Chic bath spaces

Features, Back of House

From the merely functional, bathrooms are now being transformed into chic spaces that imitate spas, with technological innovations adding that extra fillip, finds Sapna Kulshrestha.

The current trend in hospitality is to transform the guestroom bath into a chic space that could almost be considered similar to a spa experience. This has presented hotel designers an opportunity to create unique design expressions, sometimes as interesting extensions of the bedroom.

Even mainstream hotel chains, typically seen as design-conservative, are now increasingly installing open bathrooms to contemporise their look. Interior designer Menka Sehgal, Adlakha & Associates, says: “I prefer a big glass window between guest room and bath, or having the bathroom situated on the outside wall, for excellent views.”

An innovative product introduced in hospitality for this purpose is the ‘Switchlight privacy glass’; when switched ‘on’ the glass panel is transparent, and when ’off’, the panel is opaque. Further, by installing the product in a design pattern in the room, the window appears as a piece of art, until it is in use.

Many hotels are now installing oversized shower stalls complete with silicon-free real-glass enclosures to create a sense of space, light, and a mood of relaxation, and eliminating bathtubs altogether in certain category guest rooms.

Rachita Sood, housekeeping manager, Courtyard by Marriott Pune Hinjewadi, says: “We do not have bath tubs in our rooms (only in the suites), since most of our clientele are business people who are always on the go. Instead, in the shower cubicle, we have a rain shower head, hand shower, and spout for a relaxing and rejuvenating feel.”

Guests want options that will give them a fuller showering experience, with water hitting them from multiple angles and heights. This has led to an increased interest in shower systems with body sprays and multiple showerheads. Architect Maanu Shetty says: “Large showers continue to be popular because the larger footprint now allows for more elaborate shower systems, with ceiling-mounted showerheads, body sprays, and hand showers with slide bar systems.”

Technology too is playing a critical role in this sphere as the idea of customisation has now entered bathrooms. DTV-II, the latest showering product launched in India by Kohler features a fully integrated, multi-sensory experience that wraps four elements – water, sound, light, and steam – together, in a plug-n-play system. Customers can incorporate music from their own play list, with lights that move and change colours during a shower, with six presets including WaterTile Ambient Rain.

According to Sharad Mathur, managing director, Kohler India Corp. Pvt. Ltd: “With the DTV II showering system one can create a complete spa environment in the bathroom.”

Undoubtedly, digital shower systems are emerging as the next big thing in luxury showers. These systems offer many other features including one-touch control, showering presets, and remote and multimedia control. For instance, Moen’s ioDigital offers digital command of temperature and flow, with four custom presets and one-touch activation. An optional remote control allows the user to turn on the shower from across the room.

Likewise SteamSuite, such as in the premier rooms of The Oberoi Bangalore, is proving to be an exceptional amenity and a great upgrade and revenue builder for the hotel. These units offer luxury and health benefits and can incorporate body jet massage, hydro-massage, and chromatherapy. Mathew Job, vice president and managing director, Grohe India Pvt. Ltd says: “With the Grohetherm range of thermostats, guest can preset exact temperature and flow. Grohe Turbostat technology ensures reaction to changes in incoming water temperature within 0.3 sec, while the Grohe CoolTouch technology keeps the outer surface of the thermostat at a temperature lesser than that of the water heat.”

In some cases, the tub becomes the centre point of the room, and the orientation is such that the guest is able to look out through a glass wall or window to enjoy the view, sometimes right across the bedroom.

Says R. V. Rao, executive housekeeper, Sahara Star, Mumbai: “The spacious setting of the tub and a large glass partition, offer the perfect excuse to enjoy a soothing bath.” The choices in bathtubs are also changing.

Luxury guest baths feature oversized jetted soaking tubs for two, which are hugely popular with hotel guests. The premier lake view rooms at the Oberoi Udaivilas offer bathrooms with Victorian style freestanding bathtubs overlooking a private walled courtyard.

Says Namrata Marwah, executive housekeeper, The Leela Palace Kempinski, Udaipur: “Our suites come with jacuzzi fitted bathtubs in keeping with the resort concept of the hotel.”

Demand is also high for richly featured tubs, says Abhijeet Sonar, marketing manager, Villeroy and Boch. Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes in the hotel bathrooms is the furniture look, which seems to be an emerging trend. Amit Mulik, area head, sales, Parryware Roca concurs: “Aesthetically, the freestanding vanity furniture pieces when coordinated with furniture in the guestroom, helps create a wow factor.”

Hoteliers are increasingly integrating furniture pieces rather than wall-to-wall countertops to impart a more residential look. “One of the latest design elements in hotel baths is creating an open cabinet approach using exposed custom wood storage below the countertop or vanity, for towels and unattractive items like hairdryers and recessed tissue holders, that adds to the spa feel of the space,” comments Parimal Agashe, executive housekeeper, Novotel Hotel, Mumbai.

In terms of materials and finishes, high-quality wooden surfaces such as ebony, oak, cherry or rosewood give the bathroom a lively warmth and personality. Adds Rao: “The rosewood wall finish in the bathrooms of the Mercury Room at the hotel stand out in contrast to the white ceramic and acrylic surfaces of the sanitary fixtures, and introduce a sense of the living room into the bathroom.”

