Erdem Akan, design director at VitrA, discusses how recent events will influence both how we use our bathrooms and how they will look in the future
Limited social interaction, insufficient sanitisation and restricted access to space are issues we have all encountered in recent weeks. As we begin to hypothesise about a post-pandemic world with a renewed societal focus on health and hygiene, designers must endeavour to create spaces and products that help us feel safe.
Applying these ideas to a bathroom setting is interesting – as well as hygiene requirements, these spaces already respond to so many factors, including design trends, technological innovations, and plumbing and infrastructure advancements. Historically, design has always been impacted by ongoing health challenges. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century infectious diseases redefined bathroom design with ceramics replacing wood. Ultimately, bathroom spaces serve a necessary function in the private and public realm and will no doubt have to adapt drastically as we move forward.
The most important issue to accommodate will be the public’s renewed attention to cleanliness and hygiene. Whilst manufacturers have always had to comply with certain standards, a new consumer awareness will require these features to be clearly signposted in order to provide maximum health benefits with minimal user interaction. This will include touch-free technology, like VitrA’s Smart Panel flush plate that can be controlled remotely, suitable for public, semi-public and private wash spaces alike. We may even see basins by the entrance of the home, creating a more accessible wash station. Another key trend that is growing in the UK is the introduction of bidets and the concept of washing with water. An essential staple of European bathrooms for years, this has never made a significant impression on the British market. As well as providing a more hygienic experience, VitrA’s shower toilets and smart WCs, such as Aquacare and V-Care, are actually better for the environment than toilet paper with regard to water usage and toilet paper waste.
Regarding overall design and aesthetics, the consumers’ increased understanding of hygiene will lead to different material choices, like a preference for copper alloys with high anti-microbial surface qualities. Minimalism in the bathroom will return, with crisp, light colour palettes that connote cleanliness and health and stainless accessories and units that are easier to clean.
At the other end of the spectrum, designers must also respond to our desire for comfort. During the pandemic, many of us have transformed our homes into sanctuaries that feel secure and nurturing. As we await the different restrictions that might apply to public bathing and grooming spaces, consumers are choosing to recreate spa environments within the home. We are indulging in luxurious accessories such as essential oils and candles that help us escape from the outside world. Bringing elements of the natural world inside with flora and fauna, green colour palettes and organic shapes, like Arik Levy’s recent Voyage collection for VitrA, can create a protective cocoon.
As we start to look beyond this pandemic, our principal focus as designers must be on reassuring consumers and addressing their anxiety and providing comfort. Design has the capability to be incredibly agile, and as we begin responding in our work, the creativity and unity that we’ve seen already will allow us to rebuild a society where we all feel safe.
• On Tuesday 2 June, VitrA is launching its ‘Meet the Designer’ talk series with award-winning multi-disciplinary designer Arik Levy, in conversation with VitrA’s design director, Erdem Akan. The conversation will centre around the designer’s prolific career as well as his philosophy and the inspiration behind his creations. The talk will also explore Levy’s recent collaboration with VitrA for the Voyage range, inspired by his time living and working in Japan.
The series will be hosted on VitrA’s YouTube channel at 6pm.