Responsible Luxury Washroom by 42mm architecture headed by architect Rudraksh Charan

Responsible Luxury: An oxymoron or an opportunity?

| Mrinmoy Dey

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Responsible Luxury: An Oxymoron Or An Opportunity?

Increasingly, luxury is becoming aligned with concern for the planet, and many high-end consumers now link personal satisfaction with low-impact products that boost our collective and environmental well-being. Designers and bathroom products manufacturers throw light on this phenomenon and what it means for luxury washroom design.

Luxury living spaces are changing. Rapid urbanisation has lifted consumers’ expectations higher than ever and left space at a premium. With apartment sizes shrinking and offices being rapidly redefined in an age of working remotely, there is a shift occurring in what luxury consumers are demanding.

Once defined by excess and materialism, the new high-end prioritises access and flexibility in a globalised world. Design is being refined to be perfectly sufficient, rather than egregiously excessive. Luxury consumers want the design for living. And, they’re not looking for mixers but architectural jewels in the bathroom.

Luxury Washrooms
At the user interface smart fitting and fixtures are used with sensors that only provide water as per requirement and control the excess usage. Photo Courtesy: Rudraksh Charan

What exactly is a luxury washroom?

The idea of luxury differs invariably among individuals. For some, a sleek minimalist design and true representation of materials is luxury; for others, an opulent and dramatic contrast expresses luxury. “Therefore, our design process for luxury bathrooms is to first understand the definition of luxury for our clients. Also, the idea is to create a space of wellness – be it minimalist, contemporary, tropical or opulent. We first create a basic framework that can achieve maximum functional efficiency without compromising on the design aesthetics,” shares Rudraksh Charan, Principal Architect, 42mm Architecture.

He further adds that each bathroom can have one or more focal elements – for example, an artistic vanity, feature wall as the shower backdrop, live size artwork, moss walls etc. These focal elements can be made to stand out individually or composed synergically to create an ethos of the space.

Rudraksh Charan

Rudraksh Charan

Principal Architect, 42mm Architecture

“We first create a basic framework that can achieve maximum functional efficiency without compromising on the design aesthetics.” 

Luxury in a bathroom is attributed to the entire experience of using it. “The fittings, fixtures etc which are used should be well thought about, so as to be appropriate for that space and need. Opulence comes as a skin on top of the design. To design a luxury bathroom is more about functionality and the choice of materials is what brings the oomph into the project,” opines Rupande Shah, Principal Architect, Rupande Shah & Associates.

She further adds, “The biggest aspect of a luxury bathroom is the space allocated for this function. The larger the bathrooms, they are bound to look more spacious, luxurious and high end. They do not necessarily need to use expensive materials. However, the use of high-end materials, obviously adds a factor of opulence to the space.”

Talking about the design approach for a luxury washroom, Annkur Khosla, Principal Architect, Annkur Khosla shares, “I think it depends on the nature of the project in terms of size and location. It need not be opulent, sophisticated luxury also works. It could be the choice of materials for instance use of exotic stones along with other marbles complementing the use of sanitaryware fittings consciously.”

Stefan Gesing

Stefan Gesing

Chairman of the Board of Dornbracht AG & Co. KG

“We are convinced that targeted water treatments can be integral to a health-conscious lifestyle. Therefore, we analyse the effect of water on body, mind, and soul together with leading experts.” 

Technology and wellness: the pivot of luxury washroom

In today’s fast-moving world, mindfulness and wellbeing are more important than ever before. We all long to retreat, finding inner peace and enjoying quality time with our family and friends. There should be a solution, a thing that recognises our need to unwind, relax and restore inner balance. This is what is driving the luxury washrooms to the realm of home spas.

Gaurav Malhotra, Managing Director, Hansgrohe India shares, “Hansgrohe’s mission is to apply the very latest technology to addressing those more individual needs, creating a regenerative experience in your own bathroom and promoting physical and mental well-being. With hansgrohe RainTunes shower scenarios, we are transforming what the bathroom of today can be: a supremely restorative space.”

He further adds that RainTunes combines water, sound, light, moving image and fragrance to create an all-encompassing, customised and indulgent shower. “Whether one wants the perfect start to the day, the perfect way to relax after training, wellness every now and then or a nice way to get off to sleep, RainTunes offers seven pre-configured shower scenarios that can be selected to suit the user needs.”