Asutosh Shah, managing director, Duravit, explains: “It is not just the washbasins that are being framed in wood, but also the baths and even the shower trays are elevated to a furniture status, thanks to their wood surround.”

Glass tiles and mosaics are emerging as a favourite material for the bath. Hoteliers are designing showers with glass tiles to create a warm, relaxing atmosphere and updated modern look.

Says Diya Basu, director – public relations and communications, The Park Kolkata: “Luxury premium rooms of the hotel, conceived by Conran & Partners, UK, have bathrooms in iridescent glass mosaic, behind a free standing, curved glass black lacquered partition, adding a stunning look to the room.”

Says Amit Juvekar, general manager, marketing, Palladio: “The choice of glass tile finishes include Scintillating Effects, Iridescent Effects, Topkapi- Luminous Crystal by Swarovski, and and Aureo (24-carat gold mosaics), in addition to hand-cut mosaics that provide hotels with a variety of design applications.”

Not to be left behind, the hitherto humble toilet too has graduated from unsightly fittings to making a strong design statement. Modern toilets are no classic round WC’s but fresh contemporary shapes, with either skinny water tanks or tank-less. New materials and technology are being used for toilet seats.

Says Saroj Vanmala, executive housekeeper, Claridges, Surajkund: ‘Coordinated sanitary fittings from US-based Sterling Brassware, water closet from TOTO Japan, and fittings by Euro Brass and Jacquar of clean straight lines, match the minimalist concept of the entire hotel.”

Some of the technological advancements in hotel toilet designs include the Ingenium flushing system by Kohler that delivers a quiet, controlled flush minimising noise and splash, and the Pressure Lite toilets featuring robust flushing power due to their pressure assist technology.

Very soon intelligent toilets will be seen, such as from Parryware and Hindware, that feature perfumed or glow-in-the-dark toilet seat covers, auto flush, auto cleaning, as well as temperature control and auto drying, that make the use of toilet paper obsolete, say manufacturers.

The latest bathroom faucet designs offer many choices among modern and traditional styles. Says Madhulika Bhandari, director, Hayta India: “Our Hotelier bath fittings and accessories, faucets, sink mixers, and showers, have been custom designed by Hayta’s designers to deliver uber chic hotel bathrooms.”

In fact, choice of faucet finishes range from silver-tone, French gold, hammered nickel and mixed metals options, to beyond metal; for example, some Kohler faucets are made of ceramic, with a choice of decorative patterns.

Moen’s bamboo-shaped metal faucet is an Asian inspired creation; similarly Symmons’ Asian-influenced faucet has water flowing out in a waterfall. For traditional-looking faucets, American Standard’s Copeland, and Moen’s Rothbury series, are imitations of Victorian designs.

Additionally, taps and control fittings can give a hi-tech edge to the bathroom. Geberit’s HyTronic infra-red controls available for WCs, urinals, and taps, means that water is only used when it is needed.

The latest product from Royal TOTO is a stylish faucet that changes colours with variation in water temperature; the temperature indication is so fast that within three seconds it responds to the sudden changes in temperature, without the user having to test the same by hand.

In terms of novel accessories, making its mark is the Philips Mirror TV especially created for the hospitality sector that functions as a TV as well as mirror, when it is switched off. Says designer Rashmi Bhatia: “Mirror TV enhances aesthetics, utilises space, and provides a solution for the ever-shrinking spaces in hotels.” Similarly, towel warmer racks are definitely up there among the list of bathroom luxuries.

The ladder style radiators by Aeon or minimalist radiator design by Saffet Kalender, provide for toasty towels after a shower. The modern, stainless steel towel warmer radiator boasts of a five-rung design, forming an airing shelf with plenty of storage for a stack of folded towels.

While hotels are enlarging their shower area and including enhanced showering systems and infinity edge bathtubs, there is also an inclination towards water conservation and recycling.

Niranjan Khatri, general manager, WelcomEnviron Initiatives, ITC WelcomGroup says: “Water saving fixtures can be more expensive upfront but save at least 30% of water and sewage costs over their lifetime.” Adds Bhatia: “As designers and hoteliers become more interested in the ‘spa’ bath, they want materials like bamboo, and stones like onyx, travertine, and carrara marble, that bring a natural look without impacting the environment.”

Manufacturers are developing technologies for shower systems as well, that provide a great shower experience while conserving water. Moen has introduced Envi Eco-Performance Rainshower, an 8-inch rain shower that has a flow rate of 20% less than the industry standard.

Hansgrohe’s Raindance AIR showers enriches one litre of water with three litres of air, for up to ten percent less water usage. Jacquar Pressmatic, and sensor taps and ultrasound welded leak proof faucets from Crabtree-Frattini, are some other exceptional water saving fixtures.

Spanish maker Roca has introduced the W+W washbasin-cum-water closet that reuses water from the basin for flushing the toilet, and uses about 25% less water than a dual flush toilet. The fixture is also equipped with an automatic cleansing system which prevents bacteria from entering the water cistern. Likewise, the electronically controlled Duravit Architec urinal combines innovative sensor technology with intelligent flushing technology, providing water-saving programmes for different applications.

The ‘green effect’ has also carried over to the bathtub segment where focus is shifting to newer materials. It’s all about the natural look, with soft, organic forms and green materials like cast polymer products, recycled glass, and steel enamel that also adds strength, durability, thermal insulation, and, in certain cases, aesthetic value to the finished product.

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