Shower design- Less is More?

The most common request, whilst designing bathrooms in the London area, is to remove the bath and install a good shower design instead. “What?!” I hear thousands of estate agents scream! Apparently, the clamour for baths on property hunts is more important than a South facing garden (or is West the new South, I get confused?!). Estate agent babble to one side, removing baths from the property may be a bad idea, as every now and then you can’t beat a good soak. If you’ve got the room, do both (as in this image courtesy of S&E Glass Design).

With the average house in London costing more than £370,000, the size of bathrooms is likely to be compromised for the average person and makes affording the £30,000 bathroom above unlikely. Installing a new bathroom can deliver up to 5% increase in asking prices, allegedly. But will the absence of a bath in the main bathroom be an issue, if space or budget are a problem? On balance, is less in fact more when it comes to showers?

Less space: They can take up less footprint than a bath and help the room to feel more open and spacious, even when the dimensions are a bit tight as below.

Less water: According to the European Environmental Agency taking a shower can cut your water consumption by up to a third.: pause as you lather & get a flow reducing shower head, though. Mind you, with the pitiful water pressure we have in the UK, I shouldn’t worry too much about a flow reducer…

Less time: Obviously it is much quicker to grab a shower than to run a bath.

Less inhibitions: Removing walls and having the shower enclosure act as a wall itself will save about 10cm in space, but won’t save any blushes. Ahem.

Image from Morph project in Islington

At the end of the day, the perception of a walk-in shower room gives so much more of an impact than a standard bath layout. I think our friend Rupert the Estate Agent would use the phrase the ‘Wow Factor’ (see this blog on ‘How to choose you Estate Agent’ for explanation of the ‘Rupert’ appellation,  by dear friend to Morph and award winning blogger Tracy Kellet). Certainly walk-in showers are very de rigeur, but what happens if you are confronted with a space like this?

Image from Morph project in Kensington

Well, after you’ve called in the damp surveyor and sorted out the obvious, the other immediate problem looking at this image is that there is not enough room to swing a cat. Even a 70 x 70cm shower cubicle (otherwise known as the ‘elbow basher’) won’t sit easily next to a WC on this wall. Any shower design starts with a ‘design anchor’; the beastie sitting in the corner that can’t be moved (without additional costs). In this case, it’s the soil stack on the left. Not only is it defining where the WC will go, but it’s also going to define the waste level for the shower and the size of enclosure. Our answer was to give the client a huge shower, with integrated shelving:

Image from Morph project in Kensington

We raised the floor of the shower and created a wet room, with the added benefit that if the damp issue hadn’t been resolved, the membrane would keep damp out as well as the water in. The cistern for the WC was actually installed in the roof space above and we straightened the waste run to the soil pipe so it could be rodded from the WC in case of blockage. Sometimes the very thing that is causing the issue, is the actually the answer you are looking for. “There are no problems, only solutions”… for ablutions (sorry John). The shower design for me is primarily about the intelligent use of space. In this bathroom below, the client had a pitifully small shower enclosure & separate bath. But why have a cramped shower when you have enough space for 60cm diameter shower head and room for two?

Image from Morph project in Bayswater

Any good interior designer will be acutely aware that our efforts are geared towards enhancing our clients’ feeling of ‘well-being’. Often, in our research to draw together plans we act as dieticians for kitchens and alternative therapists in bathrooms; and it is true that baths offer more benefits to the stressed human body than showers. Basically, you can’t get a whirlpool spa into a shower although some companies come close with the extreme functions on their shower heads: they can take the skin off, massage the neck and shoulders, flood the room with colour changing light therapy, make you fell like you’re under a cloud burst and pick the kids up from school. OK, not the last one, but you get the picture. In the bathroom above, the Raindance Rainmaker from Hansgrohe is the last choice before jumping into serious money for shower heads. Well, I’ve started now so I might as well show you this:

No, there is not a hole in the ceiling and the picture wasn’t taken during a rain storm. That beauty in the background is RainSky M from Dornbracht and is quite possibly the one of the most expensive shower heads on the market. Possibly.

I could go on ad infinitum about different shower heads, but the focus here is on the use of space and how shower design impacts on the overall aesthetic of the bathroom scheme. Hopefully you have had a taster of how much impact a shower can have if designed into the space correctly. We not only write about good design, we tend to practice it as well. Should you need any further advice or are looking for a great bathroom, we are here to help. Meanwhile, in the event that you feel you can’t achieve a walk-in shower if it means sacrificing a bath; don’t! We have the answer to that as well…

Milan Furniture Fair 2012

With Milan fair over for another year, I thought I would post a little photo diary of my three day trip.

Week before the Fair

I did my usual checks to make sure that my hotel and flights were all booked and OK, and realised that I had booked both for a day too early, after a £60 change of flight charge I was back on track to fly out on Wednesday the 18th April.

With a 4.30am alarm call, the drive to Gatwick at that ungodly hour was uneventful and the airport was unusually efficient with very little queuing. I was lucky to the get one of the 3 front row seats with the extra leg room (I’m 6″5`), and for those who know me well, it will come as no surprise that I was asleep before some people had even boarded!!!

As we taxied on the runway, I was rudely awakened by a commotion at the back of the plane, someone had stood up or something, took very little notice and went happily back to sleep.

After a nice nap that lasted almost all the way to Milan, I awoke slightly better rested. On the bus from the plane to the terminal the Captain joined us, and he was duly interrogated about the person that had caused the commotion, and why he had to be restrained and handcuffed to the seat, with police waiting for him on the runway.  He gave very little away, except that this was the 6th time they had trying to deport him back to Italy, and the disturbance was his way of trying to be removed from the flight again.