Technology and Wellness
Opulence comes as a skin on top of the design. Photo Courtesy: Rupande Shah

Acoustic worlds create a perfect symbiosis with the water choreography to match. “Bursts of fragrance perfectly paired with the scenarios pamper the user and help to revitalise. With each shower program, a customised sequence of images is played on a video screen. And to top it all off, ambient LED lights bathe the entire bathroom in mood lighting to give the user a sense of pure relaxation,” adds Malhotra.

Acknowledging the growing importance of aquatherapy and chromotherapy in improving the showing experience, Stefan Gesing, Chairman of the Board of Dornbracht AG & Co. KG opines, “We are convinced that targeted water treatments can be an integral part of a health-conscious lifestyle. Therefore, we analyse the effect of water on the body, mind, and soul together with leading experts. We develop innovative water applications and solutions for the need for more mindfulness, moments of bliss or energy.”

KE Ranganathan

KE Ranganathan

Managing Director, Roca Bathroom Products

“Despite the pandemic, people continue to invest in their own home, which they see as a shelter against the dangers of the outside world. And bathrooms are a key component here because a bathroom is like a cocoon.”

Grohe caters to this demand with Grohe AquaSymphony. The shower range has it all – the luxurious spray modes, gleaming surfaces, sleek lines, and spacious proportions; and behind the scenes, cutting-edge technology. “With AquaSymphony you can create your perfect shower moment. The convenient push-button operated SmartControl system lets the user select and adjust a different shower experience for every day, to be completely in tune with the user’s mood. One can add the F-digital Deluxe with the Grohe Spa App to take perfect control of the light, sound, and steam in the shower environment,” shares Bobby Joseph – Leader, Lixil Water Technology, India & Subcontinent.

In specific to the home spa experience, Toto shower and bathtub range are designed in such a way that the customers feel more refreshed & relaxed every time they take bath. “In Flotation Tub which is a part of our flagship Neorest Collection, there are various features like, Neck Bath, Air Jet, Hydro Hands which help in muscle relaxation and gentle body massage while bathing and Zero Dimension Bathing posture ensures further refreshment,” shares Taro Muroi, Managing Director, Toto India Industries Pvt Ltd.

Bobby Joseph

Bobby Joseph

Leader, Lixil Water Technology, India and Subcontinent

“With AquaSymphony you can create your perfect shower moment. The convenient push-button operated SmartControl system lets the user select and adjust a different shower experience for every day, to be completely in tune with the user’s mood”

In showers, Toto offers Gyrostream which delivers a stimulating massage that spreads its effects over a wide area of the body through the use of rotating nozzles with better shower coverage. “Toto fixed shower heads are equipped with Comfort Wave offering a voluminous flow with little water consumption. It emits powerful, swinging streams of larger-than-usual water drops for an ultra-comfortable, moderately intense shower that uses only a small amount of water. Mixing conventional shower spray into the flow adds pleasant stimulation. The overhead shower also comes with features like Warm Spa which gives the feeling of a warm bath, in a shower. Active Wave specialises in the swinging, large-drop streams found in Comfort Wave. More powerful than Comfort Wave, it offers a more intense showering experience,” adds Muroi.

For the hand shower, a switch is given right near the fingertips, so the user can change easily between Warm Spa / Comfort Wave / Active Wave, and for the overhead shower, the switch is located inside the showerhead for the user to toggle between Warm Spa and Comfort Wave.

Hygiene and convenience have been driving innovation in the sanitaryware sphere. “Despite the pandemic, people continue to invest in their own home, which they see as a shelter against the dangers of the outside world. And bathrooms are a key component here because a bathroom is like a cocoon – an intimate retreat that is not only associated with health and hygiene but also with peace and harmony, relaxation and a sense of well-being,” opines KE Ranganathan, Managing Director of Roca Bathroom Products.

He further adds, “Laufen has a strong know-how in the production of faucets and thanks to the infrared technology specifically designed to guarantee a reduction in water and energy consumption, we have developed Curvetronic and Twintronic taps which, can be used in a domestic context to avoid waste of water and to ensure maximum hygiene.”

Once defined by excess and materialism, the new high-end prioritises access and flexibility in a globalised world. Photo Courtesy: Toto

Technology has evolved especially from the standpoint of the service. It is now also being incorporated as a part of the building mandate. Large housing complexes have a solar operated heat pump that feeds the entire population at large. Two stack piping system that separates solid and liquid waste at the point of generation and ensures easy treatment and disposal of waste. Sewage treatment plants installed at the community level also provide recycled water for flushing and irrigation.

