Never before have consumers had such an insatiable thirst for water. They are clamouring for water in its pure form, as a cascade in the shower or wash basin, a rain shower or part of a colourful scenography. And never before have they been able to experience water so emotionally as with the new products from fittings manufacturers and the attractive designs for bathtubs, basins or level-access showers.
Water is the real feel-good factor in the bathroom – thanks both to its grooming uses and its staging as a sensuous element. Water is increasingly being seen not just as a cleansing medium but as an elemental force deserving of an appropriate scenography. There are various ways of making water tangible: cascade faucets, overhead showers, side jets or even waterfalls and walk-through shower systems. In its natural form, water presents a fascinating, untamed spectacle. Staging the water flow as a cascade or dispensing with aerators emphasises its elemental character and turns the water's path to its user into a tangible experience. Whilst some of the more purist basin mixers even offer convincing water-saving benefits, rainfall showers and large-format, ultra-flat overhead showers promise such luxurious pleasure that the huge amount of water they use seems like a reasonable trade-off.
Water – what could be more natural and simple than good old H2O. Yet for a growing number of people, it exudes an irresistible fascination. Besides constantly revealing new secrets, it opens up entirely new dimensions of physical and aesthetic pleasure. But what exactly is it that makes water such a fascinating element? At first glance, it doesn't appear to be anything special. At least in our part of the world, it is clean, plentiful and permanently available – with the result that it is used wastefully. For the fact of the matter is that people feel good in and around water – hardly surprising considering they are largely made up of it themselves: a baby consists of approx. 80% water, a middle-aged adult of approx 70% and a senior of approx. 60%. Water: the stuff we're made of.
Water holds many mysteries, not only in the depths of the ocean but in our homes as well. It is credited with miraculous effects, magnetic properties and invigorating powers. But it is actually the far more simple things we find so fascinating, sensory impressions that anyone can relate to: you can feel it but not hold it, and although it doesn't have a solid form, you can see it clearly – in lakes, puddles, waves, rain, snow or fog. And though transparent, it refracts and reflects light, creating attractive visual effects. All these things play a role in the bathroom, both in terms of touching the water and staging it with wash basins, faucets, steam or rainfall showers.
Water holds us up and gives us a sense of lightness. Although naked, we feel safe and secure in its embrace. Children can play with it for hours, splashing around and diving into it. We encounter several of its most important properties on a daily basis: water is an element in which almost anything dissolves as readily as salts, flavours or even dust. It absorbs everything – even muscle tension. It washes away the dirt and caresses the skin, improving its tone and leaving us feeling fresh and invigorated. Contact with water releases something elemental within us. Regardless of whether you moisten your face during your morning ablutions, let the constant stream of the shower wash over you or enjoy a good soak in the tub: water promises an experience that enhances the way we think and feel about our bodies.
The world of fittings
Despite our extravagant usage of it, we are more aware of the value of water than ever before. Besides the pleasurable sensations it affords us, the focus is therefore also increasingly on how we can treat water with respect – with the help of products that create elaborate scenographies.
Gushing and flowing
Many myths describe water as the source of life – something many manufacturers appear to take literally, for the way it gushes and surges out of many of the new mixers is a pleasure to behold. Cascade water flows on the basin and bath imitate miniature waterfalls. Spouts open at the top enable users to follow the water's path and are evocative of natural springs. The absence of aerators produces a pure flow. Extremely simple mixers that appear to consist of a single pipe that emerges from the wall and discharges the water straight into the basin bring old wood or bamboo standpipes to mind.
Water dispensers with extra-high spouts are the ideal protagonists for spectacular scenographies. Their slender, elongated form – whether it grows straight out of the elegant designer basin or is staged as a stand-alone on the console next to the classic-looking wash bowl – conveys both aesthetic sophistication and value and provides the right "drop height" for flowing water.
