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Natures design

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Bathroom design has come a long way, and today’s spaces are all about the relaxation, pleasure and health of consumers as much as they are about style.

HIA content team


Bathrooms have never been more on the mind of home builders and renovators. Once low on the priority rung, bathrooms of the twentieth century were a hospital-like space with sparse white fittings and harsh lighting, modestly decorated and tucked away from the rest of the home.

From the 1960s, with rising prosperity and a newly invigorated search for luxury, bathrooms suddenly became adorned with what we would see now as frivolous excess. Gelato coloured sunken baths, wallpaper, mirrored cabinets and to our horror, even shag pile carpet. Definitely not a space for the splendour shy.

Fast forward to today, we can see the needs and aesthetics of bathrooms have changed again, but they are neither invisible nor ostentatious. Now they are a place where innovation and sanctuary-led style combine to make it a place you want to stay, to be reinvigorated, and arise anew and refreshed.

Designing a bathroom sanctuary 

Homeowners tend to go for a ‘bathroom refresh’ every 11–20 years which allows for a large overhaul of the old and introduction of new trends. 
The 2019/20 HIA–GWA Kitchen & Bathroom Report highlights the most recent emerging and outdated bathroom design trends.

Photo courtesy Gessi

Outdated bathroom design trends 

  • All white
  • Gold tapware
  • Combined bath/shower 
  • Enclosed showers
  • Bulky basins
  • Framed screens
  • Frosted opaque glass
  • Toilet in bathroom

Current and emerging bathroom design trends

  • Grey and white colour schemes
  • Black, brass or copper tapware and accessories
  • Bathroom without bathtubs
  • Walk-in showers
  • More bench space less basin
  • Frameless glass
  • Minimalism and geometric shapes
  • Increased cupboard space 

Additionally, when it comes to new homes and a clean slate, the report found the unprosperous economic climate produced from COVID-19 will see an increased likelihood of fewer bathrooms being included. As a result, it’s even more important to make the available bathroom space a personalised and impactful sanctuary. 

You can achieve the personal and secluded sanctuary feel with more than modern tapware and a minimalist vibe. One of the most important inclusions in bathrooms at the moment is its link to nature and the outdoors. As mentioned in the report, frosted opaque glass – once viewed as a must in bathroom inclusions – is now being replaced with clear glass. This opens the bathroom space to the outdoor environment, but it has to be done with privacy still front of mind. 

A creative way to achieve this is to design a home with elements that can be traced back to ancient Roman architecture – the atrium. These spaces, usually gardens, help to bring the outdoors into a home’s interior. Positioning your bathroom near an atrium and incorporating large panels of glass gives occupants an opportunity to outwardly look upon, and connect, with nature. The inclusion of small trees or large leafy plants in an atrium will provide a barrier and ensure privacy from any adjoining windows. 

Photo courtesy Croese Building

Neutral colours are a great way to add the feeling of sophistication into a bathroom while staying grounded to the calm created by the vista. Rather than all-white, try grey, white and cream as a base, highlighted with matte finishes and rustic colours or warm metallics to complement the browns and greens of nature.

Coloured grout is another way to modernise an interior, subtly incorporating moodier tones into the bathroom. Darker grouts also have the added benefit of easier maintenance – giving the homeowner more time for relaxation rather than cleaning. 

Personal and in perpetuity

There is a real paradox at play when it comes to bathroom design. With reality shows, endless online inspiration and trend reports, consumers can be overwhelmed by choice. Adding to option inundation is the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment, but they are yearning to find a way to integrate that natural world into their homes to harmonise the space. 

When it comes to the choice of materials and components, the 2019/20 HIA–GWA Kitchen & Bathroom Report uncovered that 51 per cent of homeowners have the final say, so it’s important to help navigate them through the vast array of options. One solution might be to just focus on two things, the preliminary ‘T’s’ of design – timelessness and personal taste. Deciding to renovate is usually the moment when consumers are trying to work out their particular style, but one that is relatively ageless. Seems easy, but it’s usually not.

Maybe the answer is to move from making the decisions personal and in-person. Leading bathroom specialist Caroma believes that bathroom sanctuaries need to make you feel as good as the space looks. One way to narrow down choice is to use a showroom environment, with the dual benefit of seeing two ‘F’s’ – functionality and feel – in the one place. 

