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Sustainable and smart

Courtesy of Cosentino

Sustainable and smart

Courtesy of Cosentino
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From nature-inspired to app-assisted, technology and innovation across the kitchen and bathroom sector are transforming the look, feel and overall user experience in these lifestyle-oriented spaces.

Gabrielle Chariton

Content Writer

While visual trends in the kitchen and bathroom sector generally evolve year-to-year in line with what’s ‘in’ and what’s not, a new phenomenon is emerging as homeowners place more importance on the longevity and quality of these spaces.

They’re looking to invest in timeless, beautiful design, high-end finishes, and ultimately a more luxurious experience. According to the HIA Kitchens and Bathrooms Report 2022-23, this increasing preference for higher-end finishes and appliances has led to a spike in the value of kitchen installations across Australia. 

Bathrooms are also having a moment in the spotlight. The average home now has 2.6 bathrooms (up from 2.2 a few years ago), and they’re being renovated, on average, every 14 years. 

Blissful bathrooms

The overarching trends in bathrooms continue to draw on the themes of wellness and rejuvenation. ‘There’s a sustained focus on wellbeing and making the bathroom the ultimate escape,’ says Melanie Gardener, K&B trends commentator, adding this has become an enduring trend articulated in calm, soothing colours, natural finishes and spa-like features such as indoor greenery, rain showerheads and deep freestanding tubs.

The Kohler Stillness Infinity bath, presented at EuroCucina 2022, deploys app-controlled technology to take the luxury bathing concept to a new level. Inspired by ‘peaceful Japanese forest bathing’, the tub has a waterfall-like overflow and programmable light, mist and aromas for ultimate relaxation.

Long live the life cycle

The focus on sustainability is gaining momentum across the K&B sector, and leading manufacturers are harnessing technology to deliver products with a lighter footprint. This is done through design and innovation to ‘build-in’ longevity and durability, by improving manufacturing efficiencies, and by actively using recycled and/or recyclable materials.

‘Major European manufacturers are investing heavily in every area of their business – from factory and manufacturing efficiencies to designing the entire life cycle of a product,’ explains K&B trends commentator Melanie Gardener, who attended the international trade show, Interzum 2023.

The Kohler Stillness Infinity bath deploys app-controlled technology. Photo courtesy Kohler

‘Products are being designed and manufactured that are fully or mostly recycled, which not only keeps items from landfill but provides a renewable resource for the industry.’

One example is Silestone® by Cosentino – a low silica, high-performance, sustainable mineral surface made with the pioneering HybriQ/HybriQ+ Technology®. 

‘HybriQ Technology is an innovative generation of advanced surfaces composed from a blend of premium and recycled materials with a sustainable manufacturing process,’ says Itay Shimony, Cosentino VP Oceania. ‘This process uses 99 per cent recycled water, which results in zero water waste, 100 per cent renewable electric energy and a minimum of 20 per cent recycled materials in its composition. The resulting product enables a wide variety of effects in colour depth, texture and tone in the surfaces.’

Cosentino has led the sustainability charge for several years now. The company proudly launched the first carbon neutral mineral surface collection, ‘Sunlit Days’ in 2021.

‘This collection of five evocative Mediterranean shades is an immersive and sensory journey through light and colour that takes us back to our roots and leads us to a more natural, sustainable and human future,’ Itay says. ‘It represents the commitment to sustainability in which we reduce and offset the emissions of the manufacturing process with reforestation projects. This commitment results in a partnership program for the preservation of the seabed and our environment.’

Cosentino’s HybriQ Technology also responds to industry concerns around the use of silica. ‘With Silestone, we continue to advance with our commitment to safety and sustainability,’ Itay explains. ‘Since early 2022, 100 per cent of our colours and new collections contain less than 40 per cent silica, and with the HybriQ+ technology, a minimum 20 per cent recycled material in their composition.’

Silestone by Cosentino – a low silica, high-performance, sustainable mineral surface made with the pioneering HybriQ/HybriQ+ Technology

Even though HybriQ Technology reduces the total crystalline silica content to a maximum of 40 per cent, the new Silestone maintains all the properties and certifications in terms of resistance, hardness and hygiene.

‘Cosentino is actively communicating and engaging with registered stonemasons, builders, fabricators, and other stakeholders in Australia to raise awareness of the availability of its mineral HybriQ surfaces,’ Itay says. ‘With technological advancements and sustainable manufacturing, Cosentino has shown it is possible to achieve lower crystalline silica surfaces, with the same high performance and aesthetics.’

Silestone is now available in large-format slabs (up to 3250 x 1590mm and 20mm thickness). Designers can select from polished, and suede finishes for a variety of aesthetic possibilities. The collection also includes Integrity sinks, custom washbasins and shower trays, allowing continuity and longevity within interior designs. A 25-year warranty on the Silestone brand offers ongoing peace of mind.

Bathroom innovation

It’s not every day that new products enter the bathroom market that not only look great but improve on design and installation processes for the industry. However, Stormtech, the inventor of the revolutionary linear drainage system, has been at it again and this time has released a new product anticipated to change bathroom design all over again. 

Consumers are increasingly opting for streamlined and luxe bathroom layouts, where the emphasis is on flush flooring and large-format tiles to create a sense of openness. This streamlined design is facilitated by the inclusion of linear drainage, and Stormtech’s latest offering, the 120SCS Shower Screen Support drain, delivers creative flexibility along with ease of installation for a show-stopping result. 