“At the user interface smart fitting and fixtures are used with sensors that only provide water as per requirement and control the excess usage. A great deal of emphasis is given to creating a green well-ventilated washroom. Moreover, the ventilation systems, automation etc when integrated into the washroom infuses a technologically induced consciousness in luxury,” divulges Charan.

Annkur Khosla

Annkur Khosla

Principal Architect, Annkur Khosla Design Studio

“Sophisticated luxury also works. What
matters is the choice of materials, for
instance, the use of exotic stones along with
other marbles complementing the use of
sanitaryware fittings consciously.”

Can luxury be responsible as well?

Sustainability has been a growing concern. But luxury washrooms tend to focus on functionality and user’s physical and mental well-being. Often this leads to increased consumption of water as well as energy. Does this put the designers in a spot of bother to achieve sustainability without compromising on the user experience?

Charan responds, “The use of resources has increased but the process of extracting resources has become more energy efficient. All the luxury homes or the super homes today are installed with a solar energy system that meets the present needs and supplies back to the grid. Water heat pumps, water harvesting systems and double-stack plumbing systems that allow easy of reuse water are becoming an essential part of the plumbing system. Hence, although the consumption is higher, the production and reuse have improved quality of life and without destroying the quality of our environment.”

The use of automation to a large extent controls the energy efficiency in a washroom. Boilers (heaters) put on a timer at specific hours allow the optimum use of energy. “Bath-fixture manufacturers have become very conscious of the use or wastage of water. Most of them have a special range of products which does not compromise on the experience of the user, but still reduces the consumption of water to a large extent,” shares Shah.

She further adds, “Technology can be a huge step in responsible design. From energy-saving systems, that help in conserving light energy and electrical heat loads, to specifying brands and models that consume less water, it can be a big boon towards sustainable design. Use of solar powdered boilers and heaters is also another tool to save energy.”

Rupande Shah

Rupande Shah

Principal Architect, Rupande Shah and Associates

“Opulence comes as a skin on top of the design.
To design a luxury bathroom is more about
functionality and the choice of materials is
what brings the oomph into the project.”

Are there any takers for responsible luxury?

The designers and the manufacturers can push for the responsible luxury agenda as much as they want but until the client/users are convinced of the benefits, these will fall flat. To many, there is nothing called responsible luxury. That’s because “luxury” in its current form is not considered to be important or required by many.

“However, I feel that instead of thinking of luxury only in terms of materialistic things, one should also view design in non-tangible elements like space, light etc. To be able to give our clients a luxurious looking bathroom, with the use of minimal materials is also a possibility. If only washrooms are considered as rooms themselves, then the perspective of the clients would change dramatically. It’s only then, that the designer will be able to work on unusual concepts to design washrooms,” elucidates Shah.

One can add the F-digital Deluxe with the Grohe Spa App to take perfect control of the light, sound, and steam in the shower environment. Photo Courtesy: Grohe

The client’s point of interaction is the final skeleton (in terms of finish, surfaces, storage, and accessories) of the washroom and the systems integrated into it. “They desire to have an efficient system and a beautiful design combined to enhance their user experience. While delivering this end product when we combine these aspects with an energy-efficient system it becomes a true sense of luxury. As architects and consultants it is our job to educate the client and find a system that delivers efficiency both in terms of energy and user functionality for a longer duration of time,” opines Charan.

He further adds that this aspect of efficiency ensures that the client does not mind paying a premium for a well thought out, better planned, and executed design. “When we responsibly create this framework, the client’s inability to understand the aspects of energy efficiency becomes less of an affecting factor in the process. It also accounts for future sustainability.”

Gaurav Malhotra

Managing Director, Hansgrohe India

“Hansgrohe’s mission is to apply the very latest technology to addressing those more individual needs, creating a regenerative experience in your own bathroom and promoting physical and mental well-being.”

Looking at the marketing trend of high-end bath fixtures gives a clear indication of user preference. Luxury consumers are no longer willing to accept products that are simply a statement. Being iconic and exclusive no longer suffice for a luxury brand to survive, as buyers “need better reasons to buy.” Buying a luxury product does not just demonstrate status and artistic independence anymore. Knowing the heritage, the brand’s craftsmanship and product origin demonstrate a greater interest of consumers.

Increasingly, luxury is becoming aligned with concern for the planet, and many high-end consumers now link personal satisfaction with low-impact products that boost our collective and environmental well-being. Sustainable luxury is neither an oxymoron nor an opportunity. True luxury is inherently, quintessentially sustainable by its very nature. If it isn’t sustainable, it isn’t luxury!

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