INTERIORS – The latest trends in bathroom design by Barbara Chandler

Dröm UK

GESSI – From the exclusive Gessi iSpa range including: Ceiling-mounted showerhead 220×220; Waterfall spout with lighting (also available without lighting); Antilimestone hand shower with white insert; Lateral body jet or toe teaser; Thermostatic high flow shower valve. Contract Dröm UK, specialist in the design, supply and installation of luxurious saunas, steam rooms, feature showers and wet rooms of supreme quality. Dröm UK 01932 355655 www.dromuk.com

Article from FOCUS Magazine – Summer 13 issue.

Today’s bathroom fixtures and fittings are undeniably lovely, writes Barbara Chandler – but choosing is tricky when there is so much on the market. You may be starting a bathroom from scratch, or planning to “refresh” the one you already have. Your aim may be an over-worked family room for the hurly burly of every day… or a private and adult en suite. But, as always, it pays to go to a specialist bathroom supplier, who can translate your wishes – and dreams – into a functional and attractive room.

Visit several showrooms in your area, choosing those with good displays of several brands, and ask about the qualifications and expertise of their designers. Personal recommendation is, of course, one very sound way to find a good bathroom specialist, so ask around. Bathroom specialists – unlike kitchen ones – are unlikely to offer a fitting service, but will probably “recommend” installers. You should find and consult a competent plumber/ installer at an early stage, who can advise on water supply, pressure and heating plus drainage and waste – not very glamorous perhaps, but the engine of any scheme. Use a plumber that is a member of a relevant trade association, and who is, if possible, from your own area. He will be familiar with crucial factors like local water pressure, water hardness and water board regulations. Ask for references.

Bathroom technology has truly come of age with remote-controlled showers and touch-sensitive taps, colourful LEDs, wireless music, luxurious steam rooms, and water-proof remote controlled TVs. Lighting can be very flexible, and easily changed from functional to atmospheric.

More traditional furnishings such as carpets, chairs and mirrors add an individual touch. You may well, therefore, need to involve extra “trades” – such as an electrician, floor layer, tiler, painter, and so on. You will need to build the time and cost of these into your project plans.

Drom UK, who have recently revamped their showroom in Byfleet, are a good example of the advantage of shopping from bespoke specialists. Established for over ten years, and with many glowing testimonials from satisfied clients, they design, supply and instal saunas, steam rooms, steam showers and wetrooms. These luxurious elements of today’s bathrooms (so dependent on modern technologies) are very difficult to get exactly right. Wetrooms are notoriously prone to leaks unless fitted properly, and saunas and steam rooms will be unpleasant and possibly dangerous unless designed and fitted by experts. Drom’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic team work with leading architects, designers and developers, plus individual home-owners. Call 01932 355 655; www.dromuk.com

Mandarin Stone

MS – Mandarin Stone offer a bespoke service for those searching for something a little out of the ordinary in natural stone. Stocking a huge range of pre-cut, raw slabs of stone, literally anything can be fabricated from steps and pool copings to intricate bath surrounds, vanity units, staircases and worktops.
Above Calacatta Viola Polished Marble 610x305x12mm £89.98 per sqm. Contact Mandarin Stone: Weybridge 01932 849642; Marlow 01628 485015 www.mandarinstone.com

Clean and sleek Choosing sanitary-ware, surfaces, showers and taps is complicated by the plethora of designs and materials on the market, offered by a vast number of brands, scattered around a multiplicity of showrooms. Each brand has their own names and trademarks for a raft of special features, from easy-clean finishes to composite materials and innovatory shower heads and taps. This makes it very difficult to compare like with like. So here is a compendium of 2013 news from some of the better-known makes.

“The look for bathrooms 2013 is clean and light,” says Duravit, a well-known German label. They call it “reduced design”. And this sleeker more streamlined look is apparent in many designs from other makers, many of whom offer similar advanced features.

Duravit offer special easy-clean finishes for ceramic basins plus toilets and taps, which cuts down bathroom maintenance. A new rimless WC offers innovative “dynamic flushing” for optimum hygiene.

New materials include robust composites for baths. Real wood veneers are popular for furniture, including walnut, oak or chestnut. Also find finishes with a new linen look that feels natural. Technical highlights include a sound system that is invisibly integrated into a mirrored cabinet, bringing first-class audio into the bathroom. This can be easily controlled with any Bluetooth-compatible device (www.duravit.co.uk).

For the ultimate in personal hygiene, buy a “shower-toilet,” which will give you a gentle wash (and hot-air dry) whilst still sitting on the loo. Brands include Japanese Toto, whose “washlets” pioneered this agreeable design idea (eu.toto.com). The “washlet” has become their signature product. Duravit do the SensoWash which is a similar idea.

Kaldewei is another German brand, famous for its enamelled steel baths and shower trays, with a thick and robust enamel coating, which will not stain. Now comes a new process for applying pattern to the enamelled surface, with a subtle lily design available for baths and showers (www.kaldewei.com).

Cool ceramics On the other hand, the international reputation of Villeroy & Boch (German again) rests on its ceramic expertise. Founded in 1748, and based at a point where France, Germany and Luxembourg converge, the company now has 15 factories/workshops in Europe, Mexico and Thailand, making tableware, tiles and, of course, bathroom fittings. They launched two new ranges at the recent bathroom trade fair ISH in Frankfurt.

Sebastian Conran, eldest son of Sir Terence, and a distinguished product designer, has updated the popular Aveo range he created for Villeroy & Boch around ten years ago, keeping the distinctive oval or egg-shaped forms that gave the range its name, but making its range sleeker and adding smart furniture/storage. “There is nothing that people have created that can’t be improved,” – Sebastian says, with typical directness (www.villeroy-boch.co.uk).

