16 December 2020

Design Parade (Part 3)

While many years ago, bathrooms and kitchens were regarded as “service areas,” they have now become domestic statement spaces. Getting to know a house in order to gauge its inhabitants’ socio-cultural level will not, therefore, entail a wander around the living and dining rooms but a “trip to the bathroom,” or a quick snack in the kitchen.

This is the first and most powerful signal given off by these two quite functionally different but very similar worlds in terms of “necessity” that are the bathroom and the kitchen. It’s pointless denying it, this is a bang up to date signal – bathroom and kitchen specifications have now expanded their physical and media requirements. Potentially, they are large, hyper-designed spaces. Often multifunctional, and not in the operational sense to which interior design projects had habituated us by adding saunas and fitness equipment to bathrooms, larders, offices or small cellars to kitchens, but in a more contemplative, purely hedonistic key. So, nothing strictly functional – fireplaces may make an appearance in bathrooms and reading/relaxation nooks in kitchens.

Intarsio, Cesar

Nowadays, bathrooms and kitchens are seen as spaces “ripe for invention,” summations of stimuli and opportunities, and in this sense they are put to the same sorts of use that were formerly typical of the living spaces of homes (such as living rooms, dining rooms, studies and music areas). There is still a substantial “constructive” difference between the latter which, unlike the former, now demand mono-materiality. While a living room may contain a marble table, with metal and leather chairs and soft upholstered sofas, each with its own material-experiential language, the “latest generation” bathrooms and kitchens call for large continuous surfaces, in which the material finds its greatest expression in terms of “square meterage:” marble or wood, with brass and burnished metal fittings serve to turn them into verses of architecture or works of art (contemplating a sheet of marble is still one of the most exciting experiences when it comes to nature’s “creativity.”)

Happy, Duravit

Now, towards the end of 2020, the most significant signals from the bathroom and kitchen worlds (and therefore also from the world of finishes which take on a starring role here) are signals of luxury and perfection.

Here, the “precise design” of a product is less important than the material with which it is made: the former, if not overridden, is purposely “dumbed down” in order to put the spotlight on the latter. This concept is true of both kitchens and bathrooms, even though in the latter situation the scale ratio of sanitaryware to the human body makes for the ergonomic dimensions that we know best and can control.


If we wanted to find a common symbol for 2020 it would probably be the monolith. A pure and silent volume, often placed in the middle of the space, always finished with precious materials and sophisticated colours, it conceals a beating technological heart. Water and heat sources appear as required with great efficiency and a wealth of accessories, but they are also made to disappear once they have served their purpose. Meanwhile, powerful extractor hoods (the latest generation ones are on the worktop rather than suspended) ensure that there is no trace of cooking smells or human endeavour in the surrounding atmosphere – basically the kitchen world now resembles an art gallery rather than a witch’s cave and associated cauldron. Better or worse? It’s a difficult question, and their users must still experience some nostalgia, after all this purity has been installed, once the strings of garlic are hung up!

Carlo Colombo, with Isøla for Rossana, has come up with a counter island, both sides of which (the one facing the living area and the one facing the technical equipment) have been subjected to different treatments, although they remain equally important (note the Imperial Marble teamed with heat-treated chestnut wood on the front).

Isøla, design by Carlo Colombo, Rossana

The great industrial kitchen worktops are clearly also sources of inspiration, such as K-Lab, designed by Giuseppe Bavuso for Ernesto Meda, for example.

K-Lab, design by Giuseppe Bavuso, Ernestomeda

Francesco Meda has focused instead on the issue of accessorising and instant availability (therefore visibility) of all those accessories that increasingly sophisticated culinary practices (and more time spent at home thanks to the recent pandemic) have made indispensable. In Sistema XY for Dada in particular, he has factored in sliding horizontal tops that can be moved to wherever the creative urge (and the dish in progress) demands.

