Or perhaps an extra large Nordic-inspired tub and shower cabin, fitted out with all the features, from whirlpool and sauna to music, chromotherapy and aromatherapy – an anything else you can imagine in the Jetsons-like future of home design we seem to be rapidly approaching.

After all, judging from the trend in bathroom design over the last few years and concepts bathroom brands have been proposing and investing in, it would appear that this direction is definitely here to stay. Or is it?
 

Not according to 10 designers who are shaping bathroom design and looking into what’s next. What is changing, they say, is the perception of the meaning of the word ‘wellbeing’.

“The majority of the public thinks of wellness in technological terms,” say design duo Paolo Lucidi and Luca Pevere, who design for Glass Idromassaggio, an Italian company, specialising in hydromassage.

“But this is just a habit. Worse, it’s dictated by marketing assumptions. People will buy something because it looks ‘techy’, and therefore expensive and luxurious. Most research shows that a whirlpool bath is considered a dream by many. Yet after purchase it is often used infrequently.”

According to Lucidi and Pevere, this is a waste and, as such, design efforts should be refocused. The real challenge in innovating the wellbeing experience in bathroom design today is in being able to respond to what people actually need and offering more atmosphere-driven and ecological systems.

“We think of a bathroom that is more like a living room, in which technology, if used, is hidden away and used not for features that no one needs but for what it does best: limiting the use of water and energy,” they say. “Space is also an issue: everything should be adaptable for truly extra-small rooms, which is the norm these days, especially in big cities.”

Enter LucidiPevere’s Osmosi system for Glass Idromassaggio. Looking like a living area, it has all technology packed away in a tiny cupboard and is thoroughly flexible, suitable for both tiny and extra-large spaces.

“The consumeristic dream of utilities for enjoying passive joys has turned out to be a colossal lie,” say Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, creative directors of Zucchetti/Kos. “Wellbeing should be measured through the level of holism of a project rather than through the number of gadgets proposed.”

An injection of healthy realism? In truth, a home spa is still the dream of many. But next to this, another trend is emerging.

“On the one hand, bathrooms are expanding: this often means not only more space dedicated to this function but, when this is not possible, moving fittings such as the bathtub into living spaces like the bedroom,” explains Giovanna Talocci, designer for Teuco and Effegibi.

“On the other hand, there is a great contraction of spaces: lots of people nowadays would sacrifice having a large bathroom for having two smaller ones, and would replace the tub with a shower (possibly larger than a standard size),” says Talocci. “For this reason, today turning a shower into a Turkish bath is no longer very expensive or difficult. Lots of people go for that lighter option.”

Talocci should know – all the solutions that go towards this direction that she designed for Effegibi sell very well. She recently presented a bathtub with a totally invisible whirlpool function, hidden in the body of the tub, with air coming out of a tiny pocket that looks like a discreet decoration.

“Being up-to-date means starting to think of the bathroom as an extension of the living area in terms of sensuality and softness, also by providing everyone with the possibility to choose according to the space (and the money!) at their disposal,” say the English-Indian design duo Doshi Levien.

Their Ananda system, also designed for GlassIdromassaggio, proposes aromatherapy, towel steaming, small waterfalls and a sauna. But all technology is fitted in a tiny cupboard.

“Every bathroom can become a wellness centre,” says Giulio Cappellini, artistic director of Ceramica Flaminia. “A sophisticated lighting system is just as fine as a series of candles. The idea that one is superior to the other is obsolete.”

Matteo Nunziati is an architect and creator of numerous luxury hotels and spas around the world. “The overall design of a bathroom centred on wellness should not just focus on the actual products – basins, whirlpools, showers – but bring everything together in terms of lighting, aromas, materials for wall and floor coverings,” he says.  

“It’s not the look that counts, or the amount of functions but how people immerse in the experience,” Nunziati continues. Turkish baths, saunas and chromotherapies are worth nothing without the good taste that can create an atmosphere.

“What matters is also doing away with the nonsense,” says Giulio Iacchetti, artistic director of bathroom brand Globo. “Looking at the statistics related to home accidents occurring in the bathroom is an eye-opener! We need to finally do away with sharp corners and taps or surfaces that may look amazing but are truly difficult to clean. A safe bathroom is a lot more relaxing than any dream sold for vast amounts of money, simply because it ends in therapy,” he says.

“Wellbeing can only be conceived in environments that are at people’s measure,” adds Iacchetti. “It’s no longer a matter of money but of good design.”  

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