Are luxury bathrooms still modelled on the world’s top hotels or are Instagram influencers taking over? We take a look at how designers can find inspiration and interpret this brief for all budgets
Luxury can be defined in many ways from expense, projects featuring opulent materials and exquisite detailing with an accompanying hefty pricetag, to the expanse of an impressive architectural space.
It can also be denoted by time for those who have few moments to spare in a day.
Sales and marketing director at JT John Schofield comments: “A luxury bathroom is a very subjective discussion and, depending on the individual, it could mean a number of different things.
“It could be space, it could be the latest technologies, it could be the choice of brand, it could be the cutting edge of design or it could be that it is decked from top to bottom in marble!”
But it could also be argued luxury is actually an experience. Senior category manager at Grohe UK Paul Bailey comments: “A luxury bathroom is about much more than the aesthetic but also the ambience and environment that the space creates for the owner.”
Unsurprisingly then, hotels that pride themselves on creating experiences have been the pinnacle of inspiration for bathroom projects with premium appeal.
However, the gap is now narrowing between hotel and home design. Creative director of Edwardian Hotel in London Rob Seul spoke at Clerkenwell Design Week stating: “Hotel and residential [bathroom] design is almost interchangeable”, and pointed out home projects were already better than standard, chain hotels.
His view is echoed by sales and marketing director of Holborn Bathrooms Michael Sammon who adds: “The world’s top hotels are still seen as inspiration for some of the most luxurious bathrooms in the world, but there’s stunning private properties out there that may outdo them when it comes to gorgeous bathrooms. While not widely accessible like hotels, glimpses are seen via social media.”
And the impact of social media for inspiration has also been recognised by sales and marketing director of Lakes Mike Tattam: “Social media platforms like Instragram are rapidly becoming a place for inspirational design and ideas.
“We are noticing an increasing number of posts where homeowners, installers and designers are sharing images of their bathroom refurb projects which are often carefully considered and completed to a high spec.”
The wealth of projects available at the touch of an App has also widened the concept of what constitutes a luxury bathroom.
The freestanding bath is very much in evidence, as Michael Sammon of Holborn Bathrooms states: “They are the epitome of luxury. Placing one in front of a large window or in the centre of the bathroom is any easy and guaranteed way to add grandeur.”
And now there are models that will fit in the most bejou of bathrooms. Managing director of The Albion Bath Co Phil Etherden comments: “There are several small freestanding baths on the market. Our Tubby range, for example, can create a luxury deep bathing experience in a compact space.”
And chairman of BC Designs Barrie Cutchie points out: “At BC Designs, several of our best-selling baths are available in smaller footprints of 1500mm so that design doesn’t have to be compromised and that the same luxurious look can be created on a smaller scale.”
But what may have been the sole marque of indulgence, has now been joined by large showering spaces, dual basins, colours and textures, as a search for #luxurybathrooms, #bathroomgoals or #dreambathrooms on Instagram will reveal.
Commercial director at Merlyn Barry Hoyne says: “One of the most popular ways to add a layer of luxury to your bathroom is by adding a beautifully designed large walk-in shower – even better if it is a double shower like our twin shower walls.”
And he adds for projects restricted in terms of budget or space: “luxury is still more than attainable it just requires a little more creativity. Infold shower doors are a great space-saving solution.”
Barrie Cutchie of BC Designs adds: “Every luxury bathroom needs a focal point that instantly hits you with awe when you walk in.”
However he points out: “This would either be a bath or shower, as they are bigger pieces within a bathroom.”
And head of marketing at Bette Sven Rensinghoff agrees pointing out: the choice of the products will depend on the client “but large shower areas with flush shower floors that co-ordinate with the rest of the flooring are popular in luxury bathrooms, as well as large statement baths, either freestanding or built-in.”
Neutral and natural
However, it could be argued that all luxurious bathrooms share similar requirements of décor to create an environment to create a calm, neutral space to enhance a feeling of wellbeing.
And for that inspiration has been sought from the natural world.
Director of Waters Baths of Ashbourne Lee Frost continues: “We are seeing a rise in the use or organic materials and earthy, nature inspired colour schemes, alongside a strong focus on wellness and relaxation. I anticipate this growing further into 2019 and beyond.”
