PowderRain is based on technology featuring micro-sized droplet jets. The individual jets have six fine apertures (instead of just one), which repeatedly divide up the jet. This makes it much more delicate than a conventional shower jet. Thousands of ultra-fine droplets envelop the body, over a large area. And PowderRain saves up to 20 percent of water and energy.’

‘Ecological consciousness is growing and with it the solutions. There’s a wide variety of water saving products – many of which are GROHE – that include the Ecojoy, which is systematically designed to save water and energy. There are products equipped with water saving technologies that offer the perfect water experience. This highly innovative technology reduces water consumption by up to 50 percent without compromising on performance. Less water. Perfect flow,’ so says Michelle Lowe of Lixil Africa.

Bathe Space

Australian interior designer Barry du Bois thinks out of the bathroom box: ‘It’s within the wet areas that we see a huge variance in the relationships between humans and the built space. The bathroom has a different dynamic for everyone, even as some examples become larger and more incorporated with bedrooms.

‘Undoubtedly, technology is ever changing, and with it automation in all areas of the home, including wet areas and bathrooms. Yet in taking a closer look at functionality, I feel the big steps into the future might be more from the past than the electronic and digital wizardry of automation. The great Greek, Roman and Turkish bath houses were open and spacious, designed for greater air circulation, and generally bathed in natural sunlight – as communal spaces where hours could be spent. Today, the wet areas and intimate zones in our homes invite greater use of the environment, especially the sun. Notable advancements in glass and translucent PVC panels now offer the opportunity to light a space naturally and use this great source of vitamin D to advantage.

‘I feel automation will be more about allowing us to do more with the natural environment than control of the mechanical. Bathrooms and wet rooms might once again become a source of health, as well as freedom.’

Yet, bathrooms of the future should be further guided by advanced technology, already existing in the latest operating systems, and which will offer interactive experiences. They will cater to the specific needs of individual family members, including: customised temperature control of the interior space, mood music, the lighting plan and adjustable basin heights. Moreover, multi-screen displays will introduce an interactive experience.

Design-wise, such a bathroom could manifest as an integrated, complex expression of a single unique idea, constructed and installed in one piece in an available space. Surfacing materials, fixtures and fittings will  be designed to coordinate as a uniform collection, some being digitally responsive.

Karen Robyn: ‘Invisible comfort enhancing and intuitive-to-use technology at the fingertip is the latest trend. Examples: the new shower toilet SensoWash Starck f and the D.1 faucet from Mattheo Thun Duravit.’

Duravit and Philippe Starck present a new shower-toilet generation, with two versions available: SensoWash® Starck f Plus and SensoWash® Starck f Lite. Convenient to operate via a remote control, it’s freely configurable via an app and is of minimalist design with maximum shower-toilet comfort. All components have been subjected to further technological development and configured so that the technology is now located entirely within the ceramic body. All that is visible externally is a flat seat with a height of 40mm. The seat and the white cover located behind it form a harmonious unit.

This futuristic bathroom is going to automatically recognise its users and set up equipment, water and shower modes for each family member, such as basin placement and height, which will automatically adjust to the individual for optimal convenience. Such advances in technology will heighten the bathroom’s role as a place of refuge and escape from life’s daily rigours. The role of technology will improve the human emotional state and can even involve colour, perfume, sound and virtual reality in achieving this, as described previously.

So, the smart system within the bathroom could range from wall mounted touch pads and personal phones to control radiant heat, steam showers, showerhead pressure per user, window coverings, sound and lighting. Add possibly various features of luxury toilets: hi-tech self-sanitising bowls with self-closing lids, and bidets with programmable temperature controls.

The paramount factor will remain efficiency, making bathroom lifestyle easier and more enjoyable. Who wouldn’t want their bathroom floor to warm up 30 minutes before they get out of bed on a cold morning?

Finishes and styles may change through the coming decades, but use and function will continue to evolve. But there will always be a demand for traditional bathrooms, which is why they’re still regarded as classic. Further, the application of finishes can make a bathroom interior feel more contemporary, while still retaining a timeless feel; undoubtedly water saving strategies will be an ongoing fact of life.

Bathrooms demand a combination of aesthetics and luxury in their design and décor. What will 2019 / ‘20 reveal?

‘A spa-like sanctuary where people recharge with the bathroom being incorporated increasingly into open concept bedroom suites,’ says Dessie Nikolova. ‘It means that this is not a separate closed-off space anymore, but rather a seamless extension. This necessitates a revision of the way some of the functional aspects are handled. Key features include: concealed drains, appealing sanware, floor to ceiling glass shower panels, floating vanities and seating. Gone are the days of the traditional tiled bathroom; make way for the use of natural textures, organic materials – such as wooden floors, stone, leather, tinted glass – and lots of daylight and plants.’

