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Forget soothing the senses, today’s bathrooms are getting physical with gadgets and products that claim to enhance health and improve fitness.
The German obsession with wellbeing has been firmly embraced by British bathroom designers and there are few clients that need convincing of the relaxation benefits of whirlpool baths and soothing showers.
Now that they’ve got your attention, bathroom experts are taking wellbeing to new extremes with increasingly complex products geared towards improving actual physical health, rather thanmerely reducing stress. ‘If you just want a place to relax comfortably after a stressful day at work, standard wellbeing products such as off-the-peg whirlpool baths and chromotherapy showers will do the trick,’ says Lesley Taylor, design director at Taylor’s Etc. ‘If, however, you have a specific health problem, there are now specialist health enhancing products such as bespoke whirlpool baths, steam cabins and aromatherapy rooms that can have a positive effect on more serious aliments such as backache, arthritis and general aches and pains.’
One of the boldest moves in this direction has been taken by VitrA, which unveiled its Sante compact shower cabin with built-in metabolic measurement system at ISH in Frankfurt earlier this year. Inside, it’s a normal, if luxurious, shower cabin but on the outside it boasts a stylish weighing booth made from water resistant ‘techno wood’. Foot pads on the floor and grab rails are equipped with monitors that help users keep track of their metabolic values, including body fat percentage, skeletal/muscle percentage and metabolic body age. Capable of storing the profiles of four users at once, the idea is that anyone over the age of 18 can keep a close eye on their health and be alerted to areas that require attention. Sante’s iPod-esque control panel calculates physical activity ratings and enables the user to compare his or her ideal and actual percentages of body fat. For many, the idea of being alerted to one’s fat ratings first thing in the morning will be too much of a rude awakening but for those looking to get in shape and stay trim, the Sante aims to encourage continuous body improvement.
Many argue that this growing emphasis on physical health is part of a general blurring of the boundaries between the home gym and the bathroom. Consumers have cottoned on to the time-saving convenience of recreating the hotel spa experience at home and are now taking it one step further by installing a domestic gym/spa/bathroom space.
‘At the top end of the market, clients are increasingly cash-rich and time-poor so it’s easy to appreciate the benefits of cutting travel time to the gym/spa by recreating it at home,’ says Kevin Oakes, sales and marketing director at Vogue Bathrooms.
Porcelanosa has already seen the light with the introduction of its Home Spa collection, which includes exercise equipment, a heated wooden lounger and contemporary sauna. Designed for internal spaces of 20m2, this spa/gym package also features a flat-screen TV, music system and a chic gloss-panelled spa. ‘The entire range is self contained so doesn’t need any plant-room facilities. The range has been developed in highly contemporary sleek pieces, designed to be admired as well as enjoyed for their high performance and multi-functions,’ explains Amanda Castle, marketing manager of Porcelanosa Group UK.
The physical benefits of chromo therapy have long been accepted by those in the healthcare industry and it is now being taken more seriously in the domestic bathroom as part of a more holistic approach to cleansing. While chromo therapy will have a different effect on different people, studies have revealed some ‘universal truths’ about the way the human eye and brain respond to different coloured lights. Most pertinent from a health angle is the colour red, which has been proven to increase blood pressure. This is partly because seeing red requires an adjustment of the eye that makes objects appear closer. Blue is known to lower blood pressure and green does not put any stain on the eye, which is why it is calming.
Moving away from purely decorative or gimmick-led products, manufacturers are realising that for chromo therapy tomake any real physical difference, the light needs to enter the retina in a meaningful manner, so a smattering of tiny LEDs won’t do the trick.
This was the thinking behind the light-box module in Hansa’s Hansa for Senses programme, also launched at ISH, which is a top-to-toe standalone panelmade from water proof mirrored glass. Cristina Rubinetterie’s lamp for its Sandwich showerhead contains 144 colour-changing LEDs that flood the user in light as well as water, while EOOS added an atmospheric rear wall to the Inipi sauna it recently designed for Duravit. According to EOOS, the illumination radiated via LED strip lights is unrivalled in its intensity.
The introduction of more stylish steam cabins and saunas is undoubtedly at the heart of a renewed interest in home heat treatments, which have been on the market for decades but have not been packaged attractively enough to be taken seriously by those with the budget to embrace them. Now that design-conscious manufacturers such as Kos and Jacuzzi® have embraced steam and heat, it is worth taking a closer look at the health benefits on offer.
Both sauna and steam cabins are designed to elevate the body temperature to cause heavy sweating, which helps release toxins, chemicals and other impurities from the skin. Steam rooms alleviate congestion and other respiratory conditions, while saunas produce a dry heat and, when alternated with a cold shower, are believed to help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular conditions.
Cheryl Gurner, creative director of Bathrooms International, is a strong advocate of Steam showers and says a steam generator can be installed inmost domestic shower cubicles of a reasonable size. ‘I often install a seat and a steam generator in the shower area. The benefits aremanifold,’ she enthuses. ‘I recommend a 15minute steam, then turning on the shower to cool down and de-mist the room, then sitting back down and letting the steam build up again for another 10minutes—it’s the perfect home spa treatment.’
Hydromassage is not new to the bathroom but its health benefits have been lauded for centuries—and if the client is really seeking results, it pays to invest in the best. If a client is looking for a whirlpool bath to help with a particular physical ailment, rather than just provide a luxurious soak, CP Hart senior designer Hayley Tarrington says it is important to opt for bespoke jet positioning. ‘The customer lies in the bath in the showroom so we can gauge where the jets need to be placed in order that the areas in question are properly treated,’ she explains. ‘These baths can also be double ended so the jet positioning can be different at both ends—which is perfect for remedying two sets of ailments.’
It is also important to emphasise the difference between the hydrotherapy benefits offered by a shower and a bath. While both pummel muscles into submission, a bath is more relaxing and works to lower blood pressure and alleviate stress. An all-over shower, on the other hand, is designed to be invigorating. It boosts the metabolism and can also stimulate lymphatic drainage, which helps the body to eliminate waste and toxins and kick start the immune system.
Sanindusa’s new Multisensis hydro massage cabin has 12 water jets and includes a lymphatic draining programme that sequentially activates the jets from bottom to top and back again to help release retained liquids through the body. ‘In order to take maximum benefit from these massages, the injectors must be directed towards the exact body area, which means it’s important that the jets are adjustable,’ explains Suzanna Nobre, the cabin’s designer.
According to the United Nations, Brits toil for longer each week than workers any other nation in the developed world. A quarter of our workforce—around 7mpeople—puts in more than 48 hours a week. With the recession putting greater pressure on those with jobs, it is unlikely this situation will improve and bathroom experts believe limited leisure time will make it even more important to have fitness and spa equipment at home.
‘A great deal of our clients live in the city and have stressful jobs so any relaxing and health promoting products are becoming essential,’ says Anita Kohn from Living in Space.
This article was first published in idFX Magazine.
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