Faucets and accessories are often left until last - but can inject much-needed character into a bathroom setting.
It's little secret that the bathroom is undergoing a radical transformation. As pointed out by Ivan Zupanovic, international sales and marketing manager of Laufen: "No other room has been upvalued like the bathroom over recent decades".
Formerly a utilitarian space serving a very specific purpose, the bathroom has evolved into a centre of wellness, where aesthetics and water efficiency are being skilfully balanced. "The bathroom wants and has to be redesigned - and this is not only a major challenge for architects and interior designers, but also for designers in the sanitary industry," commented Philippe Grohe, brand manager of Axor, Hansgrohe's ‘designer' brand, and grandson of company founder, Hans Grohe.
Out of character
Interestingly, when it comes to both aesthetics and sustainability, faucets and accessories can make a key contribution. And yet, selection of these elements is still often left until the last minute. "Mixers and accessories can transform a dull bathroom into a designer space. [They] can add class and style to a bathroom while retaining its functionality," said Calum Stewart, commercial director, Sanipex Group.
Accessories, in particular, are often subject to neglect. "Accessories don't play as decisive a role in a bathroom as the WC, washbasin or taps," said Thorsten Bies, regional manager, Villeroy & Boch Middle East - bathroom and wellness division. "They can be exchanged quickly and are usually easily installed by non-professionals as well. What speaks against the disregard of accessories is that fittings often come with matching accessories and furniture, so why neglect them? To have perfectly matching products in a bathroom does make for a well-designed room."
Faucets and accessories are fundamental to integrated bathroom design, agreed Zupanovic, who noted that this was a growing trend in the Middle East. "We see a trend towards integrated bathroom design. Every component - even the details - should fit perfectly."
Integrated bathroom design also offers logistical and economical benefits, explained Mohammed Nada, regional marketing manager for Kohler.
"Designers prefer to commit to one supplier for several reasons: logistics, payments and, most importantly, for the bathroom features to have a matching design. Kohler has been able to lead this area by supplying all ranges of products within the bathroom."
Nada agreed that mixers can inject real personality into a space that might otherwise come across as overly sterile. "Our Gold faucet, for example, is a great example of how a faucet can bring a bathroom to life," he said. "Its emphasis on warmer gold tones has proven to be popular in markets such as Asia and India, and has caught the attention of design insiders."
For Grohe, mixers deserve ‘a great deal of attention'. "The mixer is actually a jewel which can be used to distinguish both people and bathrooms. It expresses tastes and preferences and is one of the most touched objects in the home. And it brings the vital element of water into the bathroom. For this reason, it actually deserves a great deal of attention during the styling and planning of the bathroom," he noted.
Nonetheless, Hansgrohe has recognised that mixers are often a last-minute addition. "As we are familiar with practical requirements, we offer, for example, an all-round concealed solution in the form of the Hansgrohe iBox universal, which is intended for the flat mounting of multiple mixer technologies and designs, ranging from simple bathtub or shower models, via thermostats, to a complex shower system.
"This enables interior designers and planners to delay the selection of a bathroom collection until the last moment of the construction process," Grohe explained.
Moving in parallel
When it comes to aesthetics, there are a couple of parallel trends guiding the design of faucets and accessories. Minimalist lines are still popular, for example, but demand for more emotionally-charged designs is also on the rise."Trends in design do not have to replace each other or be mutually exclusive. Minimalism, for example, will continue to be a trend, while at the same time there is also a need for more sensuality and emotion," said Grohe.
Offering multi-optional, flexible solutions is also important. Kohler has launched Flipside, a multi-functional shower which rotates on its axis. Each of the four sides of the spray face offer a unique experience, ranging from Koverage, which offers a traditional, everyday shower with maximum water coverage, to Kotton, where a dense, soft, enveloping downpour promotes relaxation.
Meanwhile, Komotion offers a drenching spray with an exhilarating, circular pattern to refresh the senses, while Kurrent provides a focused and invigorating massage spray.
When it comes to trends, Sanipex is seeing demand for more fashion-led designs. "Another trend hitting the market is a more fashion-oriented style, where consumers are looking for de-signer styles. Sanipex has mixers with Swarovski crystals and tiles. Consumers feel that investing in Swarovski-studded mixers, silver and gold plated accessories, and tiles that are expensive is a good investment due to their durability, quality and style," Stewart said.
The company opened a new showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road on June 1, and is showcasing the latest collections from well-known brands such as Bati Bali, Bossini, Fantini, Zucchetti, Bertocci and GSI, as well as its own range of products, ‘Bagno Design'.
Some of the new products making an appearance in the showroom are The Yoko showerhead, an exclusive new product by Bossini; Faraway, a range of mixers, showers, accessories and baths from the merged Zucchetti and Kos; Notion by Vado; and The Bagno Mobili collection, a range of furniture, including counter tops, wall hung vanity units, vertical storage units and swivel mirrors.
Meanwhile, with its latest lines, Hansgrohe is attempting to reiterate the value of water. "We are working towards increasing the emotional experience of water. Product design is a very important instrument in making people aware that water is a valuable element.
"With the Axor Citterio Collection, for example, we very consciously have chosen flat surfaces and a defined, angular design - after all, even touching the mixer should not be done ‘thoughtlessly'. The design of the mixer thus embodies the value of water."
This is twinned with technology that actively reduces water useage. The aim, ultimately, is to promote water efficiency without impacting the design aesthetic. "It is becoming increasingly important to offer mixers and shower sprays that make better use of water. The great challenge here is to minimise water consumption while not sacrificing design, showering pleasure and comfort," Grohe confirmed.
Hansgrohe has introduced its EcoSmart and AirPower technology, which saves water through a dynamic flow restrictor. It also offers systems such as the Pontos AquaCycle, which allows water that has been used in showers or bathtubs to be reused for flushing toilets or watering gardens.
The emphasis has been on fine tuning technology to enhance water-saving capabilities. At this year's ISH, Villeroy & Boch launched a new water-saving solution that will be integrated into its tap fittings. "In the future, all washbasin tap fittings from Villeroy & Boch will be fitted with an air bubbler which will reduce water consumption by an average of 25%. And within the next three years we'll reduce the average water consumption of all taps sold by 30%, without losing any comfort," Bies said.
Kohler has responded to demand for water-saving products with its Wave technology, which works with user-controlled actuation and water delivery. Dornbracht has pledged that it will reduce the average water consumption of all its fittings sold by the end of the year by 25% and by 30% over the next three years.
And sustainable considerations will continue to shape the evolution of every aspect of the bathroom, Zupanovic predicted. "Most innovations will be seen in the ecological footprint of the bathroom. There will be sophisticated technical solutions that help people to save water and energy without losing comfort."For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.