Australian residential buildings have seen significant changes over the past few decades, with the move from detached homes on large blocks to detached and semi-detached homes on smaller blocks, and growing numbers of apartments across the board. This shrinking of our residential spaces has required a significant reimagination of utility spaces such as the bathroom and laundry.
While utility once reigned supreme, bathrooms have since become much more aesthetically pleasing and even inviting. And with advents in bathroom technology, designers are needing to become increasingly savvy with the items they choose for interior bathroom fitouts.
“Nowadays, bathrooms are more about functionality, embracing new product technology and a focus toward the type of environment and feeling that is created,” says Darshan Nagarsekar, national
marketing manager at Geberit.
“It is also about personalisation and consumers are taking this up like they do with their bedrooms and living rooms. [At the same time] it is about being pragmatic, so consumers are looking at a bathroom with more space and less clutter, as well as ease to access things around the space and stress-free maintenance.”
In terms of aesthetics, the traditional materials are changing.
“There is a trend about fusion of different materials, surfaces and elements being elegantly blended together in the bathroom furniture,” says Nagarsekar.
“Taking cues from what we saw [last] year, bathrooms are embracing matte textures, warm colour palettes, practical products and an aim to maximise the use of available space as much as possible.”
Toilets represent an opportunity to save space and improve a home’s sustainability at the same time.
Saniflo’s Sanicompact, for example, uses water and space efficiently. According to Saniflo marketing executive Tarika Shetty, it’s the first all-in-one macerating toilet suite, and features a water-saving cistern-less flush and the ability to add a basin. It was designed to be added where space is limited, making it a good solution for a small ensuite or laundry addition.
Geberit also offers a cisternless toilet suited for the modern bathroom.
Geberit's concealed cistern.
“The trend nowadays is, if you don’t need to access it every day you can hide it in your walls and just have the actuator on your bathroom wall to access your flush tank,” says Nagarsekar.
“This product is also hygienic as back to wall pan installations means one can clean the floor underneath the pan.”
Another drawcard is the product’s Sigma80 buttons, which use sensors for a hygienic touchless flush.
AESTHETIC YET FUNCTIONAL
Speaking of concealing utility items, drainage is another area that has undergone significant change.
Most people don’t give much thought to drains unless they aren’t working properly, and many architects don’t consider drainage solutions until after the bathroom or laundry has already been constructed, which is a mistake.
According to drainage specialist Stormtech, this approach can have serious complications, and typically results in ineffective drains that will inevitably require a change of specification. Unfortunately, changing the drainage specification can also impact the selection of flooring materials, requiring quite significant redesign and potentially requiring repairs or replacement down the track.
There are two main drainage styles: traditional drains with a single, centralised drainage point, and linear drains. Linear drains can be placed anywhere in the wet area and only require two-way floor grading toward the drainage channel, as opposed to the four-way grading required by traditional grates.
With their discrete appearance, linear drains are a good option for bathrooms where aesthetics are a primary concern.
BATHROOMS ARE CHANGING
Not only have bathrooms needed to change with building and design trends, but also with the population itself. As Australia’s population becomes increasingly older, accessible design
is becoming a concern.
“As the Baby Boomer generation is entering retirement, the focus needs to turn towards bathroom accessibility,” says Dave Sayers, founder of Availcare.
“Builders will need to prepare bathrooms for future modification, which includes strengthening walls to allow for future grab rails and shower seats. Innovations like adjustable height toilets, electronic temperature control tapware, ergonomic bidet controls, sensor lighting and weight bearing bathroom accessories will allow retirees to continue living at home comfortably for years to come.”
In doing so however, designers need to ensure these products don’t look ‘clinical’. This is a primary concern for many people retrofitting their homes for accessibility.
Sayers recounts a recent project where the client had this exact concern:
“Sharon’s mother had been coming to stay with her quite often so she contacted an occupational therapist to find out how she could improve access in their bathroom. Based on the occupational therapist’s recommendation, we installed four rails from Cabrini Health. We were able to add a 300x300mm angled rail by the toilet, making it much easier to sit and stand. We also added a toilet roll holder to the rail, making sure the toilet paper was within easy reach.
“For the shower we installed a vertical rail to hold onto as they walk into the shower and an angled rail on the main wall to help Sharon’s mum get in and out of her shower seat. Sharon since wrote to us and said she has been using the rails herself and was surprised how often she uses them and was so pleased they didn’t look clinical.”
DISAPPEARING LAUNDRY ROOMS
These days, buying a new home with a dedicated laundry room is a luxury. And in the case of apartments, a rarity.
There has been a growing trend of ‘European laundries’ in Australia. This is where the washer and/or dryer is incorporated into other rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens. Some traditionalists may find it strange, but considering the functional requirements of a washer/dryer, it makes perfect sense.
According to Electrolux this is indeed the case, but not to fear – laundry machines can easily be concealed in a cupboard for a seamless look. This is exactly what the company achieved in a recent project, House 9 by Three Birds Renovations.
The Electrolux European laundry at House 9.
As space was a challenge, Three Birds opted for a hidden European laundry, tucking the appliances away in a kitchen cupboard. The Electrolux 10kg Washing Machine and 9kg Heat Pump Condenser were stacked using the Electrolux Stacking Kit, creating a stylish and seamless flow between the two machines.