Caroma’s bathroom showrooms in both Sydney and Adelaide have been configured to offer beautiful spaces that allow for a close-up experience in bathroom designs and features, which help to empower, educate and simplify the renovation journey. 

Photo courtesy Caroma
Photo courtesy Highgrove Bathrooms

The furnishing touch

Don’t forget cabinetry, vanities and free-standing furniture, such as chairs and stools, can add warmth and comfort when creating the perfect sanctuary. 

‘The integration of furniture into the bathroom is a true indication of how the bathroom space is transitioning from a utilitarian place to one where we can indulge in self-care,’ says Luke Di Michiel, Caroma’s industrial designer. 

‘Storage in particular is one of our greatest needs, given that men may have the same amount of toiletries as women, so bathroom furniture can turn this necessity into a beautiful, and much needed, inclusion.’

With the modern bathrooms no longer hidden away, but rather segueing from other rooms, in particular bedrooms, bathroom furnishings help to extend the colour palette, form and flow from the accompanying spaces.

Luke adds that for many Australians, the bathroom has become a personal oasis away from the rest of the world. ‘Today’s bathrooms are a place of self-expression where you can put your own touch on your home and create a luxurious space you can enjoy.’

Nature and natural products

With their personal style decided, what about nature? The ‘feel good’ global push for footprint responsibility?

When it comes to toilets, countries such as Japan offer solutions for bathroom cleanliness with built-in bidets, whereas Norwegian company Cinderella has gone for a no-waste and reduced water consumption option. 

Two such advocates of this option are tiny house owners, Colin and Megan. They wanted to join a growing trend of owners living in small structures that are beautiful and functional, yet pay homage to the natural environment.

Tiny houses were developed to provide potential homeowners an alternative to the current housing market. The small footprint of the home means they are cheaper than traditional homes, offering a more practical and affordable living solution. Tiny homes are often removed from the grid and instead use solar power and water catchments.

Photo courtesy Cinderella

When designing their 12-metre long home in Queensland, Colin and Megan were dreading the thought of using composting toilets. However, after becoming aware of the incinerating toilet from Cinderella Eco Group they felt they had more doors opened to them.

Water-free incinerating toilets also add to the eco-friendly nature of tiny homes. It is a sustainable option for environmentally conscious consumers and many find them ideally suited to small builds. Many tiny house owners rent a slice of land to park their home and landlords are concerned with the issue of sewage. 

‘For us to be able to say, “we have none”, and describe the small amount of ash we produce, immediately alleviated any concerns our landlord had in this area,’ Colin explains.

The Cinderella Incineration Toilet burns all bodily waste at high temperatures with the only outcome being a coffee cup’s worth of ashes for a family of four during a week of use. The ashes are free of harmful bacteria and can be disposed in the household waste bin. In comparison, the average water consumption created with a flush toilet of a family of four is generally more than 450 litres of water, which could be sustainably used for other purposes.

‘We love our Cinderella toilet and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone considering purchasing one for themselves,’ Colin says.

‘We love our Cinderella toilet and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone considering purchasing one for themselves’

Hands free hygiene

The COVID-19 climate has shown us that hygiene has never been more important to our wellbeing, and segments of the market may be looking for additional features in their bathrooms to help them achieve improved sanitation standards. A growing number of smart toilets for example offer a range of features that would assuage even the biggest germophobe amongst us, from touchless flushing, automatic lids to incorporated bidets or self-cleaning functions. However, if a smart toilet is not in the budget, certain toilet models on the market also come with anti-stain and anti-bacterial coatings. 

Other hands-free options include touchless tapware or electric soap dispensers such as the VOLA Round series. The circular rim – available in a range of colours – sits flush against the wall and even features a colour indicator warning when a refill is needed. 

When it comes to basins, consider specifying those with raised sides for hygienic-conscious homeowners. Raised basins are not only a popular style for modern bathrooms but they are easier to clean, helping to keep them germ-free during COVID-19.

Photo courtesy VOLA
Photo courtesy Baulch Services
This article was compiled with contributions from Caroma and Cinderella Eco Group.