Panel discussion: democratising design in style

As the first day of HIX drew to a close, conversation was flowing on the Crosswater stand as Hamish Kilburn, Editor of Hotel Designs, along with three leading designers, discussed questions around product design, materiality and more broadly, design direction impacting on the role of the bathroom. Pauline Brettell shares her takeaways…

HIX Crosswater panel discussion

As bathroom design and wellness concepts show no sign of stepping aside in the hotel experience, the panel looked at the challenges and the changes being made that are elevating both design and product, as boundaries blur and guestroom spaces are required to be more flexible. From the large hotel brands through to the boutique, the bathroom is under scrutiny – and expectations are high.

hotel designs panel discussion at HIX with Bathroom Brands Group and Crosswater

Image caption: The panel of Hamish Kilburn, Ramona Bittere, Maliha Haque  and Jorge Hernandez. | Image credit: Crosswater

On the panel, moderated by Hamish Kilburn, were:

Having introduced the subject by discussing how bathrooms, through texture, colour matching and materials, have become far more than merely practical spaces, Kilburn started off the conversation by asking the panel what they saw as being new and exciting in the realm of bathroom design for interior designers and architects?

Ramona Bittere: Trends tend to be circular, repeating themselves with a different emphasis, but certainly we are seeing a shift in hotels accepting, and actually expecting, more than ‘standard’ when it comes to bathroom design. The question ‘what more can we offer’ is being asked as operators recognise that the bathroom is key to the experience, which means as designers it is easier to justify why the bathroom design needs to be elevated.

Maliha Haque: There is an increasing emphasis on both materiality and performance. People are trying to break away form the usual, the standard, while leaning towards more design led fittings. It is all about creating memorable design elements beyond mere functionality.

Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn hosting a panel discussion at HIX23

Image credit: Crosswater

HK: As boundaries are increasingly blurred in design, we can see this is product development with bathroom brands like Crosswater moving into the realm of lighting design – can you explain to us your thought process when designing products for the brand?

Jorge Hernandez: At Crosswater we are focussing on creating wider solutions, connecting spaces and connecting the bathroom into the guestroom or home. We are trying to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of the bathroom, in step with lifestyle trends we are seeing more broadly impacting on design and lifestyle. We are investing in all the different narratives to expand our products on offer.

six ceiling lights suspended from concrete beam from the Crosswater Tranquil Lights Collection

Image caption: Image credit: Crosswater

Discussing the concept ‘democratisation of design’ in more depth, the panel went on to look at balance in the design process and how different elements answer to each other. As spaces change and merge, bathroom elements have in some cases been moved into the bedroom or suite, while others have focused on sharing the bathroom with, for example, the wardrobe area. Kilburn asked the question if, with these schemes becoming reality, there is now more freedom for designers to challenge conventional approaches to bathroom design?

RB: As bathrooms become bigger, there is definitely more space for creativity. It is exciting that we are starting to think about the bathroom more as an experience, beyond being simply a practical space to have a quick shower! As designers we are starting to design from a point of view of changing and shifting perspectives within a space, resulting in a less static and potentially more personalised approach to the design.

MH: There is no doubt that the bathroom is an integral part of the guest experience – it is often the first place guests look and can define the overall impression. Brands are certainly pushing boundaries when it comes to bathroom design and specification now. The high end brands are focussing more on the experiential and less exclusively on the functional, as the bathroom becomes another sentence in the brand story However with the bathroom being the most engineered space within the guestroom it is still important to consider practicalities.

HK: With all the focus on bathrooms, how are bedrooms answering in response? Is there a danger of the bedroom being lost?

RB: The bedroom will never be lost – you should think of the guestroom as a beautiful set of lingerie – it is intimate, not going to be shared with everyone, but you still want it to be sophisticated and an expression of self. It is important, that in this context the bedroom and bathroom work together as part of a whole,  making sure you want to spend time in both.

the Foile collection of brassware from Crosswater mounted against a dark green background

Image credit: Crosswater

Ending the conversation on a practical note, Kilburn asked Hernandez, Product and Design Manager at Bathroom Brand Group, what we can expect from Crosswater in the year ahead?

JH: Crosswater has only just begun its journey into lighting as we explore beginning of journey to expand into other spaces – personalisation and choice – providing solutions to answer the demand for personalisation and choice which involves exploring colour, finishes, materials.

HK: And before we end – a final quickfire round: what are your personal bugbears in a hotel bathroom?

JH: Showers that aren’t thermostatic! And little things like annoying coat hangers that you can’t remove from the wardrobe…

MH: I agree – for me it is the temperature control and the water flow in the shower!

HK: For me, it’s too much tech! Not knowing how to turn things on or things just turning themselves on…

RB: It has to be smell – no matter how great the design is, any space can be killed with bad lighting and/or a bad smell. The essence of bathroom is lost in this case because we will not feel nor clean, nor more beautiful coming out of smelly space looking awful in poor lighting.

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Main image credit: Crosswater