Bath and beyond

Classic and modern: (Clockwise from above) A classic-styled bathroom from Design Intervention; an automated Duravit Sensowash shower-toilet from Sensei featuring a built-in bidet sprayer and a remote control; stylish Décor Walther stools from Hydro Style that double up as laundry baskets; and a Balinese resort- themed bathroom from Ansana.

SINGAPORE - Nowadays, a bathroom is more than a place where you take a shower and brush your teeth.

It's also a personal sanctuary that lets you escape from the hustle and bustle of the world outside

When you return home after a hectic day at work, where do you go to relax and enjoy some time to yourself? For an increasing number of homeowners, that sanctuary can now be found in the bathroom.

Compared to other areas in the home such as the kitchen, which has in recent years become the social space of many households, the bathroom is becoming the only place in the house that is truly private, allowing homeowners to completely shut out the rest of the world, observes René Maan, managing director of bathroom specialist Hydro Style. "It has evolved from a purely functional room to a lifestyle sanctuary where one can relax and rejuvenate after a hard day's work."

The change in homeowners' attitudes can be seen in the amount of space allocated to bathrooms nowadays.

"Around 20 years ago, the trend was to have a small bathroom and the focus was on the living room and kitchen. However, in recent times, the bathroom is fast becoming an important area in the house," says Desmond Ng, sales and marketing manager of Sansei Singapura, adding that shower areas have not only increased in size but that many homeowners are also incorporating a shower area or bathtub in their homes.

Like Mr Ng, Nikki Hunt, senior designer and director of Design Intervention i.d., also notes that more homeowners are requesting for larger bathrooms.

"For new build projects, we are allocating much larger floor areas to bathrooms and in some of our recent renovation projects, we have been reinventing guest bedrooms and study rooms as new larger bathrooms," she says, adding that in today's interiors, bathrooms are considered "luxurious private retreats" that are "as important as bedrooms in a home design scheme".

With local homeowners becoming more design savvy and better travelled, many of them also seek to replicate what they experienced in hotels and resorts during their travels. Lisa Ng, design director of interior design firm Ansana, offers how clients sometimes show the company's designers pictures of the hotels they stayed in to help them visualise the kind of accessories, fittings and colour schemes they want in their own homes.

That said, how do you go about transforming your bathroom from a utilitarian space into your very own Shangri-La? To do that, says Mr Maan, it is essential to consider how you want your bathroom to fit into your lifestyle before you start choosing accessories or products for it. "Homeowners often zone in on one or two aspects when choosing bathroom solutions rather than consider the overall theme and design that they desire, or buying individual fittings only to realise they do not match each other."

He adds that questions homeowners should ask themselves include: Are you looking to create a space that's conducive for relaxation or one that is purely functional? Is design your main priority or are you more interested in fittings that last?

Once you have an idea of your budget and the kind of space you want, that's when the fun begins.

There are so many ways to design a bathroom these days that you are limited only by your imagination. "Designers are getting increasingly creative in this area. It is no longer simply a matter of selecting an interesting tile and a stylish faucet," says Ms Hunt.

Apart from the sanitary fittings, there are several elements that can contribute to a design statement. This can range from ceiling detailing and architectural mouldings to the choice of loose furniture, lighting, wall paper, curtains and artwork on the walls.

Ms Hunt points out that lighting, no longer just a functional application and one of the big changes in bathroom design, can help to enhance and ensure a romantic or relaxing mood as required.

She also advises homeowners not to be afraid of using wallpaper in the bathroom, adding that thanks to modern technology and advancement in both the papers and the adhesives, the finish should not have a problem lasting for as long as 10 years if applied properly. And as long as there is proper ventilation, mould should not be an issue. The key, says Ms Hunt, is to choose an experienced installer to ensure that a good-quality glue is used in humid areas.

Overall theme

With the demand for more sophisticated bathroom solutions increasing, there's no shortage of new products and accessories to choose from today. Again, instead of just going for the latest innovations on the market, homeowners should make sure they correspond with the overall theme of the bathroom. "Sanitary fittings are the finishing touch," says Ansana's Ms Ng. "For example, if your bathroom has a classical theme, you might want to choose a tap with Art Décor details.

Similarly, accessories are a poignant touch to the overall completion and should extend the same design language as the overall bathroom."

Having said that, homeowners looking to replicate the spa resort experience from their travels not only have the option of choosing fixtures such as rain showers but also going for the "complete spa bathroom package that includes solutions that offer therapeutic functions as well as aesthetics that create a holistically relaxing environment", says Mr Maan.

For homeowners with an eye on water efficiency, the development of smart bathroom solutions also lets you get the most out of your water enjoyment while helping reduce one's utilities bill.

Eco-friendly solutions such as Spanish brand Roca's thermostatic faucets are fitted with a flow limiter, which can be activated just by clicking a button and "instantaneously provides 50 per cent water savings", says Mr Maan, whose company represents the brand.

Even bathrooms that are tight on space can look modern and glamorous with the right choice of accessories. One of the ways to achieve this, says Sansei's Mr Ng, is to plan and allocate storage spaces in the bathroom, and avoid bulky fixtures that will make the bathroom look crowded and small. He suggests installing a pedestal sink or a wall-hung water closet as these not only help to save space but also create a luxurious look.

Don't have space for a bathtub? Then consider a glass shower enclosure. "This will not only make the bathroom look glamorous and clean cut, it also has the advantage of making it look larger as well," says Mr Ng.

Colour counts

Colour can also be a homeowner's best friend when it comes to sprucing up a tight space. Many bathroom manufacturers, wising up to consumer demands for designer accessories that combine style with function, have come up with accessories that are both aesthetically pleasing and practical. An example of this is German bathroom brand Decor Walther, which offers stylish stools that double up as laundry baskets and a revolving mirror that offers shelf space behind it, says Mr Maan.

While the design and style of a bathroom varies from homeowner to homeowner, interior designers and bathroom specialists that BT spoke to all agreed on one thing: don't skimp on quality. This does not necessarily mean they have to be expensive, says Mr Ng, but they should be from trustworthy suppliers that have been in the business for many years and offer after-sales service. Cheap products, on the other hand, do not carry this guarantee.

With so much information available on the Internet these days, homeowners might be inclined to buy their own bathroom products without consulting an interior designer or a contractor. Nevertheless, Mr Ng believes it is still important to get professional advice when installing the fixtures as there may be things such as HDB regulations that homeowners are not aware of.

Finally, homeowners should also consider ergonomics and comfort of usage when selecting fittings and accessories. Says Ansana's Ms Ng: "All of us develop our habits overtime. You may love the quirkiness of a particular sink but overlook that it may be too shallow for daily usage."

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