Bathrooms and kitchens are now at the forefront of interior architecture, as these once solely functional rooms are becoming increasingly fashion-led. The hospitality trade now recognises that carefully conceived and stylishly specified bathroom areas can improve the experience of restaurant, bar and hotel clientele, and the designs can now be used as a unique selling point to attract custom. This trend has filtered into residential design, as consumers look to the bathroom and kitchen schemes to differentiate between their chosen dwellings.
Room to relax Whether it's for a one-off home or apartment development, the concurrent theme running through residential bathroom design is to create an area of relaxation.
No longer an area reserved for personal cleansing, the bathroom must now also fulfil the functions of a haven, a sanctuary to escape the pressures of the outside world.
This demand for a spa-like experience has maintained the Minimalist movement in product design, with strong, geometric silhouettes presenting the design language for sanitaryware and brassware.
From classroom to bathroom Squared shapes, combined with linear lines and circular forms, are the base for the latest looks in suites and taps. This minimalist look can be reflected in rectangular basins from Alape with its WT.RL basin, created by architect Jahn Lykouria, and from Duravit with its Happy D sanitaryware range. Cubic forms are carried through to brassware with the latest offering from WaterFront with its Kelly Hoppen brassware, and the circular and linear lines are also echoed in Alfiere brassware from Ideal Standard. But perhaps the greatest move in relaxation has been the growth of at-home hydrotherapy in spacious baths and showers.
Luxury bathing For homes where bathroom space is not at a premium, architects can look to including the latest in whirlpool and spa baths.
Embracing the trend is the Philippe Starckdesigned range of baths by Duravit, measuring a spacious 1,800 x 800mm, and the Trevi Hydro Yin Yang E bath, created for two bathers. But arguably the greatest trend impacting on the look of the bathroom has been the growth in showering. No longer content with a single showerhead above the bath, consumers are increasingly seeking an all-over bathing experience with deluge spray and body jets.
Spacious showering Inspired by the continent, and alongside the increased use of combi boilers, has come the growth in high-pressure showering with multijets. Architects can select from allencompassing cabins, such as the Evolution from Teuco, or pre-plumbed columns from the likes of Roca, Hansgrohe and Grohe. Along with this demand for powerful showers has come the demand for larger showering areas.
The 750 x 750mm enclosure has now been succeeded, in all but new-build starter home developments, by 900mm models as the standard size. To promote the sensations of open bathing areas, architects should continue to seek models with plain glass and minimal chrome enclosure profiles or, preferably, frameless designs.
And bathroom designers are increasingly seeking larger models for spaciousness.
Mirroring this trend is the plethora of large-enclosure walk-in products, such as the Colossus from Roman, which has been designed to replace the bath, or the Walkin enclosure, complete with drying area and integral shower column, from Merlyn Showers. However, the ultimate in minimal showering experiences is the surround-less enclosure or wet room.
Wonderful wet rooms Already established in mainland Europe, the trend for wet-room design has now filtered into the UK market. Unlike continental housing, which tends to have concrete flooring, UK bathrooms are constructed with wooden floorboards, making the task of waterproofing more difficult. Roman has recently teamed up with Dutch manufacturer Alfix to provide tanking and screed materials for creating a wet room, but designers must be conscious of creating suitable gradients for adequate water drainage.
For ease of installation, suppliers are now launching preformed floors with integral slopes. Impey and On the Level both offer manufactured shower floors, which can be used on timber, screed and floating floors. Once tanked, On the Level shower floors can be shaped and fitted on site. They are available in sizes from 800 x 800mm to 1,800 x 1,800mm.
Creating a living space Perhaps the greatest development in bathrooms has come, not through the development of bathing product design, but in the development of the room as a living space. As a result, demand for storage has grown and this is where the kitchen and the bathroom are intrinsically linked, for trends that have already appeared in the kitchen are now being presented in the bathroom as the latest looks.
Modular furniture featuring light woods and high gloss is available through the likes of Symphony with its Tahiti collection and Tretzo, which has recently launched its sixes and zeros free-standing models into the British market.
Integrating rooms If bathrooms are following the trends for kitchens, what does that mean for the future design of the cooking areas of the home?
Like the bathroom, the kitchen must fulfil a number of functions. It is no longer just an area reserved for the preparation of food but is also an area of entertainment, for formal and informal dining.
As such, the kitchen is embracing the look of the living room, with fewer wall-towall units and more open-plan spacing.
Poggenpohl has created the Integration range of kitchen furniture, which combines the traditional lounge with the cooking area. Fresh from the kitchen catwalk is the move towards warmer woods, combined with vanilla gloss for an 'unfitted' look and horizontal grains, such as the Neos Camme furniture range from Rational.
Industry pundits now agree that the Minimalist movement is trending towards a more homely look, with an influx of classical designs.
Far from the traditional fashions of the 1980s, with barley-twist pilasters and complex, detailed cornicing, the kitchen is taking on a classical appearance with a contemporary twist.
Built-in simplicity Because they help to maintain the simplicity of the room as a living space, trendspotters agree that builtin appliances will continue growth, with many being integrated or concealed behind decor doors. And for top-end residential properties, the number of appliances in the kitchen will increase, with niche offerings, such as built-in coffee machines or wine coolers, hot on the wish list for discerning consumers. Miele, Westin and Hotpoint are among the many manufacturers to offer coffee-shop clientele a dedicated appliance and, for those a little more daring with their drinks, American manufacturer U-Line is among the companies that provide dedicated wine coolers.
Focus on cooking However, a continuing trend will be for consumers to select a focus appliance to breathe a statement into the combined cooking and eating area. This may be in the form of a hood to complement a flush-fitted hob, such as the Kuppersbusch KD955.0 chimney hood, or the soon-tobe-launched Italian Falmec designs, from Euroline Sales & Marketing. Range cooking will continue to grow in popularity, with the fashion towards industrial-style designs.
Smeg has employed the talents of architects to create the Piano and Canali cookers, while Seymour Powell collaborated with Mercury to design the Mercury range cooker, which boasts a commercial style.
Commercial designs Industrial styling is also reflected in the design of kitchen brassware, with the most recent trend being towards spray taps. The Nexus brand from Astracast features Quadratto, a cubic-style spiral tap, alongside the Flexi Spiral from Butler, which enables consumers to rinse pots prior to putting them in the dishwasher. These satisfy the latest trend for the workstation sink. No longer reserved for dirty dishes, the sink must now allow the user to wash, drain and prepare food. One of the best examples of this trend is the Waterstation sink by Rieber.
Certainly, bathroom and kitchens will grow in significance in interior design, as these rooms become more important in architecture with the need for them to perform multiple functions. With the continuing diversification, design evolution will also continue. So ensure you don't neglect the planning and specification of these living spaces.