XY, design by Francesco Meda, Dada

Lastly, there is Fabio Novembre’s Dandy Plus for Scavolini: essential bridging structures with bold pops of colour marking out the points of interface, from the handles to the switches, which can be activated by means of the Bticino Living Now system and now, for the first time, by Alexa, Amazon’s voice-operated virtual assistant.

Dandy Plus, design by Fabio Novembre, Scavolini

In the meantime while, as we said, appliances have “disappeared” inside the overall architecture, they are also increasingly present thanks to connection modes that turn them into “personal assistants” – the first incursion of robotics, which will shortly seem absolutely normal.

There are, for example, the Sense induction hobs from AEG equipped with wireless temperature sensors that allow the cooking temperature to be set with total precision or recognise the vibrations that indicate when saucepans are likely to boil over. The subject of efficiency is now inextricably bound up with that of sustainability. The new dishwashers from Electrolux, for example, feature the new intuitive QuickSelect interface, and the AutoSense automatic programme that can identify both the level of dirt of the contents and the actual load. With the focus on Smeg, another important research signal can be picked up, relating to the interface this time: along with the increasing complexification of the appliances, the simplification of instructions is equally crucial, based on a sort of intuitiveness of the controller. Smeg is also aiming for this, introducing the VIVOscreen display, distinguished by its immediate and iconic graphics, into its collection of top-of-the-range ovens.
www.aeg.it - www.electrolux.it - www.smeg.it

SenseBoil, AEG


Firstly, “rooms” and not closets or loculi or carved-out spaces: bathrooms these days are basically one of the “most important” rooms in the house. For individual use or for couples and to be shown off to others in a hedonistic key that just happens to be keeping step with the increasingly widespread attention to our bodies (don’t you think an analogy can be seen between the perfection of certain areas and the sort of self-care that goes beyond hygiene to become an obsession?).

As far as design goes, there seem to be two distinct and somewhat opposing bathroom trends – on one hand the sanitaryware plays a starring role, standing strongly out against the background, i.e. the coverings, while on the other a “mimetic’ approach can be discerned, by which the functional part seems to fade into the surrounding part. The latter has taken on a fundamental importance within the space of just a few years, prompting the rediscovery of rare marbles and ancient checkerboard or open vein techniques (according to Rorschach Tests behind the washbasin?), and fast-tracking research into “fake marble” porcelain stone, which has produced extraordinary results in terms of similarity, along with the possibility of working with truly great formats (that nature cannot give us).

Going back to bathroom schemes, Rigo by Patricia Urquiola for Agape is a perfect example of an architectural solution. Designed in 2018 and constantly being updated, Rigo consists of a beam parallel to the wall on which the basins and accessories sit. An actual piece of interior architecture comes from Castiglia Associati with its articulated system of glass and aluminium walls and doors (with 180° openings) for Vismara Vetro, enabling veritable bathroom “niches” to be created inside the bedroom. Their interiors can be customised, while the exteriors are compatible with the overall design of the room – they are the ultimate evolution of the “humble” shower cubicles of the past.
www.agapedesign.it/en - www.vismaravetro.it/en/

Rigo, design by patricia Urquiola, Agape

The countertrend is to put the spotlight on the sanitaryware in a volumetric, if not sculptural process. One peerless example is the freestanding Plissé basin by Paolo Ulian for Antonio Lupi, which progresses the research of the great Tuscan designer into the expressive potential of marble. Again for Antonio Lupi, Gumdesign have proposed an absolutely original combination of materials (and therefore of colours) for their freestanding Bolgheri washbasin. The column is made of natural cork while the basin is in Cristalmood (transparent resin).

Bolgheri, design by Gumdesign, Antonio Lupi

Harnessing the power of memory, Andrea Marcante and Adelaide Testa have come up with the Frieze collection for EX.t, in which nostalgia for times gone by goes hand-in-hand with a post-modern reference – definitely by no means a run of the mill design!

Frieze, design by Marcante - Testa, Ex.t

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