The bathroom is one of the most intimate and important spaces in the home. Whether that home is an apartment in an urban area or a house with a larger footprint, the bathroom is where we begin and end our days. It is a big part of our everyday experiences and should accommodate our changing needs. We are experiencing unprecedented shifts in both demographics and lifestyle that have fundamentally transformed the American household. The global pandemic has also created a heightened focus on hygiene and wellness in all aspects of our lives, especially in the bathroom.
According to a study conducted by the National Building Museum as part of its Making Room: Housing for a Changing America exhibit, “only 20% of American households are a nuclear family, yet our housing markets remain fixated on their needs.” The exhibition looked at different households—from roommates to an extended family, to a retired couple with a live-in caregiver—to demonstrate how a flexible, thoughtfully-designed space can meet the needs of a variety of today’s fastest-growing and underserved households.
In the exhibition, we took a forward-thinking approach to the bathroom and featured products that while providing a sense of relaxation and calmness, also allow for independence and dignity as the household ages. The result was a modern, singular space that could serve all lifestyles, regardless of age or ability. We opted for adaptable bathroom sink/vanity unit combinations—each mounted to the wall independently—that easily allowed for the creation of a barrier-free space thanks to the removable vanity unit. The vanity drawers featured push-to-open technology, which allowed for opening and closing with less than five pounds of pressure. A zero-threshold foldaway shower, ADA-height (17”-19” from finished floor) wall-mounted toilets, and mirrors operated via touch-free technology topped off an optimally-designed universally-accessible space.
Even a compact guest bathroom or powder room can be intelligently designed to offer user flexibility, storage and wellness benefits. This bathroom from the National Building Museum’s Making Room exhibition features a Duravit shower-toilet (that offers lifelong hygienic benefits) as well as an L-Cube vanity that can be detached from the wall, leaving the washbasin for easy ADA-compliant, barrier-free access.
The Changing Bathroom
The global pandemic has also made us think more carefully about our homes in relation to our personal health and hygiene. Remodeling is booming as a result. While a client might have a perfectly good bathroom, he or she might now feel like a space that is safer, smarter, and more hygienic is a must. As a remodeler, or residential construction professional of any kind, it’s important to understand the relationship technology has on our lives. Just think about all of the ways the smartphone touches and influences daily life!
Perhaps you were just awarded a new project because of your knowledge of smart home products. The smart toilet, for instance, is a growing trend in the bathroom. Operated via remote control or smartphone app, users can easily program their individual profile settings for maximum comfort and hygiene. Smart technology applied across the bath heightens ease of use, hygiene and overall comfort. Shower-toilets afford users an enhanced feeling of cleanliness and freshness. Mirrors with integrated technology, as another prime example, offer optimal light color and dimming capabilities drawing on circadian rhythm studies. The application of such a mirror allows for a three-fold design win: a mirror, smart lighting source and a technology solution that aids in bathroom comfort. These intelligent, highly functional solutions add value to the customer's bottom line and to the professional that is sourcing the material.
Offering a practical source of light and added wellness benefits to any bathroom space, a smart mirror like the XViu from Duravit allows users to choose optimal light color and temperature to suit any mood.
Another important factor: hygienic glazes. These glazes, which are transparent and baked into products like toilets and urinals during the firing process, are not just innovative and effective, but also act quickly. After just six hours, 90% of bacteria (e.g. E.coli) are effectively killed. After 24 hours, this percentage rises to 99.999% -- an unprecedented level.
Designing for Dignity
I reference the exhibition and the pandemic to highlight how we, as manufacturers, as professionals in residential construction, can use design as an integral tool to meet today’s housing needs. While the bathroom may be a small space, it can have a big impact. It is important to think about it in terms of responsibility, quality, value and both product and user lifecycle. Design is sustainable so it’s critical to identify universal design solutions that fit seamlessly into modern life, from spaces that are accessible and inclusive, to ones that accommodate multi-generational use and aging in place. Dignity is empowering so we must create products and spaces that allow us to age in place and still feel luxurious. We must develop and source solutions that provide wellness and hygiene, but at the same time, appeal to the end user's sense of style and sense of self.
Design continues to move forward, as does life and the human experience. The investment put forth by remodelers today certainly has the capabilities, with the right space concept and product choices, to carry the users through life’s stages. The future of designing bathrooms for a changing world is now - let us all embrace it.
The toilet is a necessary solution for all bathrooms. As professionals and homeowners pay more attention to at-home wellness solutions, a product like the DuraStyle Basic toilet from Duravit (pictured here) offers not only quality but added hygiene. Available at an affordable price point, this solution is ADA-compliant and features Duravit’s Rimless Flushing technology for enhanced cleanliness. Optionally available: Duravit’s HygieneGlaze, for added bacteria-fighting technology.