Special Feature: Bathroom Design
Planning for Happiness
The disappearance of spatial boundaries and walls, the new sense of snugness and the desire for more nature in the bathroom are resulting in a host of new possibilities for bathroom design. Today, anybody who wants a contemporary and future-viable bathroom needs more than a floor plan – he needs a concept. A professional bathroom designer can help ask the right questions and pave the way to personal bathroom bliss.
For many a proud home owner, decorating and furnishing has become something of a hobby – and a very enjoyable one at that. It calls for imagination, a consistent sense of style and, up to a point, an instinct for sophisticated fashionable touches. But in the bathroom? Nowhere else are home owners and renovators more afraid of messing things up. They are plagued by insecurity: what kind of possibilities are there nowadays – and which of them do I actually want to implement? What products are available, how do they have to be installed, and how do they go together? What will eventually end up on the scrap heap? How can I save water and energy, and what do I have to watch out for if I’ve got kids or want to use the bathroom when I’m old? What’s good for my health? But more than anything else: what’s it all going to cost?
In this particular case, pushing furniture dummies back and forth on a sketched floor plan just isn’t enough. Specialist know-how is called for. After all, plumbing inevitably involves attaching things, cementing them in place for years without the possibility of adjustment. Everything has to be “plumb on”, so to speak. As a result, many people (often with much gnashing of teeth) eventually decide to have their bathroom planned professionally – and are astonished at what they get for their money. What they end up with is a great deal more than a plan for error avoidance: a creative service that gives concrete shape to their wish list for the very first time and translates it into a picture that all the experts and tradesmen involved can set about turning into reality.
There’s a lot more to bathroom design than simply arranging the wash basin, toilet and bathtub along the wall. In order to turn the space available into a proper room, professional planners stir their client’s imagination and develop individual solutions. On top of that, they ensure all the tradespeople involved collaborate and communicate with one another.
A bathroom design needs to be well thought through and should only be drawn up by an expert: bathroom designers, professionals from the sanitary sector such as good plumbing companies (many of which even have their own showrooms) or architects and interior architects who have specialised in bathroom design. Besides helping to avoid planning and creative blunders, it also provides an initial idea of what the future bathroom will look like. Floor plans and layouts enhanced with realistic 3D views and material collages form the basis of the design. All these planning components have to be drawn up in close collaboration with the client so as to identify his personal wants and be able to turn them into reality. All with the aim of creating a feel-good bathroom that can withstand everyday wear and tear for years to come and keep its good looks into the bargain.
The growing number of bathroom designs commissioned in recent years is a good indication of just how well that process functions. “The bathroom has taken on an increasingly important role in recent years and that has strengthened the position of professional bathroom design as well,” says Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the German Sanitary Industry Association (Vereinigung Deutsche Sanitärwirtschaft e.V., VDS). “That’s partly because sophisticated architecture is enjoying greater standing and people are becoming more aware of it. As a result, increasing importance is being attached to a professionally and individually designed ambience. Off-the-peg ideas don’t stand much chance any more.”
Even so, the clients have to do a little homework in advance. First and foremost, they need to get their bearings in terms of the style they want and get an initial idea of the products available. A bit of research in magazines, journals, brochures and on the Internet can be a big help. The approx. 2,000 permanent bathroom showrooms and studios operated by specialist wholesalers and tradesmen can also be helpful when it comes to getting an impression of the abundance of products on the market. They bring more clarity to the selection process: many products look a lot different “live and in colour” than they do on paper. Another advantage: wholesale showrooms often allow the prospective buyer to put the products to the test. How do the tap fittings work? Does the rainshower head keep its promises? And laying down in the showroom bathtub to test the desired model for size is another highly recommended tip.
This is the point when the above-mentioned bathroom specialists come into play. The client can prepare for his talks with the experts by drawing up detailed checklists (e.g. at www.gutesbad.de). These lists quiz him on his daily needs, personal wants and the existing structural conditions. The completed checklist, a list of the desired products and – very importantly – a concrete financial framework are the best prerequisites for a successful talk with the specialist.
After clarifying the spatial and financial conditions, the planner then sets about drawing up a profile of his client. He analyses not just personal style preferences, but above all the client’s daily routines and usage conditions in the bathroom. He can thus identify the individual needs and ensure the room is optimally designed. In the next stage – the design of the layout – he divides the space into functional zones, possibly also integrating adjacent or unused rooms.
Organising the bathroom into functional zones plays a crucial role in ensuring better sequences. The planner factors in the number of people in the household, their daily routines and personal preferences. That way the position of the wash basin, shower, tub or even a make-up-vanity can be decided according to individual criteria. And perhaps this stage of the planning will even identify a possibility for separating off the toilet.
A dedicated professional, however, needs more than checklists and personal consultations to come up with the perfect design for the new bathroom. The bathroom planner will want to satisfy himself as to the structural conditions on the spot, in the house of his future clients. That gives him the opportunity not just to inspect the bathroom that needs modernising, but also to get a more detailed impression of his clients’ lifestyle and furnishing preferences. These factors will also be entered into the equation; after all, the aim is to make the new bathroom 100% compatible with its users’ individual way of life.
By this point the bathroom design is already another crucial step closer to completion. With a bit of luck, the client will now be able to choose whether he wants it to be visualised as a hand-drawn sketch or a computer-generated image – there are advantages to both options. The computerised bathroom planning software used by many professionals integrates the desired sanitaryware from a virtual catalogue into a design drawn up according to the stored measurements. The visualisation provides an initial, fairly realistic three-dimensional impression of the room and soon reveals whether or not the plans are feasible. On the other hand, a good drawing can sometimes capture the ambience of the planned room better than the computer and reveals something of the designer’s hallmark style as well.
The accompanying material collages serve as atmospheric pictures and show a selection of materials, colours, floor coverings etc. in order to visualise the overall effect as tangibly as possible. The designs and material collages can be modified and recompiled until the planning is truly finished and corresponds to what the customer wants. Once the plans have been completed to everyone’s satisfaction, the bathroom designer submits a quotation.
At the same time, it is important to remember that an expertly modernised bathroom has its price. If the specialist is aware of his clients’ financial expectations right from the start, his concept for the bathroom will end up tallying with the budget. “A professional bathroom designer will find a suitable solution for any budget,” says Jens J. Wischmann confidently. “People often underestimate just how much thought and effort go into designing a bathroom,” he adds. “Ultimately, the planning also helps avoid needless costs.” The fact that a growing number of firms are starting to charge for or itemise this service separately is an understandable response to customers who take their finished plans and set off to buy the products at their local DIY store. “The service provided by bathroom designers deserves recognition. This is a way to make people aware of that and increase transparency,” says Wischmann of this development.
The bathroom designer also guarantees that the alterations run smoothly, especially if the client chooses to have all the work done by a “single-source” provider. Depending on the nature and extent of the alterations, numerous different tradespeople – such as plumbers, electricians and tilers – have to be coordinated with as little slack time as possible. The specialist company undertakes to coordinate the other tradesmen and often assumes responsibility for supervising the site as well. The alterations progress without a hitch and it’s easier to keep track of the total costs.
Whether you opt for an expert plumber, a bathroom designer or an (interior) architect specialised in bathroom design – there’s more than one way to end up with a dream bathroom. The path you choose to take is a question of taste and a question of budget. But there’s one thing all the different approaches guarantee: technical and creative competence. And at the end of the day, bathroom bliss depends on both things.