Suite Success

Everyday in hotel bathrooms across the world, someone is stopping in front of the mirror, unpacking their toothbrushes, toothpastes and soaps only to pack them a day or so later. The procedure is the same in each hotel, in each country, and so it is a major challenge for commercial interior designers to ensure that the bathrooms don’t blend into each other like the cities often do.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  April 6, 2006

|~|Emirates-Towers-Body.jpg|~|Room with a view at Emirates Towers|~|Everyday in hotel bathrooms across the world, someone is stopping in front of the mirror, unpacking their toothbrushes, toothpastes and soaps only to pack them a day or so later. The procedure is the same in each hotel, in each country, and so it is a major challenge for commercial interior designers to ensure that the bathrooms don’t blend into each other like the cities often do. The boom in Europe in the 1980s started a trend for reflecting new ideas of corporate image and quality in the design and architecture of a hotel. Bathrooms convey colour and form, and also deliver content and emotion. Once the domain of personal hygiene and little else, designers are now seeing it as a haven of design. They are realising that the first thing to observe in a hotel is the bathroom as it gives the public the best idea of the style and hygiene of the place. It provides the identity of the space and can be the centerpiece of a design. The commercial bathroom has even evolved into a place for people to meet; there is a growing trend to put comfortable sofas into toilets in bars and create a more interactive environment. Designing hotel bathrooms is an opportunity to give the guests an experience that few of them would enjoy at home. Eva Leonard, editor of Business Traveller Magazine, US, says hotel bathrooms “become a sanctuary, because most people don’t have full marble baths or Bulgari products at home. It’s very pampering.” However, according to the Home Improvement Research institute, more than $26 billion is projected to be spent on plumbing supplies in 2006. With so much money spent on the home plumbing market, is it any wonder that hotel bathrooms are on a quest to be much more impressive and upgrade their appearance more than ever before? “The lines between commercial and residential bathrooms are getting quite blurred,” notes Diana Schrage, an interior designer at the Kohler Design Centre. “Guests have come to expect a degree of innovation in upscale hotel bathrooms and want them to have a more spa-like ambience, with a touch of home.” So whether designers are opting for an Arabesque feel like the bathrooms in Al Qasr in the Madinat Jumeirah and Qasr Al Sharq in Jeddah; choosing to inject colour and vibrancy like the bathrooms in Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, or selecting a sleek, streamline minimalism evident in Jumeirah International’s Emirates Towers, the high level of functionality and technology-driven detail is top of every guest’s wish list.||**|||~|Burj--Body.jpg|~|Vibrant colour in the Burj Al Arab|~|Open or closed? There is a real divide in the way contemporary hotel bathrooms are being designed; one school of design dictates that compartmentalisation of the components is the future, with the toilet, shower, bath and sinks being boxed off from each other to add privacy and ease of use for two people sharing a room. Examples of this include the Grosvenor House in Dubai where LW designer, Pia Sen, screened the toilet from the rest of the bathroom with a frosted glass door. Leonard Lee, senior designer at Singapore-based design firm, Wilson & Assoc. used the same thinking in the Kempinski hotel at the Mall of the Emirates. He explains: “We decided on implementing different sections in the bathroom, there is a separate cubicle for the toilet that is apart from the sinks and bath; this is something that the major hotel groups are cottoning on to. However, on the other hand, it is becoming increasingly popular for hotels to integrate the bathroom into the master bedroom by the use of frosted glass walls, shuttered screens and in larger suites we are even witnessing large, claw-foot baths or spas located in the bedroom itself.” A new product on the market is ideal for bridging the gap between providing segregation in an open-plan space. Switchlite is a device that allows the user to frost glass at a turn of a switch, providing total privacy for the person inside the bathroom or shower stall when in use, and yet remaining transparent at all other times. It is more luxurious to have a bathtub that’s not enclosed, and if a room boasts a great panorama then the epitome of luxury is to sit in a bath and enjoy it. Examples of this include the spa bath in the Al Shams Presidential Suite at the Shangri La, Dubai and the Bandor Seri Begawan Resort in Brunei. ?ask the expert Guy Wilson, from Geberit, extols the virtue of concealed cisterns and wall hung wcs for easy maintenance and cleaning for hotel staff. “Our approach is based on freedom and flexibility of design allowing designers to be creative without the normal restriction of practical plumbing considerations. The wall-hung system lets the designer