Another concept that imitates nature finds expression in water dispensers which, rather than depicting the water as a directed or concentrated jet, allow it to pour over an edge, producing a wide, flat flow. One special variant on this theme is the Hansamurano series, which is equipped with modern sensor technology and presents the water as a transparent, vivacious surface. The water gushes out from the centre of a plate-shaped glass bowl before flowing over the edge in a soft, wide stream.
Glittering and glowing
Playing with light is second nature to water. The easiest way to bring its sparkle into the bathroom is with a cascade flow. Water and light – a beautiful natural spectacle that loses nothing of its fascination even when domesticated. And certainly not in the bathroom, where the two join forces in a glittering double act. This combination is a feature of fittings that use LED technology to bring light and water together at source – like the Colourshowers by Hansa. The resulting experience is not just visual but palpable as well. Water gradations in shades of blue and red indicate changes in temperature – a water experience as sensuous as it is exciting.
The same goes for the bath. Coloured spectral light or underwater spotlights add a shimmering glow to the water. Besides looking attractive, it can influence the body and soul as well. The colours have very different effects: red hues activate our capabilities, yellow-green and green stand for harmony and stimulate the mind, whilst blue is regarded as the colour of peace and conveys calm and relaxation.
The pitter-patter of tiny drops
There's no need for the shower to fear comparison with the bathtub when it comes to the title of "relaxation oasis". Parallel to the shower cabin's development from cramped wet unit to spacious walk-in facility, a wide range of new sprays has been launched: side sprays, cascade sprays and special spray heads produce effects that are virtually identical to natural phenomena. Standing under a rainfall shower (with or without lighting effects) and totally surrounded by rain drops, you could easily think you're standing in a warm, gentle summer shower. Or beneath a roaring waterfall – although always at an agreeable temperature, of course. These effects might perform as soloists or – thanks to some ingenious programming possibilities – form part of a complete shower experience tailored to the user's personal preferences. Mist effects can be used to add a cooling highlight.
Hand showers, equipped with various jet and massage options, continue to remain in fashion as a form of practical support for the personal fitness programme. But the latest large-format showerheads are also offering additional effects as well.
The sheer fun of water can be cultivated even further – by turning respect for water into an all-embracing agenda. Contact with water is elevated to the status of a ritual and thus returned to its origins. After all, as the source of life and a cleansing force, water plays an important role in most of the world's religions.
In its Elemental Spa concept, fittings specialist Dornbracht tried to create a space with zones adapted to individual cleansing rituals. In the Cabinet for instance, the initial zone, you start off by preparing yourself and getting in the mood. In the Facewash area, users clean their face and hands as they consciously wash away all traces of everyday life. Foot Washing and Body Cleansing, which can be performed either standing up or sitting down, soothe the mind and help enhance body consciousness. In the Shower Center, a gentle rain relaxes the body. Each zone offers suggestions for using the water according to individual needs and provides ideas for the corresponding design of the space. And although the fitting is the water-dispensing element, it is designed to step back unobtrusively, leaving the stage clear for the leading protagonist.
A fleeting guest in our homes
All these products communicate great delight in water. Personal tastes will decide whether or not the individual really wants to stage an entire water world. Every attractive bathroom in which the sanitaryware is designed to accommodate individual habits creates a space where we can indulge our love of water unhindered, even if there isn't enough space for a steam sauna or rain sky. A tasteful ambience and aesthetically pleasing fittings enhance everyday life and present water as the precious element it is.
Here on earth, we are lucky that water is available in sufficient quantities – even if it isn't evenly distributed. Even so, drinking water supplies are far from inexhaustible. People are gradually beginning to realise that it isn't only within our own four walls that we need to ensure cleanliness and be economical in our use of water. Rather than being restricted to the substance that comes out the tap, our respect should include the cycle that produces it as well. Water is a fleeting element that is only ever a guest in our homes. We ought to be nice to it.
Text: Sybille Hilgert