Philippa Turrell takes a look at wetrooms and walk-ins
While the trend for walk-in and wetroom enclosures is nothing new (Bette claims to have launched the first flush shower floor as far back as 10 years ago), this bathroom interior trend is still going strong. However, that’s not to say product development in the market has remained stagnant. Designers have been able to embrace the use of large, plain glass enclosures, semi-frameless models, not to mention low level or flush-to-floor shower trays and minimal linear or concealed shower wastes. But for an area where minimalism is all important, how will the showering area continue to develop and differentiate in design?
Interestingly, at the top-end of the market there has been a move away from the overtly clinical shower environment styling to now offer a more cosy experience. Manufacturers have embraced the use of natural materials or palettes of soft (and often neutral) colours, to not only differentiate by design but to provide a relaxing and restful showering space. Think Matki’s teak enclosure handle, JT and Bette shower trays and floors in soft, neutral colours or Roman’s digitally printed glass to offer jungle-inspired or exposed brick designs. Marketing manager of Merlyn Showering Edel Nicholson adds: “Coloured glass, textured glass are all options in the newest generation of wetroom design.”
JT recently introduced tactile, matt finishes as part of its Evolved shower tray launch and Bette has also launched matt shower floors in colours to mirror natural materials. Head of marketing at Bette, Sven Resinghoff continues: “There has been a shift in the colours and finishes being chosen for shower trays and floor. Matt colours, co-ordinating with the bathroom flooring are now very popular because they can help to make the bathroom appear larger. Matt white is popular, and there is high demand for various shades of grey and beige. Matt colours are also getting darker with browns to dark anthracites.” And such is the popularity of the more sensual, matt shower trays and floors Resinghoff states 40% of its sales are now in a matt shade.
In fact, this demand for a more homely, inviting shower experience also carries through to the specification of what is inside the showering enclosure, as director of Ceramique Internationale Peter Vann explains: “While wetrooms and walk-ins tend to be quite minimalist there has been an emerging trend for products to make them more comfortable. There is a growing demand for the specification of seating areas.” And he says this move for a welcoming shower environment provides designers and retailers with the chance to maximise on the sale, as he continues: “Kits such as the Jackoboard steamroom and wetroom bench kits give retailers a great up-selling opportunity.”
With this array of choice for the consumer, it’s perhaps unsurprising that there is not a one size fits all approach to showering specification. In fact, at the top-end of the market, there is an increasing focus on customisation. Marketing co-ordinator of Aqata Kayleigh Priestley comments: “The discerning customer now requires not only a highly engineered, luxury shower enclosure or screen, but also a completely individual customised design to bring their own character and personality into the bathroom.” Bette points out 20% of its shower tray sales are customised options, as its head of marketing Sven Resinghoff says: “One fifth of the products we sell involve some kind of tailoring through colour, size, finish or clever features like BetteUpstand.” Such is the demand for customised styling, Aqata is set to expand its portfolio. Marketing co-ordinator of Aqata Kayleigh Priestley comments: “Being able to offer our customers a variety of choice has always been important to Aqata, which is why we are expanding our product offering with a new range of frameless 10mm shower screen and enclosures, known as Design Solutions. The new range offers a choice of individual-style options including coloured, tinted glass in muted natural tones – this can bring warmth and interest to a room whilst also creating a greater level of privacy in the bathroom.”
However, customisation of showering enclosures can go a lot further than simply selecting glazing, profile or shower tray colours and textures. Enclosures can be specified to fit specific spaces – particularly useful if they are small or awkward areas. For consumers are seeking to add an additional shower in the home, it allows them to explore areas in the home, previously restricted by standard-sized surrounds. Kayleigh Priestley adds: “A made to measure walk-in enclosure is the ideal way of ensuring a new showering space will fit perfectly into awkward space or under a sloping ceiling or eaves.” And marketing manager at Frontline Bathrooms Emma Gaskell agrees commenting: “As a great number of people seek to use redundant space and add extra features to the bathrooms in their homes, enclosures and wetroom in increasingly varied shapes and sizes will appear, with options becoming available for even the most awkward spaces.” While Priestly explains this trend is already happening at Aqata: “Our bespoke, made 2 measure service and Design Solution range reflects this growth in customisation. We have seen an increase in demand for our in-house survey and installation which ensures each shower enclosure is measured and installed.” And marketing manager at Merlyn Showering Edel Nicholson points out: “At Merlyn we believe it is always good to offer bespoke options – even for wetrooms there isn’t a one size fits all solution. We have a dedicated team who offer this service.”
Whether consumers are choosing customised sizes or finishes of showering surrounds, industry experts believe sales of wetrooms and walk-ins will continue to grow. Quite simply, these shower enclosures not only meet the desires of the interior style-led consumer but are practical environments too. Featuring level entry access, wetrooms and walk-ins are inclusively designed to suit all consumers, whether they are young or much older members of the family and part of the growing, ageing population. A spokesperson from PJH says: “As well as the discerning fashion conscious consumer, who aspires to create a boutique-style bathroom in their home, it is also the older generation who have a keen interest in the larger walk-in shower for obvious reasons. In addition, the rise in multigenerational households also contributes to this trend.” And James Clark, contracts manager for On The Level , agrees stating a factor in the growth of the wetroom market “has been the desire for safe, barrier free level access showering for lifetime homes – for multi-generational living. A wet room is a spacious and practical option for homes with people who range in age and ability; it is an attractive e solution for everyone.”
And now there seems to be an even greater crossover between wetrooms, walk-ins and more ‘standard’ frameless enclosures, with the likes of Roman which is launching Innov8 with a reduced height bottom rail allowing level entry access. It could see the lines blurred in design, further elevating the popularity of “wetrooms”. With the renovation market looking strong, not to mention a positive housebuild, market certainly these shower enclosure sales only look set to grow. A spokesperson from PJH adds: “Over the next couple of years, sales of walk-in and wetroom style enclosures indeed look promising, especially as the housebuilding and home improvement market continues to remain steady.” So consider the latest designs in wetroom and walk-in enclosures, and make sure your offer is a natural choice.