Day 1

The Fair

For those who have never been or heard of Fuori Saloni (Milan Furniture Fair), it’s in the new Milan Fair Rho Pero and it`s one of the largest shows world-wide with 8 large pavilions for indoor exhibitions and 60,000m for outdoor exhibitions space. The Milan Fair is one of the most important in the international trade fair sectors, full of the best (and some of the worst) design products you will find anywhere. Here are my picks of the good, the bad and the downright ugly…

The Good

Desalto

Alternative

TAO design

Jab

Arper

45 Kilo

Dots design studio

deCafe

Lights made with used coffee beans

IED MAD+BCN

Herb garden made with an old bed frame and plastic bottles

Snaidero

MK

The Bad

…and The Ugly

Day 2

With the fair done, it`s now the time for the satellite shows dotted around Milan city. With 367 organised exhibitions from front rooms, to large warehouses not to mention all the other unofficial Street sides shows. The hippest area traditionally being Tortona.

Following another day walking for 12 hours: here’s the best of what I found.

Valcucine & DeMode

Full circle designed kitchen, made with mostly recycled materials. Once it has finished it’s life as a kitchen, Valcucine will collect it and recycle it, free of charge

Austrian Design

Agape

  L’Invisibile

The best thing at Milan, an almost invisible electrical door… it’s amazing when you see detail working so well…

Molteni & C

  Resident

Blackbody

Day 3

Woke up to painful calf muscles, following 2 solid days of pounding the fair and streets of Milan. Another good breakfast and back to Tortona to see the rest of what I missed the night before. It’s unfortunate that the area has lost its edge. The big companies have moved in and are trying to piggy back on the coolness of the previous years. But this is the best of what I found there.

Chimere

spoil your pets

Saazs

Glass which are a heaters or that change from clear to sandblasted. Neat.

With a new area having started in the north of Milan, I worked my way up to Via Ventura; this new frontier was full of the best that Milan can offer, and the coolest young designers around.

 

Wendy Maarten

EKBB Magazine – May 2012 Edition

We have an 8 page spread in Essential Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom magazine (May 2012) for a project we completed in North London. I have attached a few of the images of you to have a look at, hope you like them.

 

 

 

 

Unusual Ferrari Car-Motorcycle

This vehicle was built by François Knorreck. Although his real job is technician in an hospital at Saint-Etienne in France, he spends all his free time to build, manufacture, modify and tune motorbikes. He spent 10000 hours of hard work, more than 10 years from time to time in the garage and about 15000 Euros to create this vehicle. Wonderful “hobby”!

 

Hotel with a difference

Ever thought your hotel was a toilet?!

Das Park Hotel located in Linz, Austria is an idea by Andreas Strauss who came up with redesigning and actually using sewer pipes as hotel rooms. Each room is equipped with lights, double bed, hut sleeping bags and electronic code lock to ensure safety of your luggage. The hotel complex has toilets, showers, a mini bar and cafeteria and the rest of the services such as electricity are purchased with ‘pay as you go’ system.

Time to get stoned?

If you’ve navigated here whilst searching for a city break to Amsterdam; you’re forgiven. Yes my Twitter name is Interiorporn, and yes the title says ‘Stoned’; but unfortunately for you I’m referring to the trend of using stone in interiors. Bon voyage.

Now to be honest, I had thought that this stone fad had passed us by and it was sailing downstream with arched floor lamps on a seagrass carpet. I remember when Minotti Cucine released their Porhyr Viola flame textured stone kitchen; it made my eyes water. But after I had got over the price issue, I actually liked it. A lot.

Still do. I guess it is the price point that makes me think that this is more like Art; possibly purchased as a status symbol and to be looked at and not touched. Well, not by the owners anyway. Maybe the association comes from the mid-90’s property-bubble-high and that this type of exuberance is now somewhat limited. Well, Minotti regardless continue the theme to this day, with their latest offerings that are still jaw-dropping show-stoppers.

Is the trend limited to one kitchen company? Of course not; enter stage left TM Italia with their aptly named Petra, recently launched at Grand Designs Live.

Now not only is this technically a great kitchen product, but it also has a vastly more attractive price point. And they offer a completely bespoke service making them high on my supply chain, as they can actually build what I design. Also, their design catalogue actually features fitted projects from clients’ homes, unlike certain Italian suppliers. The normal Modus Operandi is to show products that aren’t in production, wouldn’t work as shown or have been discontinued. What a refreshing change to see products at work. Very happy to say that we are agents for these guys, who after just 10 years in action are the serious new players on the block.

Stone is more traditionally associated with bathrooms and the Italians are at it again. It continues to feature in Zaninelli’s product portfolio, here with a splash of wood:

And the stone bath appears to have had more longevity than anticipated; again here by Zaninelli:

But the 360 range by Altamarea I think noses ahead with these sleek bathroom pieces that merge into living spaces. Like the Minotti & TM Italia kitchens, they challenge our usual perception of the space around us, or our definition of room function:


Or in Carrara Marble below. The idea that bathrooms remain behind closed doors is becoming a bit dated as the boundaries of open planning continue to be pushed.

These are great pieces that would sit well into many schemes, but has stone stood still? Is there no real edginess in the stone products out there? Well, I think Lithea are about as directional as you can get at the minute with this basin Ciuri with their Petra wall cladding. These guys are ahead of the game in my book, and well worth keeping an eye on:

Not only are the basins outlandish, like this version called Dune, but their 3D stone wall cladding of the same name really pushes the boundaries:

So, the question is; has stone grown up? I think so. Long gone are the associations with Neoclassicism and obscenely grandiose variations on the theme (I shall refrain from naming names here; unusual, but I shall). Ushered in are the new stone pieces of Futurism and Minimalism, which I suspect are here to stay. I’m more than happy to get stoned; how about you?