The designers, the art directors, the visionary managers: who are the deus ex machina who design the contemporary bathroom?
We interviewed seven of the best known and most disruptive art directors and entrepreneurs in the bathroom world to explore the present and future of the room dedicated to well-being.
The direction is clear: rational use of materials, attention to transversality and community, openness towards the hybridization between living room and bathroom.
From a room of necessity to an iconic, imagined, desired space. It is sustainable.
Andrea Lupi is the art director of antoniolupi, a company for years dedicated to innovation through aesthetic research and an evolutionary use of materials.
“Chromatic research and materials of incredible beauty: we will bring this thought back to the bathroom and beyond. Color, together with shape, is an antidote to banality." This is how Andrea Lupi, art director of antoniolupi, summarizes his vision, without forgetting the need to surround the research with a project in which common sense and a pragmatic look at the market and the planet participate.
But the brand's revolutionary move, almost unexpected, is the intentional and declared openness to furnishings. Lupi comments on the new strategy: “We started two years ago with wallpapers, lamps, carpets. The market has optimally accepted our proposals for an easy to understand reason: the functional contamination between bedroom and bathroom has already been underway for some time. They are the private places of the self."
However, attention is not only paid to the well-being of people, but also to that of the planet. “antoniolupi was one of the first brands to use Corian, in 2002. In the meantime, technology has progressed: today we develop our resins in house, materials that offer us possibilities infinite from a formal point of view due to the flexibility of industrial production techniques".
Yet Paolo Ulian designed Intreccio, a marble sink that weighs 'only' 55 kilos. “This is how we want to use natural stones: new processing technologies and the awareness that we are treating a precious material to make it a work of art”.
A designer with a radical attitude, who is not afraid of experimentation and tries to trespass into never-explored productive universes. Ferruccio Laviani signed Pigmenti for Lea Ceramiche in 2022.
Innovative, material textures that bring kaolin and earth back to their visual essentiality. “I worked for Lea thinking about the colors and textures of Sol Lewitt's works: it was a ploy to overcome the boundaries of ceramics. Colors and textures both more traditional and more recent, which imitate other materials".
A work that aims at the honesty of the material, with the ambition of restoring the ceramic surface to its functional and aesthetic dignity. Sober but unusual colours, the matte finish, the width of the slabs and the application versatility of the Slimtech technology, which requires neither demolition nor glue, make ceramic a surface that suggests new perspectives in the bathroom environment.
“Pigmenti, with its chromatic range and its natural 'touch', offers the possibility of creating a bathroom environment that radically differs from the colors and ceramic finishes we were used to. Combined with other collections, it opens up infinite possibilities of stylistic languages, giving life to more personal, contemporary and sustainable environments", concludes Laviani.
“I no longer make a distinction between the various domestic environments, what interests me is making people feel good”. Thus Aldo Parisotto makes his debut, who together with Massimo Formenton has been following Nic Design for some time.
The latest product is the Mediterranean collection, an unusual interpretation of the bathroom, which proposes a path of modularity and functional flexibility with the intention of returning to domestic archetypes. “We wanted to analyze the anthropological source of the relationship between man and water in its most usual space: the home.
The theme of 'containing', before the advent of contemporary bathrooms, was entrusted to very simple objects: basins. Mediterraneo uses the same concept and transforms it into an identity code".
The idea of Parisotto + Formenton is to explore a transversal family dimension, collective, in which containers made of different materials and, if desired, different colors respond to the functions intuitively and, above all, with great freedom of interpretation.
It is not a static bathroom, it is a bathroom that adapts to different ages and different moments of individual life. Which relies on an intelligent translation of the function while remaining in a simple, understandable formal area. “I like the idea of hybridization, of a space where you take care of yourself and which also extends to other areas of the house”.
"The sector is constantly evolving, the bathroom environment is increasingly sophisticated. We are faced with a constant search for new materials, advanced technologies, unusual textures. For this reason we are driven to create beautiful and functional objects that respond to the real needs of the consumer. The new products must therefore follow the new demands both in formal and functional terms, taking into account that the evolution of the bathroom concerns domestic and hospitality environments".
Giulio Cappellini comments on bathroom trends in a concise way, with an eye on marketing and one on the evolution of people's habits. His art direction work for Flaminia, moreover, speaks for itself.
The attention to the technology which today reduces the weight and thickness of sanitary fixtures, the atypical choice to involve from time to time designers capable of creating iconic products and designers who are more attentive to the continuity of the series, the ability to translate even the most sculptural elements into sensible and rational forms...
There is the hand of Cappellini, who never gives up research, with a great passion for beauty and formal evolution. “The role of the art director is to identify and perhaps anticipate new trends by creating, with the most diverse designers, sanitary products that represent a concrete evolution compared to those of the past and that they can be easily inserted into many different architectural contexts”, concludes Cappellini.
The relationship between ZeTae Studio and Relax Design is a great design love. “We were practically born together. From the beginning we have dealt with Relax Design from the point of view of both the product and the strategies and vision".
The result is a dynamic brand, which roots its formal research in the development of in-house produced materials.
The transparent Lumenit resin is currently the protagonist of the development of new products.
“We focused on transparency and the market responded enthusiastically. The colour is the most identifying aesthetic sign, used for each White Label collection.
We were certainly not the first to follow this path, but we tried to do it in a new way, with signature objects recognizable for their versatility of use in different market contexts".
The secret is probably in the focus: ZeTae Studio designs tubs and sinks that seem to exist as unique objects, small aquatic sculptures with simple and organic shapes.
"The future? We are focusing on a new color range, more natural, with warm colors, maintaining a high level of customization which has always been a sign of the brand".
Mattia Biagi and Cardenio Petrucci have recently founded MC+, a brand that designs products intended for a niche market, between collectible design and contemporary art . The material of the first MC+ collection alone expresses the hi-end imprint of the brand: marble. A material that often comes up in conversations around the bathroom project, to be treated with great respect and rationality.
A path that the two art directors and founders have undertaken with responsibility and awareness, thanks to twenty years of experience in the world of furniture, art and design, between Italy and the United States.
The first series, inspired by Leon Battista Alberti, pays homage to an architectural approach in the wake of a technological and increasingly advanced Made in Italy: the work is carried out with a water-jet technique on Carrara marble.
It almost goes without saying: it is a limited edition aimed at galleries, the luxury market and lovers of unique works. Concinnitas, this is the name of the collection, is Latin for 'elegant and skilful union of multiple elements'.
So we are talking about a bathroom that moves away from industrial design and meets the value of natural stones, from a non-serial perspective but of 'functional art'.
“Our idea is to create unique pieces developed by expanding our collaborations, for a 'design contaminated' by different worlds, such as art, craftsmanship, technology and fashion.
And this is precisely how the two projects of the Cake bathroom system were born, a sink and bathtub in Carrara Arabescato and Breccia Capraia marble , from the Concinnitas collection, presented at the Istituto dei Ciechi at the Milan Design Week 2023”, say the two art directors.