Yet, the bathrooms of the future will likely continue the trend of super linearity, this for aesthetic and practical purposes because not having to clean fussy taps, bevelled edges and hard to reach crannies is a plus factor. It’s a proven direction for modern bathroom design and yet such clean lines don’t have to equate to a cold and clinical ambiance. This simplicity and function of fixtures and hardware can be intermingled in all types of design styles.

However, curves and natural forms are indeed making a comeback. Sculpted vanity tops and even dividing walls within the bathroom can create interesting shapes, while increased allocation of bathroom space places more importance on the role of this unique interior. Luxurious chairs and built-in seating may allow users to linger longer in the bathroom, and if there is more space, so will the number and size of the windows introducing added natural light.

Larusha Pienaar of bathroom supplier Macneil lists renovation priorities – and champions black: ‘For me, the design target is a bathroom that reveals classic and coordinating colours, clean lines and timeless features. Older more refined examples can be modernised with the all-encompassing Bijiou collection and currently black is highly popular in a wide range of products: freestanding baths, slim-line basins and complementary taps.

‘The combination of matt black and chrome for taps and accessories is matched to baths of exceptional quality; in complete acrylic, which makes the bath thinner, lighter and visually more alluring. Coordinating sanitaryware collections are stain-resistant and resilient to micro-organism and bacterial growth, providing for easy care and maintenance.

‘Why choose black for your bathroom design? Besides adding dramatic flair, the ambiance it evokes is beneficial in creating an opulent space in which to unwind; black is the ultimate contrast to bright white traditional sanitaryware. So, with a commitment to go black, it’s all about how much black is preferred, and what the budget for improvement will allow.’

There are interesting developments in vanities and surface finishes. Says Mar Esteve Cortes of Neolith: ‘Informed homeowners are selecting the darker, inkier tones found in igneous rock – such as basalt and soapstone effects. Natural detailing within these ancient stones includes complex, swirling, deep grains and organic continuous patterns, which means that no two projects will look the same. The old adage that opposites attract applies even in the bathroom, where dark materials are being used to create striking statements in otherwise light, airy settings.

‘We’re also noting an increase in the use of wood effects in a variety of materials that mimic timber, which adds more natural organic quality. The unpredictable, knotted grain of wood is versatile, yet able to evoke a rustic atmosphere, or combine sympathetically with dissimilar patterns for an arresting result.’

Steve Joubert of Stiles comments on tapware and tiles: ‘O’Rama by Newform is the re-interpretation of simplicity as a means of expression. An elegant and discreet design, with minimal and simplified forms, makes this an iconic tap that consists of a compact body and lever that characterises the product; a mixer illustrating harmonious lines that’s easy to use. The O’Rama range is both extremely stylish and versatile and thus suited to bathrooms both classic and contemporary, which makes it very appealing to interior designers.’

For tiled surfaces he adds: ‘Create a classic bathroom with selections that add value and are durable, such as the Uniquestone bathroom tile collection, inspired by the aesthetics of different stones, granites and marbles, skillfully mixed together. It’s available in three colour options: nite, titanium and silver tiles that will create a bathroom with incredible style. The material surface is distinguished by well balanced graphic colouration and by a soft and uniform tonal background, which is very stable in its variability.’

‘With more compact living spaces increasing, new innovations to accommodate smaller bathrooms are emerging. Toilets made for compact bathrooms are now multifunctional with a toilet and sink combined; these units feature slim lines and edges, while providing all the functionality without compromising on design,’ so says Oren Sachs of WOMAG.

Nicole Russell of Italtile confirms this trend: ‘Small but modern bathrooms are more fashionable, with retro tiles of varying designs; the brick-like tile with a gloss surface is being specified more. A different looking tile on the shower floor adds a spatial impression and an elegant option that retains popularity is the stone pebble tile. Certain elements within stone manage to turn a normal bathroom into a more contemporary interior.’

Michelle Lowe of Lixil Africa feels that freestanding sanitaryware is the way forward: ‘Freestanding showers, freestanding basins and / or freestanding bath mixers can add the extra wow factor but ensure that the piping installation is able to allow for these solutions. Sanitaryware-wise, the shower toilet option is growing in popularity annually. The GROHE Sensia® Arena offers innovative functions tailored to individual needs and a new standard of personal hygiene.’

Despite changes, some bathing items remain classics and one such is the appealing, freestanding bathtub. Holding centre stage, despite a variety of burgeoning contemporary advances, it retains its charm and continues to destress users with warm soaks. And it can create focus in bathing areas with a variety of elegant profiles.

Bathrooms are becoming an individualised interior for a family or single user, matching moods, personality, preferences, and perhaps even reaching synchronicity with health needs. They can serve as havens of relaxation and convenience, while also taking better care of ablutions and other bathroom routines.

Amidst this finely detailed setting is automation: unobtrusive, quietly hidden, doing its job with discretion, yet contributing to the bathroom’s overall ambiance. Rather than being hidden in a dark corner, today’s bathe space is trendy and tranquil. The result being an interior of personalised luxury in synergy with technology; the very essence of the future.


cover image: Duravit SA

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