Like any other interior space, bathrooms are sensitive to fashion and design trends. Yet, as with kitchens, investment in their redecoration can be substantial, so their reconstruction and revamping require research. In 2020 South Africa, there’s plenty of variety insofar as minimalist bathroom design for smaller urban dwellings and for larger homes with space for a freestanding tub or spa bath and walk-in shower.

The concept of bathroom design can be linked to the design signature of the entire living space, i.e. it’s in synch with the full visual identity. Renowned names in international design continue their R&D of bathroom collections, inventing, developing and collaborating with manufacturers in the creation of a wide variety of hardware and bathing appliances. Developing trends are robust and are continually influenced by global design; as is the case with other aspects of interior design and architecture.

Importers Afrikano Tile & Decor say: ‘The modern-day bathroom represents a delicate point of expression for the homeowner, taking its place alongside the kitchen as an extension of style and functionality. We’ve noted the development of several trends which allude to the rise of minimalism, industrial-chic, as well as a focus on sustainable materials in modern design. We’re guided by these trends in contemporary décor and a leading example is the Gessi 316 collection.’

Contemporary design principles here offer the unmatched resilience of steel, while involving sustainable materials and an inherently clean aesthetic. Premium quality, 100 percent recyclable steel introduces warmth with choice tones and a metallic sheen with a selection of textures and patterns added to the finish to provide sophistication and personalisation. Gessi 316 (illustrated on these pages) naturally complements a wide variety of finishes, making it a flexible addition to any bathroom setting without detracting from an already established choice of aesthetic. These products epitomise Gessi’s well earned epithet: ‘The Designer of Water’ with showerheads, taps and sinks shaped by cutting edge hydrodynamics. It’s a statement of both style and private wellness.

2020 will undoubtedly see further development in sanitary ware. The natural shift towards raw and organic materials find their compliment in this range, while there is an alternate trend towards the exciting and intrigue. Bathroom wallpapers, gold finishes and dripping reds may steal the show, but 316 remains an elegant and appreciated inclusion.

Bearing in mind that the bathroom is part of the bigger picture, Dessie Nikolova of bathroom specialists DISTINCT Collection – distributors of BETTE baths gives an overview of what she believes are the latest 2020 textures and surfaces, plus the palette:

‘An interior design trend for 2020 is the use of new textures. Designers say brushed metals are on the decline, while new materials like velvet and stone will rise in popularity. Time will tell.

‘Meanwhile, terrazzo is here and now and ideal for the bathroom. It’s made with chips of marble, quartz, granite and even glass set into a matrix of concrete or epoxy resin. The chips can actually be quite large, and the matrix and the aggregate may be almost any colour imagined, which makes for a myriad of design possibilities.

‘As far as the palette, bold colours have been resurfacing in the last few years and are making for some spectacular schemes throughout all interior spaces. We’re seeing muted bold colours and the re-appearance of yellows, greens and oranges in soft earthy palettes making a return. Not forgetting Pantone’s colour of the year for 2020: Classic Blue. And there will be art inspirations, creating custom works remains a priority for designers. For an original interior statement, pieces need to be more than just pretty. The trend is for luxury and rich expression in patterns and creative motifs.’

Spaced Out

There can be ongoing disenchantment with over crammed, messy cabinets and drawers. But 2020 bathrooms will display simpler solutions for minimising the storage of various items while taking into consideration the space required. Compact storage areas should be presented in a simple manner that promotes minimalist habits; an echelon of lifestyle that may help relieve stress through intelligent organisation. The bathroom is a sanctuary for relaxation and compact, above-floor storage can effectively provide that with concealed cabinets, slick wall shelving and under-vanity storage. All are fixtures that allow the entire space to feel neat, open and organised.

Floating bathroom vanities have obvious advantages: floor hygiene and proximity to moisture that have been synonymous with contemporary design for decades. In more compact spaces, they’re even more essential. And with today’s simplification of lifestyle via fresh design aesthetics and modern materials trends, the floating bathroom vanity can provide an extra benefit. It’s a look that helps reduce the visual weight of the cabinetry while allowing the coordinating elements of the scheme to become the stars of the interior. Shallow baskets underneath can offer further artful utility.

Integration with the bedroom and often with the balance of the home – and no longer being hidden in a dark corner – has meant that modern bathroom design can benefit from a multiplicity of creative solutions. Add an increase in the introduction of technology, spawning new materials and directions for the creation of innovative and expressive bathroom décor. Simplified shapes and more use of natural wood as a material evoke a serene emanation for the open bathroom concept.

With the bathroom colour palette ideally in synch to some extent with the rest of the homes’ décor, it can become an essential and decorative component of the whole.

As a freestanding ornament, the bathtub is no longer merely a functional element. It continues to make a statement on the international design scene and its creative form varies from traditionally inspired to imaginatively modern. The textures, materials, and expressions of this bathing icon are rich and diverse because it manifests as an integral piece of modern bathroom design, a statement of aesthetic pleasure.

Tub-wise, there are strong design tendencies, which have led to a significant diversity of models. Apart from classic white, tubs can be textural, of light or dark shade and even two-tone finishes. And in a variety of organic, sculpted or rectangular shapes.