play about with the design, allowing the toilet to be placed against a new partition, creatively dividing space or against an existing wall. By lifting the toilet from the floor, dirt and grime is eliminated from the nooks and crannies that exist around pipe work. Hotel projects in Dubai that have used Geberit concealed cisterns include Grosvenor House, Habtoor Grand, Park Hyatt, Burj Al Arab, Emirates Towers and the Bar Al Jissah Resort in Oman.” ||**|||~|Bulgari-Milan-Body.jpg|~|The recently launched Bulgari Hotel in Milan|~|Maintenance issues One thing that designers don’t necessarily realise when they create an overly modern or intricate bathroom is that the daily upkeep can be immense. An example of this is the ultra-modern Hilton Dubai Creek, designed by Carlos Ott together with Arenco Architects and Engineering. Designed to appeal to a younger corporate sector, the hotel is in keeping with European themes of minimalism and modernity and includes a vast amount of chrome and mirrored glass which means that the daily housekeeping is a challenge. Additionally, Swarovski has teamed up with German bathroom stalwarts, Kludi, to create two model bathrooms; Passion and Delight, that fuse the basic elements of water, light and crystal to create a bathroom starting at a staggering Dhs220,800 per bathroom. Designed for royal residences and hotel suites, clients may be swayed by the credentials and the glitz, but they need to factor in the upkeep costs as well as the longevity of the design when choosing overly-expensive ranges. Hotel Case Studies The design buzzwords for the much-awaited launch of the Bulgari hotel in Milan are ‘understated elegance’. The prevailing colour in the hotel rooms is a whitened durmast light tone, matched with warm and natural shades of the fabrics. The dark bathroom, open to the room where the diorite tub is, contrasts the blond light of the sleeping area and opposes the warm shade of the Travertino Navona washbasin and the shower. ?ask the expert Philip Grohe from Hansgrohe, explains the rising popularity of the ‘wellness’ concept and the ethos of bringing nature back into commercial bathroom designs. “Contemporary clients are demanding function and organic designs. In the last ten years everyone realises the bathroom is changing — there is now a strong need to relax, calm down and reflect; to create a self-contemplative space. Our objective is to offer a high-end approach to achieving this. The 80’s was all about fitness; the 90’s saw the concept of ‘wellness’ popularised. For commercial properties today, the best technological solutions, and efficient use of water are also key concerns of hotel groups. Bathroom designers are on a dual mission to create a space that is both relaxing and highly functional.” ||**|||~|fairmont-Savoy-Body.jpg|~|The Fairmont Savoy in London|~|The Fairmont Hotel Group fuses five star brand-conscious facilities with individual touches unique to the locale. Mike Taylor, public relations manager, Fairmont, says: “We encourage our hotels to incorporate a local flavour into the design of the bathrooms at their locations. While there are certainly brand standards which relate to what a Fairmont bathroom must include/resemble, such as being spacious, rich, warm, neutral in colour and clean in design with marble used throughout, our corporate design and construction teams work closely with each hotel to ensure that bathrooms reflect the local character of each hotel and/or its destination.” He cites the Fairmont at Vancouver Airport as an example of utilising the locale: “The large jetted tub is located on the other side of the bathroom, and you can catch sight of a landing aircraft and mountains as you sink into the tub.” The shower has a small rain fall head on an adjustable arm; glassed in to allow the room’s light. Designed by the international firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, in collaboration with local designers and architects, the luxurious bathrooms are an invitation to relaxation with contemporary details including separate walk-in glass showers, sunken baths, marble flooring, make-up mirrors, lighting fixtures that can be adjusted to suit every mood, plush bathrobes and deluxe Miller Harris Citron Citron products from London. Italian interior designer, Decorpoint, designed the bathrooms in the Fairmont Dubai, and chose Grohe to supply the tap and shower fittings, while the large bathtubs are from German brand, Kaldewei. The wc, bidet and basin are Accent brand from Ideal Standard UK. ?ask the expert Isabelle Miaja, of IMA Interiors designed the Radisson SAS in Dubai’s Media City and lists spatial dynamics as a challenge in designing commercial bathrooms. CID: How did the bathroom design for the Radisson originate? Were there any constraints? The bathroom design concept was to provide a luxurious modern facility, which corresponds with the guestroom design as a ‘hip’ business hotel. The bathroom features a luxurious shower cubicle fitted with designer wares. Indirect lighting and the use of an elegant Greek marble for cladding create a sensual ambiance. Due to spatial constraints, the option was for a large shower cubicle rather than the standard tub and shower combination. CID: Where did you source the sanitary ware from? All the sanitary ware and fittings are European. All items have been sourced locally in Dubai, from manufacturers such as Roca, Kohler, Crestial, which was teamed with Italian marble on the floors and walls. The marble white vollakas are from Greece while the glass and stainless steel fixtures are from JC Mclean, Dubai. CID: What makes a Radisson bathroom different from those at other hotels? The luxury of high quality finishes and sanitary ware compensates for the spatial constraint of the bathroom and makes the overall design quite unique in the market. Special attention to indirect lighting as well as having the glass window leading into the room are added features that make the bathroom different.