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ISH: more colour in the bathroom

The Frankfurt fair showed bolder colour schemes in the bathroom echo the trend towards more colour in the interiors sector as a whole.

At this year’s ISH, there was an abundance of technical innovations coupled with ambitious design, in the form of ultrathin ceramic, diamond-cut fittings, furniture systems made of glass panels, fittings that are as slender as they are smart and even a toilet with an integrated wastewater filter. But what were the takeaways from the Frankfurt-based sanitaryware trade fair? The colours! Their arrival in what has traditionally been “white space” has turned the desire for a bathroom that feels like home into reality. Fittings in black or white or with brass or copper-coloured finishes don’t just make for upmarket accents when used in combination with wood and tiles, they can also be contrasted with walls, cabinets or coloured washbasins in bold primary colours or delicate pastel shades. As it evolves into a lifestyle space, the bathroom is embracing colour (again) too.

Colour Selection – the latest colour trends in the bathroom
This year the trend experts of the Pop up my Bathroom communication campaign decided to turn their special exhibition into a gallery: bathroom products like washbasins and bathtubs, cabinets and fittings merged with their artistically “defamiliarized” background – designed by illustrator Björn Steinmetzler – to create unusual 3D collages. In a total of 12 such scenarios, the makers of Pop up my Bathroom staged colour spaces that adapted the latest trending colours and stylistic devices from the field of colour design specifically for the bathroom.

Trend No. 1: Grey – Design series Badu by burgbad
Bestseller in grey: With its new Badu collection, Schmallenberg-based bathroom furniture specialist burgbad is reinterpreting the popular mid-century style for the bathroom.
Photo credit: burgbad

“We’re delighted that the topic is meeting with such a huge response from the industry and the media,” says Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the VDS, of the hotly debated No. 1 theme at this year’s fair. He also has some reassuring words for skeptics: “The industry is taking a cautious approach to colour and proceeding with a steady hand and a delicate touch. Nobody’s about to empty a bucket of paint over the bathtub and basin. It’s not about using the same unimaginative colour for everything, it’s about things like colour concepts, colour harmonies and colour chords, or discovering colours inspired by materials like natural stone or different metals. With this year’s Pop up my Bathroom campaign, we weren’t so much interested in certain on-trend colours but in the systematic extrapolation of a specific design dimension for the bathroom – i.e. colour itself.”

Neutral colours continue to dominate – grey is the new white
That being said, the makers of Pop up my Bathroom are confident that, at least as far as Germany is concerned, white ceramic sanitaryware will remain the standard. Colour is coming to the bathroom in the form of fittings, furniture, shelving, freestanding bathtubs, other furniture, textiles, flooring, wall coverings and accessories. Paradoxically, Frank A. Reinhardt, the Pop up my Bathroom initiative’s trend expert, sees white as one of the trending colours in bathroom design: “In the interiors sector right now, white is an on-trend colour that stands for minimalism, the Bauhaus, a stylish ambience and a modern look. But because white has been used in the bathroom as a ‘non-colour’ with no character of its own for decades now, many people see this trend as the exact opposite of modern bathroom design. White isn’t automatically seen as on-trend because it’s not associated with radical change. That makes it more difficult to use white in the bathroom in a way that visualises its modernity.”

Trend No. 2: Brown – AXOR MyEdition fitting line
The clear, straightforward design of the AXOR MyEdition fittings line provides customers with a stage for expressing their own personality and creativity. The fittings consist of two parts: the body and the plate. That opens up new scope in terms of brown shades for the washbasin and a cosier feel for the bathroom.
Photo credit: Axor

Even so, Reinhardt is more inclined to see grey as the new trend colour for the bathroom: “In the foreseeable future, grey will be the new white – it’s an excellent starting point for any colour combination or bathroom colour scheme.” Just like white, grey provides a large palette of very different neutral hues – ranging from a warm greige or cool slate all the way to light mouse grey or a modern concrete grey.

Colourful isn’t the same as bright and bold: – colour as a background and colour for accentuation
The brown palette is another strong contender for the bathroom. Painting one wall nougat – a highly popular shade right now – and combining it with light-coloured wood such as light oak will immediately conjure up a cosy feel and is timeless too. Up-to-the-minute brown hues can transform any bathroom into a lifestyle space – especially when paired with complementary accent colours like petrol, turquoise, orange or coral, a beige-tinted dusky pink, ultraviolet or the odd dash of mustard, which looks great with olive and brown shades.

Trendsetters might be adventurous enough to give vibrant colour chords a try – maybe something like petrol or green with coral, a combination with overtones of India or exotic settings. A dark ambience looks particularly upmarket and smart, especially in the kind of classic arrangements featuring warm wood hues and metal effects that are popular right now. Those after a more timeless feel might want to opt for upscale black or a minimalist white-on-white look, which can also look extremely elegant. On top of everything else, there’s also the option of using patterns, which can be integrated via the tiles, wallpaper, textiles or even upmarket wood finishes with a 3D effect.

Trend No. 3: Gold – TECEsquare flush plate and the TECEdrainprofile shower channel
Golden treasures: Modern bathrooms are increasingly turning into personalised retreats with a feel-good factor – and colour is returning to the bathroom too. To promote this trend, TECE is expanding its extensive selection of finishes with the addition of various metallic surfaces for the TECEsquare flush plate and the TECEdrainprofile shower channel.
Photo credit: TECE

Pop Up My Bathroom
Pop up my Bathroom, an initiative of the German Sanitary Industry Association (Vereinigung Deutsche Sanitärwirtschaft e.V. [VDS]) and Messe Frankfurt established in conjunction with the ISH, is an experimental platform for architects, bathroom planners, interior designers and journalists. It aims to explore and illustrate what possibilities the bathroom can offer people as both an aesthetic and a functional space.

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