Over the past half-decade designers have embraced the integration of the bathroom into the bedroom space; en suite quite literally. This unification, without visual borders, can result in a private oasis for relaxation, health and pleasure. And an artistic bathtub can add a strong visual presence in what are very personal premises.

Tactile Optics

The cement look remains popular and for textural expression, there’s a full versatility of sizes and shapes: hexagons, mosaics and herringbone patterns to provide a dynamic signature for bathroom décor, markedly in trendy grey hues. Another could be matt or gloss black applied in classic designs or innovative combinations to create an expressive personal signature.

The graphic patterns and 3D expressions for tiles are becoming lighter, with contours kept delicate and in the same tones as the main tile body. There’s also a visible play of shapes, prints and geometric forms and options between matt and gloss surfaces. Colour-wise, seaweed green, denim blue and the eternal earth tones are up there in the new collections.

Ever popular and born of the New York or London Dockland loft, the industrial trend remains current and will likely increase in popularity. Natural materials – wood and stone – and industrial fixtures and fittings continue to be evident across the board design-wise, and the bathroom is no exception. Here, they can take the look further and be paired with earthy textures, as a foil for the warm appeal of timber and brushed metals. Wood is, therefore, able to extend the industrial style and various shades and finishes can complement white, blue, green and the darker toned bathroom palette.

While this style may not be for everyone, the metal additives, wooden fixtures and the option of funky tile patterns champion the industrial signature. It can manifest as minimalist and modern, fitting in perfectly as an edgy, yet classy remodel. The look can be enlivened with pops of colour, gold or brass accents, matt black fixtures and tiling. It’s a great look for smaller apartments or guest loos; an urbanised, trendy style that makes a 2020 statement.

Stone and tile specialists WOMAG attended Cevisama (the International Fair for Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings) held in Valencia, Spain in February and identified some of the latest tile trends internationally. Says their Jill Williams: ‘Bold colours are on-trend in 2020, this is due to new ink technology in tile printing. And the chevron pattern is back, and it’s big. Whether the choice is wood-visual, marble-look or solid colour, this pattern adds shape and movement. And décor tiles continue to grow in popularity in 2020; with infinite possibilities, injecting colour and personality into the bathroom has never been simpler.

‘New rock face porcelain tiles perfectly mimic natural stone to impress even the most avid marble expert. And the oxidised metal-look is still very popular internationally, although the South African market hasn’t quite taken to this look yet. Large-format tiles used in small or open-plan areas are a great choice to reduce grout lines and create a sense of space and seamlessness. A new size coming into play is 1 500 x 750mm.

‘It’s important to note that South African trends are behind that of the international scene. Products sourced for the South African consumer provide a foundational focus to which décor items can be added, but coordinating hard and soft finishes can be a challenge. Aim to refresh with timeless tile and vanity top choices, and the products selected should represent an investment. Classic materials create a solid foundation: wood-look and marble allow the freedom to update ongoing without massive renovation.’

‘2020 calls for two major tile trends. The first is for timeless neutrals and natural textured tiles, including glazed brick, handmade ceramics, porcelain and natural stone. The second is the continuation as per the 2019 year of bold colours and patterns. Larger format surfaces are contributing to a bolder look and feel,’ adds Shazeen Jooma of importers Classic Trading.   

Previously, we’ve discussed the increasing popularity of high-tech toilets, this being a Japanese-lead trend. These include seat warmers, automatic lid openers, adjustable air dryers, built-in deodorisers and more. Yet if this technology impressed to date, consider the balance of the bathroom’s high-tech catalogue.

New decade bathrooms may see smart showers, mini-fridges and automatic taps. Showers programmed to start automatically, at the chosen temperature, with maybe a built-in Bluetooth speaker system to be enjoyed within. Add voice-activated features for lighting and temperature settings, smart mirrors that talk and wall-installed TVs. These represent just a few of the current trends in the US and further possibilities seem endless.

Werner Beukes of Lixil Africa (GROHE importers) offers an informed contemporary overview: ‘When it comes to a good design strategy, the choice of palette plays a vital role, but not only the colour, the quality of the finish is equally important. This is essential in the scope of bathroom solutions where surfaces ought to last for a long time. Excellent, highly resistant finishes distinguish great products from good ones.

‘The aspiration to always produce only the best drove us to choose a special technology that assures, not simply the best, most brilliant colours, but a durable coating of the highest quality. The aim is to offer consumers long-lasting water enjoyment. Next to the resilience of the material is the look of the colour itself: GROHE wanted to make brushed hard graphite as dark grey as possible and give their golden finish the brilliance they deserve.

‘That was the task for our technology team and, in close collaboration with the design team, they achieved exceptional results working with PVD. Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is a new technology where a material is evaporated and condensed to form a thin film coating over an object (substrate). In general, coatings consist of metals or ceramics, usually nitrides, carbides and oxides. All PVD processes are performed under vacuum. It’s state-of-the-art.’

Such is the life and times of the modern bathroom. They are transforming in best-case scenarios into personalised day spas that may be sympathetically integrated with the sleeping area. Ongoing technology as illustrated makes the experience of using bathrooms more relaxing, faster when required, more convenient than ever before and more hygienic. The more design- and décor-conscious we are, the more we’ll enjoy our personal world of water design.

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