||**|||~|TamTam-Body.jpg|~|Tam Tam washbasin by The Finest Bathroom|~|?ask the expert The Finest Bathroom by BMC Gulf believes that individuality should always follow function. Reda Ashkar, general manager, explains: CID: What considerations are there for commercial bathrooms? Commercial bathroom design is just as important as bathroom design in private projects. Innovative bathroom design, is gaining increasing interest in Europe, but the trend is also noticeable here in the Gulf, where more and more designer products are being used in commercial projects. Commercial bathrooms however should still remain “user friendly”. CID: How do you make restaurant / hotel / bar bathrooms unique? There are regularly new innovations on the market, that can be implemented in commercial projects to make bathrooms look more trendy. Examples of these innovations include Mirror Screens that can be installed in bathroom mirrors of hotels; restaurants or bars for the entertainment of guests. This special product not only makes the bathroom livelier through moving images, but also can be cleverly used for advertisement purposes. Light is also an important addition to modern bathroom design, through which a special mood can be created within a bathroom. LED or fibre-optic lightened washbasins, taps and mirrors let bathrooms look unique. Finally the use of “New Materials” such as printed ceramic, stone, wood or concrete washbasins break the usual “white” ceramic look, and add more style to any commercial bathroom. CID: What advice do you have for good commercial bathroom design? Use trendy products that are that little bit different, that are still functional and “user friendly”. Using a combination of various materials but always keeping practicality in mind. Most important however is good workmanship and a professional installation, because the most beautiful designer product can lose its appearance and functionality if installed wrongly or unprofessionally. ?ask the expert Bagno Design believes that ‘to-die-for’ bathrooms separate the best hotels from the rest. Ben Bryden, general manager of projects at Bagno Design says that the bathroom has evolved into an intimate 21st century domain that integrates functionality with beauty and encourages the prolongation of rest. Operating under the umbrella of the Sanipex Group promoting major European brands such as Hoesch Design, Kaldewei, Bossini, Bertocci, Galassia, Fantini, Shires and Eurobath, Bagno is rapidly expanding its own network of showrooms to include two in the UAE, one in Oman, one in Qatar and one in Bahrain. Bryden says that choosing the sanitary ware should not be done in isolation of other factors. The design needs to be fluid with the hotel bedrooms, corridors and public areas so that a semblance of continuity and theme is evident. “Discussions are first held with interior designers and architects to establish the design brief on guestrooms and public areas”, says. “This way we can gain a first-hand feel for the overall style and ambience intended for the hotel and select products that will complement and enhance this design concept. We also place great importance on educating designers about the latest products and innovations in bathroom design as we learn of them.” He continues, “in this way, we ensure that the products work on both an aesthetic, as well as a functional level”, continues Mr. Bryden. “As a finishing touch, technical training of hotel staff is offered to guarantee the correct care and maintenance of all products after completion. We are proud to be associated with many prestigious projects around the Middle East, wider Gulf and Asian Subcontinent, some recent work undertaken include the Shangri-La Hotel Presidential Suite, the Montgomerie in Dubai, the Grand Mercur Hotel, Bahrain and the Radisson SAS in Jeddah.” Bryden adds, “our portfolio reflects all tastes, be it minimalist, deco, traditional or contemporary and includes products from world renowned designers including Philippe Starck, Sir Norman Foster and Michael Graves.” ||**||Something a little different|~|Rainmaker_-Body.jpg|~|Hansgrohe's Rainmaker is set to take commercial bathrooms by storm|~|Hansgrohe’s Rainmaker, the brainchild of Phoenix Design and the winner of the 2005 iF Design Award was launched in the Middle East at the Big 5 Exhibition in November 2005 and is proving a real hit with hotel chains and interior designers. “Since the launch, the Rainmaker has