Developed after extensive collaboration with designers, builders, tilers, regulators and waterproofing consultants, the 120SCS Shower Screen Support drain is a versatile linear drainage system that provides dual function as a drain for both sides of the shower screen, and a support for the shower screen itself. The product represents the latest innovation in bathroom drainage, drawing upon Stormtech’s manufacturing expertise. According to Stormtech Managing Director Troy Creighton, it’s set to change our approach to bathroom design. 

‘Stormtech’s 120SCS Shower Screen Support drain is groundbreaking because of its dual functionality, drastically simplifying bathroom design and installation,’ he says. 
Made from 316 stainless steel, the 120SCS Shower Screen Support drain is designed for flexibility. Wall-to-wall installation allows a simple dual fall across the bathroom. ‘As a result, a single floor waste can drain the entire bathroom, meaning designers are no longer required to detail the intricate geometries of a traditional centred floor waste,’ Troy explains. ‘As the simple dual fall sheds water more effectively, they are free to use larger format tiles to create the impression of space in smaller bathrooms.’

Stormtech's 120SCS design supports the shower screen itself. Photos courtesy of Stormtech
As well as achieving a streamlined aesthetic, 120SCS also drains on both sides of the screen

As well as achieving a streamlined aesthetic, Stormtech’s 120SCS design helps streamline bathroom installations. ‘Builders and tilers don’t need to have complex falls or undertake intricate tile cutting as is required for most dual drain (shower and main bathroom) layouts,’ Troy says. ‘There is less tile wastage from breakage and having to re-cut tiles, plus a faster and simpler tiling process. Waterproofing is easier too, as the waterproofed substrate falls towards the location below where the Shower Screen Support Channel drain will be, and less water will find its way through grout joints due to effective watershedding.

‘The product can also reduce the risk of bathroom flooding, as it drains away from the entry door to the bathroom.’

Stormtech says the 120SCS Shower Screen Support drain is exclusively available in all of its designer grates and finishes to blend seamlessly with a range of architectural styles; exceeds Australian Standards; and is WaterMark certified. 

Improving on nature

The trend for ‘bringing nature indoors’ continues unabated in the K&B space (Melanie Gardener describes this as an ‘embedded’ trend). But while timber and natural stone add that sought-after organic appeal, they aren’t always a durable choice in wet or high-traffic areas. But, it seems, it is possible to improve on nature. Exciting new advances in product development mean designers can now select hard-wearing, durable adaptations to achieve the eco-aesthetic without forfeiting longevity or performance. 

‘As veneers become more life-like, there’s a real focus on introducing texture so there is a tactile as well as a visual relationship in terms of feeling as though the “wood” is real,’ Melanie explains. 

An example of how high-tech interventions are transforming the way we can use natural materials is NUO – a product that won the ‘Best of the Best’ award in the Materials & Nature category at Interzum 2023. A fascinating wood textile that is as soft as leather and as supple as fabric, NUO is made of premium veneer originating from sustainably managed forests. ‘The thin real wood (0.5 mm) is bonded to a textile backing and then lasered. The laser process engraves many fine lines that give the wood surface its incomparable flexibility,’ Melanie says.

Industry displays at Interzum also showcased a continued emphasis on soft colours and matte textures (as opposed to glossy surfaces), helped along by high-tech ‘additives that repel fingerprints or smudges, which also help with longevity and durability’.

The space race 

The most forward-looking kitchens and bathrooms are all about smart ergonomics, performance and the clever use of space. Melanie says functionality is absolutely key and this is where technology advances are making a big difference. ‘Everything is getting smaller – for example, lift systems that used to take up a lot of space within the cabinet are becoming slimmer and more minimalist to maximise storage space in the cabinet and make the fitting more invisible.’ 

Examples of space-optimising innovations include the Salice pocket doors, and the Terno Scorrevoli ‘Spin’ system for folding doors, which feature a rotating and translating movement to allow the doors to open fully for access to every corner of the cupboard.

The intersect between space and functionality was also explored at EuroCucina 2022, Melanie adds. ‘International manufacturers showcased a range of new products and concepts that sought to solve the challenges of a compact kitchen space, new functionalities, and new technology to make appliances more efficient.’ 

As downdraft rangehoods continue to gain traction, favoured for their ‘invisibility’ within a streamlined kitchen, manufacturers are increasingly focused on ‘managing how much space underneath the cooktop is “lost” by the inclusion of a downdraft with the cooktop’. Products such as the Neff Glass Draft Hood, which features guided air technology via a V-shaped air curtain extraction system, provide an elegant solution to this problem, allowing designers more flexibility in positioning the cooktop, and the ability to create clean, open layouts with uninterrupted sightlines. 

Neff glass draft hood. Photo courtesy of Neff
Salice pocket doors. Photo courtesy of Salice

International design tour 2024. Are you ready?

To get the first glimpse of what’s on the horizon for kitchen design, lighting, appliance technology or bathroom fittings and fixtures, then why not head over to Italy on the AIDT 2024 tour to iSalone from 15-27 April.

As regular visitors and tour leaders to overseas design shows, Simon Hodgson and Melanie Gardener will guide you effortlessly through iSalone, Milan Design Districts, Eurocucina, Salone Bagno and to sponsor facilities. 

The stress-free AIDT tour lets you enjoy this fascinating, immersive experience with other like-minded industry professionals. 

This article was compiled with contributions from Cosentino and Stormtech. For more information, go to:

First published on 28 July 2023

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