Go With The Flow

Gone are the days of the tap being nothing more than a functional accessory in bathroom design. This simple piece of bathroom brassware has evolved into the scene setter of the designer bathroom, capable of adding the finishing touches by introducing a powerful element of individuality, a quirky twist or the very latest in technological advances to the most essential room in interior design.

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By  Monika Grzesik Published  July 7, 2006

|~|taps-body-1.gif|~||~|Gone are the days of the tap being nothing more than a functional accessory in bathroom design. This simple piece of bathroom brassware has evolved into the scene setter of the designer bathroom, capable of adding the finishing touches by introducing a powerful element of individuality, a quirky twist or the very latest in technological advances to the most essential room in interior design. “Today’s faucets are a style statement; items around which an entire bathroom might be built around,” says Dorota Staszewska, showroom manager, Bagno.

Water flow certainly appears to have caught the attention of designers of late with some of the world’s biggest bathroom companies drafting in the help of internationally renowned designers such as Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, David Chipperfield and Rafael Moneo to create beautifully crafted, innovative tap designs. Roca has even established its own Design Centre — a ‘think tank’ formed of architects, designers and engineers brought together to research the latest developments in tap designs.

Tap trends have seen an evolution through various styles ranging from the traditional and period; cubist and angular; ultra minimalist; curvier, softer styles through to the decadent, indulgent designs which are gaining in popularity today.

||**|||~|taps-body-2.gif|~||~|“When it comes to bathroom design, luxury rules the day in simple and understated ways. Cascade faucets, sometimes dubbed waterfall spouts, have taken a stronghold in today’s tap ware portfolio. The sheet of water out of the spout gives the allure of a sculpture in your bathroom. Aside from its artful appearance, these spouts greatly decrease the amount of time it takes to fill a bath and emulate the exotic feel of being drenched by a torrent from a waterfall while taking a shower. However these are not for the water-conservation-conscious!” says Ellie Coulthard, marketing assistant, Bagno Design. ‘Ala’ by Fantini Fratelli is a striking example. In designing the concept the natural angle of spring water was taken into consideration. The water has been designed to flow fluidly from the outlet to emulate a waterfall.

This link to nature is becoming increasingly evident in tap design. According to Philippe Grohe from Hansgrohe: “The topic ‘nature’ is gaining importance in bathroom design. People want to feel more connected with the natural element water, they want to feel warm rain on their skin while showering or experience a jet like a natural waterfall when opening their taps.”

Victor Schoone of Roca, Middle East explains today’s increasing trend towards natural or organic design in taps. “Mixers are the ultimate gateway to life because they bring us closer to water. Products such as taps create a link between the human being and nature. Organic design is especially related to bathroom design because it is an intimate experience — our relation with bathroom products is an intimate one. Stress levels are increasing everyday. Today’s designs need to be stress relieving. Therefore tap shapes are moving away from minimalism, which can have an aggressive feel towards the organic.” Rafael Moneo’s Frontalis series, created to resemble the structure of a leaf, illustrates the trend towards organic design.

||**|||~|taps-body3.gif|~||~|Bagno has also introduced shapes inspired from nature into their tap design. Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, explain their conception of the ‘Pan’ tap: “We wanted the functional elements to emerge organically out of pure geometric forms like their natural extensions, much in the same way a leaf issues forth from a branch and a branch from a trunk.” The uniqueness of design lies in its simplicity and the way it has been grafted together. In the same way that there are no cuts and welds in nature, the body of the tap merges into the spout and handles through a softly designed joint similar to that between a branch and trunk.

Ludovica and Roberto Palomba refer to the tap as a “small sculpture” and it appears that this is a concept designers have taken on board as tap shapes are evolving into things of beauty. Cristiam Rosolen from Legnox points out that, “from classic taps with two handles, design has gone more and more into contemporary faucets and mixers which are more practical and user-friendly, and this design has more opportunities for development.”

Taps are becoming more substantial in size with eye-catching larger diametres and taller shapes created to attract attention. The ‘fussy’ look certainly appears to have lost its popularity —minimalist geometry, simple curves, straight lines and symmetrical shapes creating a clean, elegant look are in demand. “The key design elements of today’s tap ware tend to rely on the basic geometry of cylinders and right angles. Flat spouts have risen to the forefront. There is an emphasis on sleek lines and curves, which evoke a clean and modern look, while retaining an air of sophisticated style and elegance,” says Coulthard. The Touch collection from Roca for example, conveys luxury with its unassuming style. Curves create soft, elegant lines while the tapering angled cone has a futuristic feel.

||**|||~|taps-body-4.gif|~||~|The floor standing tap illustrates how the tap has evolved into a stylish feature in its own right. As it can be mounted away from the wall with a freestanding washbasin, it adds a unique edge to bathroom design by changing its emphasis, allowing the tap to become the central point of focus in the bathroom.

Faucets of the Future
While designers continue to explore new and innovative ways to sculpt the tap into increasingly fantastical designs, the future appears to lie not solely in the development of new trends but in function too. Most manufacturers agree that water conservation, particularly in arid regions such as the Gulf will form a pivotal issue in years to come. Average per capita water consumption in the UAE is currently around 500 litres per person per day — around three times that of the UK. “In the future the hygienic and functional aspect of a tap will be a general requirement. The water saving aspect will gain more importance. Our drinking water must be treated better so that our children will attach more value to this resource,” says Philipe Grohe.

George Abboud, regional manager, Mesma, agrees: “In recent years, the evolution of taps has passed through different stages, be it from a technical aspect or from a shape aspect. People are now investing more in finding ways to limit the consumption of water, which is becoming a scarce resource in some countries. Hansa contributed to Mother Nature by using the ECO cartridge in its entire range of taps to limit the flow of water, which automatically controls consumption.”

||**|||~|taps-body-5.gif|~||~|According to Schoone: “The future of tap design will incorporate more water saving features, certainly thanks to the progressive incorporation of electronics.” Technology will no doubt have a large part to play in a variety of ways. “The faucets of the future will continue to combine water with technology. Chromatherapy (illuminating water with coloured light) may take on a greater emphasis,” says Coulthard.
The use of coloured light in tap design has both style and functional aspects, as it can be used to signify water temperature so increasing safety, such as in the Intelligent Coloured Water (ICW) System from Osram which uses LED technology to guide coloured light into the water jet.

Touchless, electronic tap designs and hands-free mixers are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in commercial interiors for their hygienic properties, easy temperature control and water conservation implications. They also possess the undeniable allure of technological superiority.
Nevertheless despite a renewed focus on function, it seems that the position of the tap as a style statement in contemporary bathroom design is secured. No longer overlooked as a necessary addition to sanitary ware, the tap, is according to Staszewska, “the centrepiece — the water appliance that rises above it all.”
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