Philippa Turrell says Spring seems to have sprung for the bathroom industry
If there’s one thing Germany does well, aside from pork in various guises, the Bundesliga, beer and techno music, then it’s got to be trade kitchen and bathroom exhibitions. And ISH is one of the finest examples of these fairs. This globally-recognised bathroom show is where you are as likely to rub shoulders with acclaimed high street retailers, merchants and large DIY chains, as with manufacturers (both exhibitors and spectators alike). Why do all these people go? Because this is the one show which points out future design trends for the next two years.
Back to form
Naturally, the show was suppressed during the global economy crisis. And in 2013, when the industry was crawling out of the depths, then snow all but stopped play on day one. But what a transformation, this year. ISH was back to being wildly busy and had returned to its vibrant and entertaining form – and not just because of the on-stand mixologists, DJs and humourous mobile Hansgrohe hoardings outside Halls 3 and 4.
Although products were still focused on being very saleable, there had clearly been investment into research and development with new technologies in show – arguably lacking in 2013. Slim-line sanitaryware, rimless WCs and even a new type of flushing system from Ideal Standard were all displayed, and these were joined by electronic push-button showers, as well as sensor-controlled taps.
But in terms of design stories, going forwards, the traditional suite was all but redundant, as manufacturers launched collections allowing designers to mix and match to create individual projects. And joining ever-present white ceramics, colour was also starting to make an impact in sanitaryware with taupe, black and grey in matt finishes. While, for brassware, chrome was making way for copper or rose gold finishes, offering a contemporary alternative, but avoiding the return to gold.
Bigger bathroom picture
Interestingly, ISH also offered a wider picture of how the bathroom industry will take shape over forthcoming years, for visitors who looked beyond the hero products. Following its acquisition by Lixil, Grohe announced its intention to launch six sanitaryware collections matching its existing brassware, which will hit the UK in 2016. And although Geberit is yet to unveil its plans for Sanitec, again it could be a focus on becoming a one-stop supplier. So does that mean other manufacturing groups will start to follow suit, either by acquisition or by co-operation? Well, the jury is still out. But it’s not unlikely.
One thing is for sure; ISH demonstrated the industry is bouncing back with products, technology and choice – lots of choice – for bathroom designers, architects and specifiers. It’s great to see fun coming back to the fair.