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  • The designer shaping the future of water at GROHE

    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    The designer shaping the future of water at GROHE

    Post-ISH, Grohe’s Vice President of Design, Michael Seum, sits down with Hotel Designs to explain how its latest innovations are vastly reshaping the bathroom industry. Editor Hamish Kilburn writes…

    If one were to imagine the bathroom industry as a quiet, glass-like lake, surrounded by tranquil surroundings, then ISH 2019 was a competition between creatives on who could make the greatest and loudest splash with just one throw.

    While some manufacturers opted to hurl large rocks at the water, GROHE on the other hand decided to make its impact in numbers, by launching more than 500 new innovations and arguably creating the largest ripple effect, which has ultimately disrupted conventional bathroom designs as we know them today.

    Ensuring that each product that launched skimmed across the surface, GROHE had a strategic throw to avoid it become submerged in the noise of the show. Its latest collections were designed around five mega trends, ‘new living spaces’, ‘consumers become creators’, ‘simplicity seekers – the search for simplicity’, ‘taking control’, and ‘intelligent life management’. The man leading the innovation of each product is Michael Seum, the Vice President of Design at GROHE, who describes his role simply as “connecting the creative horsepower design team to a business need.”

    Image credit: Grohe/ISH 2019

    Seum, who is the bridge between the innovators and the board at the company, knows more than anyone that the bathroom products of today will help to shape the way in which all buildings and hotels that are conceived in the future. “We identified big shifts in society, technology and the rise in rejecting single-use objects,” he explains. “We wanted to understand the mindset of consumers and concluded that we should be giving consumers the ability to take better control over the environment and one large framework was built around looking at the consumer, identifying a problem or strain and coming up with a solution.”

    Once the solution has been established and visualised, Seum can unleash his weapon; his world-class team of in-house designers to create a new direction in bathroom design. “We honestly go through about 100 prototypes before the end user sees the result of a finished product ready for market,” Seum explains. “Within these, we explore different means of technology and this really in the power of design at GROHE. In a low fidelity way, we can sketch and build a product that can help to get the industry flowing in a certain way.”

    QUICK-FIRE ROUND

    Hamish Kilburn: I now have in my head that your house is full of prototypes… Am I correct?
    Michael Seum: That’s funny. Unfortunately not, my house is actually very minimalist – think Nordic and simple.

    HK: What is your biggest bugbear in design?
    MS: lack of originality. In our sector in particular, things are copied a lot

    HK: Should designers strive to put more colour in the bathroom?
    MS: Absolutely!

    HK: What is the number-one travel item you cannot travel without?
    MS: Books, my headphones and my sketchbook

    HK: What is your favourite trend at the moment?
    MS: Lightweight furniture!

    HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
    MS: Surfing in Portugal!

    HK: In your opinion, what is the number-one tool for success in this industry?
    MS: Learning and understanding the customer experience!

    HK: Sustainability is a huge driving force in what you are doing. Is there a hotel that stands out in your mind as being built purely to be sustainable?
    MS: Yes, actually. Zuri Zanzibar, which was designed by Jestico + Whiles, is really cool!

    The bathroom industry is arguably the most congested sectors in interior design. Staying ahead in such a landscape takes true innovation and not being afraid to disrupt the current lay of the land – something that Seum does with ease. “Our products are not inspired by the bathroom industry,” he says. “Instead, I am more interested to look outside the boundaries of bathroom design and towards wider trends in, for example, lifestyle, fashion and lighting.

    Image credit: Grohe

    With bathroom manufacturers specifically, there has been a rise in the number of companies that are welcoming outside renowned designers and architects to inspire the look of new collections, but for Seum who is a former design consultant himself, the demand for this at GROHE is non-existent. “I’m not critiquing the designers when I say this, but I am yet to find a designer who has worked on a collection with a bathroom manufacturer that has done anything to conserve water and/or to eliminate single-use plastics,” he explains. “Therefore, its clear that these collaborations are aimed to purely add aesthetics to a product.”

    The result of GROHE’s presence at ISH is that the company has defiantly launched products that are tailored to the needs of consumers as well as architects, interior designers and hotel investors. Creating intelligent water solutions to transform lives for the better, Seum and his team is succeeding in providing products that have the power to help designers build and create more intelligent and sustainable hotels around the world.

    Main image credit: GROHE

    Hamish Kilburn / 02.05.2019

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