Solutions for every style

There is now greater room for tailoring one’s bathroom to one’s specific style, space and requirements. Whether you’re looking for a large, luxurious bathroom with a freestanding bath or a compact but classy wet room, there is a vast array of options on the market that will ensure your bathroom is not only stylish but adds value to your home.

On the one hand, Ronelle Badenhorst, the commercial director for Kohler Brand's sub-Sahara region, says there's a move towards more compact bathrooms and wet rooms. This allows for more expensive finishes, which she believes is becoming a priority for contemporary bathrooms.

Bathrooms used to be bare rooms – sterile tiles and basic sanitaryware. With the growth of spa culture and the advent of new technologies and products, however, the bathrooms of today and of the future have moved towards becoming sanctuaries in the home.

"The exclusion of bath tubs means the creation of optically larger spaces, which, even if the space is small, is an attractive proposition," she says. "With this comes the allowance for floor-to-ceiling tiling and vanities that are lighter with delicate legs or even floating off the floor. This trend also allows the facilitation of more spa-like experiences in the home."

Badenhorst says Kohler’s Real Rain range of showers offers a broad range of customisation options, with a  choice of finishes and manual or automatic controls, allowing homeowners to build the shower experience they will enjoy.

Indeed, customisation is on the rise in every facet of bathroom design, with Kohler and Hansgrohe offering options to mix and match. Hansgrohe's MyEdition offers interchangeable mixer tops/plates, while Kohler's Components Collection allows consumers to mix and match spouts and handles.

"Consumers can choose from Kohler’s Ribbon, Row and Tube spouts to Rocker, Oyl, Industrial and Lever handles, all offering forward-thinking design solutions that are personal," says Badenhorst. "We’re also seeing a slimming down of sanitaryware and Kohler has just released Slim Seats, which as the name suggests, embrace a more contemporary slimmer aesthetic. These soft-close toilet seats have a considerably thinner profile that make for a more stylish and elegant look for the bathroom."

Jonathan Waters, the category manager for the bathroom department at Leroy Merlin South Africa, says that not all homeowners are moving to smaller bathroom spaces. "For the hedonist, I find that a luxurious natural bathtub is still the item most desired," he says. "After that, we are seeing a demand for sauna and steam-rooms adapted in bathrooms. We're also seeing a trend towards colourful and ‘deco’ toilet seats and colourful taps, such as rose gold, matt black and white.”

Bernadine Skinner, Hansgrohe's marketing specialist, agrees that copper and matt black taps are fashionable at present and says other bathroom trends include large, open, floor-level showers, square designs, and a return to simplicity.

Bathroom innovations

Leroy Merlin flat-pack bathroom furniture Leroy Merlin flat-pack bathroom furniture Kohler Purist tap in rose gold

We don't tend to think about bathrooms as being innovative spaces, but there are a number of new technologies and systems available that are transforming everything from hygiene to water usage and the bathroom experience.

Rimless toilets make for easier cleaning and improved hygiene, while Kohler’s GermShield is an anti-microbial glaze for toilets that prevents the growth of bacteria, viruses, mould, fungi and other microorganisms, currently available on all of Kohler’s Modern Life toilet ranges.

Intelligent toilets, which have been popular in Japan for many years, are now available in South Africa. Features include everything from motion-sensor night lights to hands-free opening and closing, “personal cleaning” shower options, odour extraction units, warm air dryers and even seat-heating.

On the water-saving front, Skinner says all Hansgrohe basin mixers come standard at a flow rate of 5l/min. "You receive Hansgrohe premium quality, but while still saving water," she says. "The majority of Hansgrohe's showers also have an EcoSmart version, which saves up to 60% on water usage, so people can choose their favourite design (except the XXL big showers) and shower, but buy the Eco version."

Skinner adds that Hansgrohe also offers 12 different shower spray types and that some products offer a select button to ensure ease of use when switching between hand shower and overhead shower or spray types.

Similarly, Kohler’s Detent Technology is an intermediate stop built into tap levers for up to 50% water-saving. This technology offers the options of using taps in intermediate or full-flow modes.

In terms of shower experiences, Kohler's Real Rain and Hansgrohe's PowderRain products promise a soft shower that mimics the feel of soft rain-like droplets.

New materials are another innovation in bathroom tech. For example, Kohler’s Veil and Ceric baths are made from a new resin material called Lithocast®, a gloss cast resin that is lightweight and easy to clean.

Thinking in the box

Jonathan Waters notes that South Africans are also enthusiastic DIY-ers. "With the rise of the 'do-it-yourself' culture currently in South Africa, we see more and more European trends being adopted with the help of Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube,” he says. “We have seen that our flat-pack bathroom furniture at Leroy Merlin has become a popular alternative to custom-built bathroom cabinets. With shower taps, we find that the DIY customer is simplifying their plumbing by using shower columns, these are all-in-one shower taps with hand shower and fixed shower heads. There are also quite a few different styles from which to choose."

Bathrooms of the future

Smart homes are on the rise globally, and South Africa is no different. "From all the international shows and design indabas, we have found that smart homes are integrating into bathrooms too," says Waters. "Features such as lighting controlled via voice command or smartphone application, and electronic taps that adjust temperature and water flow to specific users are just the beginning."

Skinner says that the bathroom of the future will include even more technology, and that there is also likely to be a trend towards open-plan bathrooms.

Bathroom manufacturers are even exploring options like facial recognition, which would automatically adjust settings for lighting or water temperature to a user’s preference as they enter the room.

As bathroom technology continues to evolve, one thing has not changed, however – investing in your bathroom is still one of the most sensible property decisions you can make.