The basin, though reduced in height, still includes a generous bowl, perfect for British bathrooms which tend to be smaller than those on the continent. The three toilets in the range have been updated with thinner, contoured seats.

Also new is Villeroy & Boch’s Joyce collection with its elegant slim-line look, combined with coloured furniture and accessories. New furniture has curved fronts and no handles, with divided storage that is compact and space-efficient. Choose the warmth of high-quality real wood styles in light or dark oak, or go for a modern glossy white. Completing the collection is the iconic egg-shaped bath that in 2003 was the first of its kind. Now it has been made all in one piece, with no rim and appearing seamless. Crafted from Villeroy & Boch’s innovative material Quaryl (a unique mix of quartz sand and acrylic), the bath is hardwearing and easy to clean.

Innovations from Villeroy & Boch include a new easy way of fixing to walls. Loos have “soft-closing” seats which are “quick release” so you can whip them off for cleaning.

Indeed, ceramic materials still feature strongly in the bathroom industry, though resins and composites have become popular for baths, which are, of course, also made from enamelled pressed steel and the uber-trad cast iron. London’s Robin Levien is one of Britain’s most distinguished ceramic designers, and has been designing for Ideal Standard, a leading British bathroom brand, for over 25 years. His particular genius is designing for small spaces – he invented the corner loo, washbasin and shower in the 1980s, as part of his ground-breaking range called – appropriately – Space.

Space savers Now comes a completely new collection from Ideal Standard – Concept Space, with ceramics, baths, and storage. Wall-mounted or pedestal basins (which can also be used with furniture) have a short 380mm “projection” compared to 480mm for a regular size. “Guest” basins are even slimmer at 450mm. Loos and bidets are equally compact. The range also includes unique square baths and shower baths. “Furniture” is now an important element of many bathrooms, and Concept Space includes wall-hung and free-standing storage units in a wide range of sizes, which can be combined to create a sophisticated and contemporary look. These come in a choice of six finishes and they too are super slim.

Shower power Since 1971, “made in Britain” Matki has had a reputation for innovative shower technology and design. Matki products (including shower doors and surrounds, shower trays, and solid brassware) are hand-assembled from quality materials. Advanced technologies include the sophisticated thermostatic valve developed by Swadling (a Matki Company) to give accurate temperatures/high flow rate. “Dual control” mixers can govern flow and temperature of water from both inside and outside the shower. Minimal framing combines their hallmark ultra-modern “seamless look” with a high-performance water seal. Latest model is the EauZone Plus shower enclosure, ideal for larger bathrooms. With minimal framing, the chrome plated, solid brass hinges work cleverly to support the high quality 10mm solid safety glass panels for a perfect closure time and again. This fitting is available in a vast number of standard sizes and can be bespoke (www.matki.co.uk).

Plastic fantastic Another British brand, Merlyn, is offering extra-spacious shower enclosures with higher doors, lower trays and wider doors. “Not surprising,” they say, “when we learn that on average we are getting taller at a rate of a centimetre each decade.” To put that in context, 18-year-old boys today are an inch-and-a-half taller than they were in 1970. The new “hinge door” design has four glass panels, with a tray size of up to 1900mm and a height of 2013mm. A patented Mershield StayClear protective coating keeps the toughened glass cleaner and shinier for longer. The fittings are finished in polished true chrome; www.merlyn-showering.com.

Also at the ISH trade fair was a design collaboration between Swiss ceramic masters Laufen and Italian kings of plastic, Kartell. The “Kartell by Laufen” collection is made ethereal with sheets of translucent plastic in colours that include black, red, and grey plus translucent, used for bathroom furniture, accessories and screens. Sanitaryware is in ceramic in white and/or black, with a new formula that enables shapes that are ultra-thin and beautifully curvaceous (www.uk.laufen.com)

Unashamed luxury Bathrooms International has been famous internationally for up-market bathroom design for over 35 years, creating a loyal clientele of discerning home owners, interior designers, architects, hoteliers and developers. Luxury yachts are a speciality. At the company’s exclusive showroom in Pont Street, SW1, you can browse a series of inspirational room-settings by celebrity designers such as Nina Campbell and Tessa Kennedy. A new range of taps – the Pétale Collection – is a good example of the company’s exclusive accessories. Manufactured by master tap manufacturer THG, the design is inspired by lotus flowers and studied with crystals by Baccarat, whose company was founded in 1764, by appointment of King Louis XV. Sleek and elegant, these taps come in any metal finish, including chrome, gold, nickel, bronze, copper and brass. Colours include clear crystal with a rich gold trim, or a regal blue, a stunning red, or a modern black (www.bathrooms int.com; 020 8202 8288).

Décor tips By contrast, and particularly suited to a tight budget, www.bathrooms.com was founded in 2004, relaunching in 2013 with a new website, new products created in-house, and a self-professed mission to “democratise” quality fittings, whilst providing design inspiration, plus planning advice and practical tips. “Think of your bathroom as a room to decorate rather than equip,” says Lucy Powell, buying director. “Your fixtures and fittings may be white but your bathroom certainly doesn’t have to be bland.” (www.bathrooms.com)

”Decorate your bathroom as you would any other room,” continues Lucy, who herself is full of creative ideas. “Think pattern, colour, striking wall art, texture, stone, mirror and glass. New photographic wallpapers mimic brick, concrete, wood, and more, Or go for a made-to-order wallpaper mural, the latest way to create a ‘statement wall’ as the perfect back- drop for, say, a dramatic freestanding bath and filler tap.

She continues: “The bathroom is even a great place to store your vintage finds. Overmantle mirrors look great in the bathroom and will bounce light around the room. You can also use old decanters to display bubble bath or pretty china bowls for mini-soaps.”