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There was a time in history where washing one’s self was just not important! Body odours would have been the norm and therefore wholly acceptable.

The notion of cleanliness being next to godliness must be something of a modern phrase as religious history shows that bathing was frowned upon. It is said St. Agnes never washed, and furthermore St. Francis of Assisi considered dirtiness to be an insignia of holiness. Times have definitely changed!

BathThese days, I’m pretty sure the Pope must enjoy all the conveniences of running water and that the Vatican is well plumbed to meet his needs. Interestingly, Pope Gregory the Great thought baths were only permissible if time was not wasted indulging in luxury! It’s completely the opposite for our generation. Health Spas and Saunas are common place and exist precisely because they appeal to our desire for pampering and luxury. Bathrooms are no longer cold, austere “conveniences”; they’re a place to get away from it all and indulge all our senses. The range of product available for the bathroom is overwhelming. You can find just about anything to match your taste, style, budget and design. The biggest problem is deciding on the style you prefer. Il Bagno (Italian for “The Bathroom”) is a boutique Italian bathroom ware importer based in Remuera, Auckland.

Il Bagno is the exclusive agent for several of Italy’s leading bathroom manufacturers, and they have a reputation amongst designers and architects for marketing high quality, innovative bathroom ware. A visit to their showroom is not only a visual but also tactile experience. You cannot simply stand and look at the displays; they demand a once over with your hand to appreciate the beauty of the designs. The most stunning and unusual shower I have seen in recent times has to be the Samurai double shower sculpture – it is pure art, connecting the work of artisans to the daily process of washing. The stunning 2.6m high stainless blades are suitable for showers either inside or out, or could be used simply as a water feature in a foyer. If that’s a little too avant-garde,how about their Flat rainshower column? The flat series of stainless steel shower columns from the Italian design studio “Newform” offers ultra minimalist lines, sophisticated temperature control, and a perfect rainshower from all directions. The stainless steel vertical panel has a highly polished mirror-like finish. The whole nature of the shower has altered in recent times, from the simple requirements of an acrylic base, shower walls and glass surround and door, to completely open, walk in showers.

BathLarge shower heads and jets are a hot favourite for many people, while shower heads keep getting bigger. Huge shower heads, or rainshowers, are becoming more common. I haven’t experienced a shower beneath one, but I could well imagine it would be akin to being completely dowsed in a heavy downpour of rain. Combine that with side jets and you’ll have an all over shower experience! The English company Perrin & Rowe, has designed a new single lever shower and bath mixer to complement their wide range of bathroom and shower fittings. It is available finished in chrome, nickel, pewter, gold, English bronze or bare uncoated brass, while the handle is white porcelain that can be changed to metal. The internal working mechanism is a pressure-balanced valve, designed to prevent fluctuations in the shower water temperature. This device has the ability to very quickly respond to any variation in the incoming hot or cold water pressures, and prevent scalding and freezing. As an interior designer, I always get to know my clients quite well. However, I get to know them alarmingly well if I am helping decide on their bathroom fittings. Ah, yes …… you see, aside from the aesthetic of the products, questions need to be asked on the most basic of topics. For example, how they like to cleanse themselves. I’ve had a request from a client for multiple shower heads, gleefully inferring he didn’t like to shower alone – here mental pictures are not good! Then there was the concerned mother wanting a toilet that had the flushing capabilities of toilets on a 747 – “the children’s never seem to flush properly” … yes, everything is laid bare when it comes ablution design.

The one thing that’s great about contemporary design is that the products are all very easy to clean and maintain. Speaking of which, I don’t know of anyone who particularly enjoys cleaning toilets, and it strikes me that cleaning Kohler’s new Opiaz toilet wouldn’t be too much of a chore. All the plumbing is tucked away within the unit and being “back to wall” means the rear of the toilet is completely enclosed and sits flush to the wall, leaving no hard to reach places. One thing I find really rather irritating is hearing a toilet seat slam down, and the Opiaz has overcome that with its Quiet-close seat that is engineered to close slowly with the slightest touch, reducing the unwanted slamming noise. Another innovation is that the Quick-Release function enables consumers to swiftly remove the entire toilet seat without using tools for convenient cleaning – great for small children, and men, with bad aim! Kohler has been a strong brand in the bathroom for many years. Founded in 1873, it remains one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies. One of my favourite baths is Kohler’s Sok Whirlpool bath. You can immerse yourself in a truly sensual experience in this overflowing bath. It has an inner and outer shell; when operational, the bath water spills out over the inner shell and into the outer shell creating a pool within a pool.

Bathroom InteriorsIt is designed to be filled up to overflow which means you can have a really deep soak whilst being massaged by the jets … hmmm … absolutely indulgent relaxation. Kohler pride themselves on innovative design and boast that their Solaro Hydrotherapy Whirlpool bath is the closest you can get to a total body massage in the sanctuary of your own bathroom. The Salaro’s 16-jet air system is designed to deliver a massage to the underbody, which can be independently controlled to provide a relaxing or invigorating massage to target stress spots. It also offers unique water delivery systems to specifically target the upper body. The revolutionary neck cascades can be set to provide a gentle massage to both sides of the neck and shoulder region, whilst the waterfall provides a gentle massage to the base of the neck and the upper part of the back. There was a time, not so long ago, when I struggled to find bathroom fittings that all worked together and had the modern square look.

I could find square hand basins, and toilets with square elements to them, but often couldn’t locate tapware and bathroom furniture that was of similar shapes. This is no longer a problem and I am now spoilt for choice. We are also spoilt for choice with basins and vanities, with a vast selection available. Smail & Co is a New Zealand owned distributor and manufacturer of bathware renowned for leading-edge design quality. They distribute the Michel Cesar bathroom collection, including the new Ovo basin and vanity. The basin and top is china with the bowl off centre. The cabinet below is offset to the opposite side of the basin making for quite a striking design statement.

Bathroom Interior DesignAnother outstanding design from Michel Cesar is the Tablo which is a wall hung unit. The top is 100% solid acrylic and is extremely durable and hard, yet soft to touch. It is water, scratch, heat and stain resistant and non-porous, thus is easily maintained and very hygienic. The cabinetry has a 45-degree cut on the edge of the doors or drawers giving the unit a clean line and eliminating the need for handles. The final touch to any bathroom has to be the accessories. HouseHold Linens’ beautiful Egyptian cotton towels, with a 550gm weight made in Portugal, are the perfect accessory to dry yourself with after you’ve stepped out of your luxurious new bath. Then wrap yourself up in one of their exquisite bathrobes, while you contemplate just how wonderful it would be to upgrade the shower with a new rainhead and side jets! Some people absolutely love being pampered; they indulge in massages and spa treatments regularly and seem to know all the different treatments as if they were ordering a meal at a café. I’m a little hesitant.

I had a horrendous Turkish bath experience many years ago which still haunts me today. While backpacking through Turkey with a friend, we decided to partake in what we thought was the ultimate Turkish experience, a Turkish bath in the oldest Bathhouse in Istanbul. I thought I would be delicately massaged but boy, was I wrong! I was pummelled on a warm marble slab by a Turkish woman of sumo wrestler proportions, then doused in freezing cold water and left speechless sitting next to my suntan which I’d been wearing before the treatment! Maybe I’ll have to build pampering into my life slowly, starting with a gentle whirlpool hydrotherapy bath.

By Kim Lilley – Parkhurst Design. Images courtesy of Household Linens, il bagno, Michel Cesar, Robertson