Interview Annette Maria Sonntag: “There must be ways to make the bathroom individual and personal.”


With the Joyce collection Villeroy & Boch is presenting a concept that redefines individualisation in the bathroom and wants to give it a completely new, ground-breaking dimension. Joyce gives users diverse options to play with forms, colours and accessories and thus to shape the bathroom in line with their own individual ideas. The interchangeable, functional accessories, the so-called apps, make it possible to change the bathroom again and again to suit current requirements and moods.  

But how did the bathroom with apps emerge? What is the idea behind Joyce? What will happen with Joyce next? These and other questions are answered by the designer Annette Maria Sonntag, who developed the core concept of the bathroom collection and its design. 


Vita Annette Maria Sonntag 

Annette Maria Sonntag has been developing and designing sanitary products in the mainstream and premium segments of Villeroy & Boch's Bathroom & Wellness division since 2003. In this capacity she also provides support for Global Product Development & Design and is responsible for many new developments. In 2007 she designed the Memento washbasin series for the Premium segment. She is also behind "timeline", a purist sink series launched in 2010, and developed the washstand concept for the Joyce series in 2012. The design graduate earned her master craftsman's diploma at the Academy of Fine Art and Design Saar, where she is now a lecturer. Annette Sonntag lives and works in Saarbrücken. 

What is the conceptual idea of Joyce and what was the primary focus for you?

The background to the development of Joyce was the wish to launch another modern mainstream collection in addition to our bestseller Subway 2.0. After I developed the first ideas I presented my designs. The focus was clearly on a voluminous washbasin that was convincing in terms of both design and function. That is to say, it had to have a practical shelf and a large basin. And a round shape to achieve a modern, fresh design. With the 100cm double washbasin I've created a double-washbasin that works in small rooms. There also needed to be an intelligent way of organising things that caters for the needs of younger generations. My experience in various departments of Villeroy & Boch also played a role in the development of the concept, as the feasibility of production influenced the design. This was particularly relevant for creating the round form and the hollows for the app-shelves, which I wanted to be possible without a great deal of extra effort and time.  

What were the first designs for Joyce like, especially in comparison to the collection that was finally produced?

My first designs for Joyce were very close to the version that was later produced, only without the slanted corners on the washbasin. I developed plan views and graphics rather than 3D-designs on the computer. For the washbasin I took inspiration from the desktop principle - just moving different apps around wherever and whenever needed, having everything to hand. That's why I named the first draft "my desktop". Joyce was born from that. The name sounds fresh and modern and is reminiscent of the word "choice", which matches well to the app idea with the interchangeable dishes. And of course there's the association with "joy" as well, which is great because the whole concept is set up to be fun.  

What role was played by the notion of individualisation?

From the very beginning it was clear to me that individualisation should play an important role in the new bathroom collection. Traditionally, the bathroom is more of a fixed room. It is designed once and then stays that way for years. Of course, you can't just quickly move the washbasin or install the shower in another place, but there must be ways to make the bathroom individual and personal, apart from just buying new towels. That's where the idea with the interchangeable, functional apps came from, apps that can be diversely used – for cosmetics, hairbrushes, razors, soap or room fragrance sticks, or more or less anything. That's how the apps were born.  

So the apps are central elements of the individualisation concept of Joyce?

The apps are practical accessories that should be included in every bathroom. With the dishes, the app-vase and the soap dish set the washbasin area can be changed again and again, just as the mood takes you. And it's very easy and safe. All the apps have a soft magnetic pad underneath that means they can be securely placed on the washbasin.  


The app-dishes are stackable, come in three different heights and, if desired, can be equipped with interior dividers and lids. They can be combined with one another in various ways and so provide ever-changing accents of colour in the bathroom. Just like the ceramic valve cover and the app-vase they're available in white and in soft colours that coordinate well with white: the earth tone Peru, warm yellow Sahara and blue-grey Bali. 


What effect did your innovative idea about the apps have on the sanitary ceramics in the development of the Joyce series?

The Wellness department developed an app-shelf for the bathtub, and the furniture team integrated an area for the apps into the furniture. This means the apps can be used even more multi-functionally. It was really exciting for me to see how the idea was seized upon and further developed by others.  


From the very beginning I thought of the apps as a concept that could cross between business divisions. It might sound astonishing but that was new too. The idea that tableware-like accessories could be integrated into the sanitary division in this way and to this extent was new at Villeroy & Boch. But even in my very first drafts the apps were planned in ceramic. I think the result's pretty good. And why not use the apps outside the bathroom too? 


The bathroom with apps offers lots of combination possibilities, how is it possible to keep track of everything?

The diversity of colours and the different apps require a special approach, but offer fantastic opportunities too. Even in my first conceptual draft I planned that it should be possible to configure app combinations online. And now there is indeed an online configurator that helps customers with their choices and combinations of products. In fact, as the concept was further developed a large selection of intelligent and innovative marketing tools were planned.  


Further information about Joyce you'll find here.