Asked to come up with a title for this edition of the International Bathroom Exhibition, the most likely contender would undoubtedly be The Shape of Water. Not just because referencing Guillermo del Toro’s film that won 4 Oscars in 2018 and the Golden Lion in 2017 is more topical than ever, but also because visualizing water as a shape seems to be the hidden aim behind many of the most on-trend bathroom designs. While stereotypical phrases such as “the bathroom is no longer a service area but a room, just like all the others in the home” still abound, the design trend for weighing up values is undoubtedly a new one: specifically the value of water and the value of the relationship between water and the body.
Megius at the International Bathroom Exhibition
The ergonomic principles that bathroom designers have always considered fundamental still apply, but meld with considerations of a more intimate nature. Many bathroom products really seem to visualize the flow of water, carving out shapes. In this regard, at a highly experimental level, Ghigos have brought 3D printing into the industrial ceramic world with their science fiction-themed but absolutely concrete washbasins for Olympia Ceramiche. Along with this “emotional” approach, another fairly common one sees the shapes, of washbasins in particular, no longer following the sanitaryware tradition to reference the decorative arts, drawing – as Roberto and Ludovica Palomba have done for Kartell by Laufen – on the typical outlines of ornamental vases (Marcel Wanders has also taken this approach for Laufen). There are, however, some counterpoints to this interesting world built on poetic references: the most significant one is the showcasing of objects that are also suitable for people with disabilities. The manufacturers have taken this issue on board with verve, looking to resolve specific problems while blurring the distinctions. Bathrooms are beginning to be endowed with small expedients (see the waterproof Roll seats designed by Diego Cesi/Archiplan for Ever), which are more comfortable for all their users. Ponte Giulio has been working on the safety issue, in partnership with Daniele Trebbi, spawning the Hug Life Caring collection. Another counterpoint to the prevailing organic style is a prevalently geometric design starting point that, while still conforming to the “modern” tradition of bathroom design, has seen a renewed focus on size. One of the most standout in this regard is Falper with its Pure and Quattro. Zero collections designed by Métrica, featuring significantly expanded linear elements.
Ever Life Design at the International Bathroom Exhibition
Certainly, an analysis of the variegated product landscape at the International Bathroom Exhibition clearly shows that our initial comments apply in particular to sanitaryware design which, as we know, is a highly specialized field and, therefore, in a different league when it comes to the trend markers in furniture design. There is no shortage, however, of signs of bathroom-living space integration, such as the slotting of washbasins into large mirrors, overturning the traditional, dominant, service relationship between washbasin and mirror (for the young designers at MUT – EX.T) and the placing of actual pieces of tall furniture inside the bathroom, like open/closed containers (Lay by Marco Zito for Arlex). This approach means that even the front of a sauna can become a shelved bookcase (Marco William Fagioli’s Yoku for Effegi). The fabric has also been unexpectedly harnessed to wrap around the body of baths and washbasins (the Oval Couture collection, designed by Dominik Tesseraux for Bette).
Laminam at the International Bathroom Exhibition
Having taken stock of these considerations, it is nonetheless important to recognize that there are other bathroom products at the International Bathroom Exhibition with real things in common with our findings in regard to the prevailing furnishing trends. Coverings, in particular, are strongly symbiotic with the home finishes as a whole, with nostalgia the winning theme. The tiles that reprise designs from between the two world wars thus subscribe to a nostalgic mood, as does the revival of Palladian-like techniques (see the Casamood by Florim collection) rather than the ceramics inspired by azulejos or other traditional iconographies, specific to very precise geographical areas. The porcelain stoneware coverings, increasingly common and high performing, are also nostalgic, simulating other materials: from wood to marble and onyx (in the 300x150cm format and an extremely thin 6mm), from Ariostea and FMG respectively). Mosaic has also stepped out of the traditional squared tiles form: with Friul Mosaic producing them in long strips (Element by Nespoli e Novara), while wallpaper, the leading lady of the 2018 domestic scene, has made a foray into the bathroom world with Wall&decò’s wet system, overthrowing the absolute dominance of the tile.
Wall&deco at the International Bathroom Exhibition
In the realm of tapware, there is an increasing preponderance of metal finishes that have moved on from classic chrome, hinting at the preciousness of old gold, the warm tones of copper, and the silky effects of burnishing. The partnership of two leading companies, Boffi and Fantini, has brought one of the masters of contemporary design, Michael Anastassiades, in for the first time, adding his “hanging” AA/27 tap to their Aboutwater collection. Graff’s Luna taps, on the other hand, eschew traditional shapes to become crescents, arching up the wall. Alongside these formal changes, the development of technologies that make for the increasingly improved functionality and maintenance of all the parts continues unabated: the Azimut showerhead, designed by GI-RA for Antonio Lupi, features improved water-air regulation, for instance.
Graff at the International Bathroom Exhibition
In 2018, color has made another breakthrough, into a world in which white, teamed with chrome, reigned supreme. While products featuring colored ceramics have surfaced over the last few years, especially for washbasins, in earthy tones ranging from powder pink to terracotta (see Flaminia’s brand-new NudaFlat collection by Roberto and Ludovica Palomba), the on-trend colors this year are mud, graphite, milky grey, and cloud). Colored taps have recently enjoyed a revival, particularly in black and white, but also in the loud primary colors that haven’t been seen since the mid-70s. Color has even made an incursion into the shower space, not just on the metal parts of the frames, but also on the – normally transparent – glass, which Vismaravetro has decorated in black, using hard-wearing ceramic paint.
Novello at the International Bathroom Exhibition
Radiators, another important category at the International Bathroom Exhibition, are rapidly continuing to shrug off tradition. No longer components required to be hidden, they are turned into sculptures, minimalist, and industrial-style or become concrete references to works of art.
Photographs – Courtesy Salone del Mobile.Milano, Photos by Andrea Mariani
Cover Photo – Fantini at the International Bathroom Exhibition
Arblu at the International Bathroom Exhibition