And managing director of Daval Simon Bodsworth points out the materials used to create the biophilic-inspired bathrooms: “Rich, warm coloured woods are creating a coup in the bathroom this year and transform a bathroom from ordinary to extraordinary, bringing a touch of luxury right away.”
And Phil Etherton looks to natural stone and metals, adding “Think along the lines of marble, cast iron and burnished metals. Many of these traditional materials also have modern alternatives, such as composites, which look just like the real thing but eliminate many of the disadvantages found with the originals.”
While warmth can also be brought into the bathroom by the choice of brassware finish, which when colour-matched across hoses and wastes can add the finishing touches associated with luxury.
Paul Bailey of Grohe comments: “To complement the bathroom landscape, consider an alternative to chrome when it comes to specifying brassware. Metallic finishes such as brass and copper are a great way of adding colour in a subtle way and will add warmth to the space too, which is important when creating a luxury space.”
And he points to the subtleties of graphite or nickel for urban-style bathroom schemes. “Grohe offers these finishes across the entire range of brassware from taps and bath fillers through to showers, flush plates and accessories. This will create a look of consistency and a finished quality to your project.”
And sales director of Vogue (UK) Steve Birch agrees, adding: “It is often the finishing touches that make the difference between a ‘good’ and an ‘exceptional’ bathroom or living space.”
In fact, this attention to detail has even influenced heating for the bathroom, as Steve Birch continues: “Bringing a new level of ‘glitz and glamour’ to the bathroom, new heating solutions are having to keep pace with the likes of PVD coloured basins, metallic brassware and crystal accents seen across the fixtures and fittings.
“These introductions are definitely influencing heating design and we plan to answer this new desire with a host of new, inspired sparkle finishes that transform an ordinary standard rail into extraordinary.” And he adds: “A sculptural towel warmer can really make a luxurious bathroom.”
Completing the comfort factor of the bathroom environment, of course designers shouldn’t forget the essentials of lighting.
Managing director of lighting supplier Industrville Marketa Rypacek suggests layered lighting to create a spa-like sanctuary, “creating pockets to light to create a relaxing, inviting atmosphere.”
And she advises designers explore lighting beyond the confines of the bathroom, stating: “It’s worth remembering that there is no IP-rating requirement for using lights in Zone 3 and beyond, so you don’t need to limit yourself to ‘bathroom lights’ for the rest of your bathroom.”
Tailoring a bathroom scheme to the specific interior fashion tastes, lifestyle and budget, could therefore be considered the height of luxury.
In fact Mike Tattam of Lakes comments: “It’s about personalising the space functionality and emotionally to suit lifestyle and comfort.”
For the ultimate way to individualise a scheme is using digital technology – from programmable showers through to smart, shower toilets.
In fact, Geberit consumer marketing manager Holly Apsinall goes as far to say: “No luxury bathroom should be without the latest in bathroom technology.
“Our homes are becoming more and more connected and the bathroom is no different. Innovations such as shower toilets are designed to increase wellbeing and offer that luxurious experience in the home.”
And managing director of Duravit UK Martin Carroll agrees: “Shower toilets are a great way to add a discreet form or luxury to the bathroom, perfect for anyone who appreciates hygiene, comfort and design.”
While still very much in sales infancy, smart technology is becoming more prolific with more accessible pricing.
Mike Tattam of Lakes comments: “The price of smart home connectivity is dropping rapifdly, and already smart homes ‘know’ when their owners are on their way, turning the heating and oven on, personalised lighting and music and so on. The shower and bathroom will be part of this revolution.”
Creating own luxury
But whether entrenched in the digital or analogue world, a luxury bathroom can be achieved whether it’s for a Knightsbridge townhouse or a terrace in Keighley.
Adam Teal of Kaldewei comments: “It’s a false economy to think a luxurious bathroom needs to have a large area and big budget; it’s possible to create the aura of luxury even in the smallest of bathrooms.”
It simply means the designer may need to be more creative with space and budget to create a luxury bathroom.
John Schofield of JT concludes: “Regardless of the shape or size of the room, by using design, products or technology wisely bathrooms can deliver in any space if the design is good enough.”