become a very popular choice of many hotel groups and is being recommended by architects and interior designers for major spa and luxury apartment projects in the Middle East,” says Julian Henco, managing director, Middle East, India & Africa, Hansgrohe Group. The Rainmaker is an astounding 600-mm [24”] in diameter and boasts a correspondingly large spray face that increases body coverage. When the shower is fully opened, more than 350 spray channels are directed at the bather. Three fully adjustable whirl jets, shaped like inverted cones, soothe aching muscles with powerful massage action. This multifunctional overhead shower system also boasts innovative AIR functionality, which enriches the water with drawn-in air to create voluminous raindrops from a conventional shower spray. In addition, optional lighting can be installed behind the chrome spray disc, illuminating the entire shower area without being visible itself. ?ask the expert Purity’s business development manager, Gianni Sharrouf, says cleanliness, practicality and functionality should be at the forefront of commercial bathrooms. “This year’s key trend is automation for commercial washrooms — sensor based technology for water control and self flushing toilets, such as those from Toyo, Japan. Sensor operated fixtures are more hygienic and are also more economical on water as they only flush once. Ritmonio have a touch screen mixer technology due to be launched through Purity in the near future where each person will regulate the temperature and flow of water with their finger using a touch pad above the washbasin.” “More designers are choosing eclecticism as their focus as opposed to clinical minimalism or zen-inspired design, which is an influence of Scandinavian or Japanese designs. We are also witnessing a re-introduction of gothic designs. Of course, designers are led by the locale and the brand of the hotel they are designing for — when fitting out the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi we had to go for a very classical style as the concept was Arabian richness.” “Concerning specifics, wcs should all be wall mounted with the system contained inside the wall and the utilities passageway should run behind the fixture. This is more aesthetically pleasing than visible pipework and a good solution for smaller spaces. Every bathroom design should ensure privacy is maintained without isolation (clever distribution of spaces, washbasins, wc etc.) A door-less entry, or a labyrinth entrance gives no physical barrier and is much more hygienic than door handles whilst also providing visual privacy.” “Regarding materials; stainless steel, clear and coloured glass washbasins are perennial favourites. Ceramic is the cheapest option, then corian with marble still being the most expensive material to work with.” ||**||In conclusion...|~|Qasr-bathroom-body.jpg|~|Qasr Al Sharq bathroom, Hilton, Saudi Arabia|~|In conclusion… Evidently, the future of hotel bathrooms lies predominantly in functionality. Electronic faucets; sensor-triggered flushes; the ‘total’ toilet which washes and dries; fog-free mirrors; heated floors/towel rails/ toilet seats; Kohler’s ‘steeping bath’ that fills up in 60 seconds are all advances that make life easier for the guest. The key is to create a bathroom that is far removed from the bathrooms in private residences. Kohler’s infinity bath where water flows over the edges is very popular, or its Moxie Artist edition lavatory, which features graded colour within its bowl as well as an eye-catching decorative apron of gemstones is a good way to inject some individuality into the smallest room in the suite. As far as shapes and lines are concerned, the tour around the region’s bathrooms has proved that designers are opting for both angular, square shapes (from manufacturers such as Brix, Bertocci Gill and Toscoquattro) and more rounded sanitary ware (from the likes of Jacuzzi and Traccia.) Spatial dynamics are a recurring challenge for commercial interior designers, but space can be utilised by wall-hung wcs and basins, which conceal pipe-work. Flow by Twyford is a popular new bathroom set that is perfect for smaller rooms. Wall-mounted faucets rather than deck-mounted, create more space along the vanity work-top around the sink too. Many hotels are actually eliminating bath-tubs completely, especially the city-centre business hotels that are realising that their guests use showers more. And to create a showering experience with a difference, showers can double as steam rooms, incorporating aromatherapy essences for a spa feeling and sporting a number of different options for water delivery with multi-function transfer valves and temperature control systems. Water tiles on the ceiling and walls are good alternatives to the traditional individual shower heads. John Kuharchuk from The Alchemy Group, who contributed to designing the Westin Grand and the Opus hotels sees the bathroom as being critical in how a property positions itself in the marketplace: “After the bed, a guest spends the most time in the bathroom so the bathroom has the opportunity to make a very definite statement of lasting value.”||**||

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