Sarah Hillsdon, Category Manager, Geberit Bathroom Products & Installation Systems, looks at how our growing awareness of hygiene, together with our ever-shrinking homes, could soon herald a new era in bathroom design.

It’s fair to say that, after several months of lockdown, the world around us – both in our public and private space – has changed. One recent study undertaken during the peak of the pandemic found that 80% of consumers expect the way they interact with publicly available technology to shift. And the story is the same in the home, with Houzz recently reporting that 13% of renovators are now incorporating smart technology into projects, with sensor-controlled bathroom technology also expected to see growth.

As homeowners increasingly look to new technology and solutions in bathroom design, we must also consider this against the wider context of the growing (or perhaps, shrinking) issue of space in our homes and, in particular, the bathroom space. With today’s newbuild properties typically smaller than 30 years ago, the average size of a bathroom has shrunk to just 4.4m2. 

And yet, we cannot underestimate the role of the bathroom in our lives. Geberit carried out research in 2018 that told us that the bathroom was the most important place for sanctuary in the home and, of course, the significance of having a sanctuary in the home will have been keenly felt by many over these last few months.

To understand the potential impact of the pandemic on bathroom design, we need to briefly look at how the bathroom has evolved over the last hundred years – and, more specifically, its role in disease prevention.

Our bathrooms today have developed alongside numerous diseases: cholera epidemics, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and tuberculosis outbreaks. Floorings and finishes were all designed to minimise the spread of bacteria and to promote health and hygiene, with easy cleaning of the space and surfaces a crucial consideration. 

As antibiotics and hygiene standards improved, this emphasis then shifted as bathrooms become more sensory spaces. From textured bathrooms in the 70s to the 80s where carpets and toilet seat covers became ‘stylish’ additions in many homes, through to the transformation of the bathroom into a sanctuary space in the last decade; something our research has demonstrated.

We expect to see this next era of bathroom design to meet the challenge of space and practicality head-on. While touchless technology and infra-red will no doubt be a huge influence on bathroom design, there are also other, more simple, product innovations that can maximise hygiene in the bathroom. 

Surface coatings and glazes, for instance, can make cleaning easier, such as Geberit’s KeraTect Glaze. They ensure a non-porous and smoother surface, which helps prevent staining of the ceramics and creates a high-gloss effect. Solutions like this not only help maintain high levels of hygiene but also, crucially, really help to enhance the look and feel of the bathroom as a ‘clean’ space. 

Similarly, there are affordable solutions such as rimless technology, which can eliminate tricky corners and hard-to-reach areas around the pan, helping eradicate any hidden areas where dust and bacteria may proliferate. Flushing systems are also now designed to clear away residue effectively, making regular cleaning much simpler.

Another area we’re predicting real growth in is wall-hung toilets and sanitaryware. Manufacturers have been developing design-led solutions that maximise space and affordable wall-hung toilets with concealed cisterns and pre-wall frames, which are becoming more popular. 

These systems are a simple and effective way to make maintenance and cleaning easier in the bathroom by reducing any hidden areas where bacteria may thrive. Perhaps the biggest benefit of these systems is, however, their versatility. By lifting the toilet’s footprint off the floor and concealing the cistern, installation of a wall-hung frame can open up even the smallest of spaces and enable toilets to be easily installed in more awkward spaces, such as under a window, in a narrow wall duct, or under a sloping ceiling.

Quick and affordable pre-wall frame systems for wall-hung ceramics have been designed with installation and ease of maintenance in mind. Cleverly concealed fixings and the inclusion and position of water inlets, for example, make life easier for installers, and the cistern is concealed inside a drywall, removing the need for any additional studding. Servicing, and access to the cistern, is also made easy via the flush plate.

There’s no doubt about it, how homeowners use and view their homes is now completely different compared to just to six months ago and the opportunity to upsell hygienically-optimised and space-saving solutions to your customers has never been greater. The growing availability of these systems and, in turn, their affordability means that you can get ahead of the competition – ready for whatever new designs the future may bring.