The bathroom, new frontier for wellness and self-expression

Perini Journal

For the Romans, the baths signified the meeting place par excellence. Entire afternoons could be spent there talking with friends, doing business, eating or engaging in amorous encounters. Contact with the water that one could enjoy at the baths in copious quantities and at varying temperatures constituted a pleasure for the senses, a moment of community living deeply rooted in Roman culture. Later, with Christianity, the idea of bodily pleasures found a very different dimension and the destruction caused by the invaders from the North greatly reduced the possibilities of access to water.

Through a complex social and cultural evolution, the places for baths and personal hygiene were reinvented several times (see article on page 107), until, at the beginning of the 20th century, the form that we know today appeared: a closed, intimate and strongly private ambience for our needs of personal cleanliness. Originally, it was a pleasure exclusive of the wealthy few but with the social acknowledgement of the importance of hygienic norms, it expanded throughout cultural strata.

IN MOST CASES, THE SIZE OF THE BATHROOM IS REDUCED TO THE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS: besides sanitary fittings - washbasin, bathtub, toilet and, where in use, the bidet - the space is limited to what is ergonomically necessary for their use. A true hygiene machine. In large families, its use comes to constitute reason for morning clashes. For many, it is the only place in the house considered a corner of tranquility, safe from indiscreet looks, propitiatory to the ingenious thoughts that are born there.

STARTING IN THE 1970S AND ‘80S, with the diffusion of home ownership by a larger percentage of the population, a gradual improvement and personalization process of the individual areas of the home took place as an extension of the personality of the people living there, and becoming the object of emotional investments in self expression, as well as economic ones. An important conquest came with the split between the main bathroom and the smaller bathroom, often a place for laundry as well. With this move, the “main” bathroom acquires larger dimensions, exceeding mere functionality and becoming object of greater desire for expression. The shape of the fittings and fixtures begin passing through the hands of designers who enrich their proposals for a clientele wishing to project its personality and status also in the details that were once delegated to the builder or the craftsman. And technology, too, improves: while before it could happen to be stuck under the shower with no hot water because it was produced in limited quantity, now with the new “modulating flame” heaters, water could be had instantaneously and in the desired quantity! A net improvement also concerned aeration of the room whose natural exchange of air is ensured by vents imposed by construction norms.

SINCE THEN, CHANGES - SUPPORTED BY INCREASINGLY FOCUSED AND DEMANDING NEEDS, have continued coming. In more recent times, attention towards ecological aspects has spurred manufacturing companies to look for water conservation techniques, isolated pipes to prevent heat dispersion, and decreasing noise levels.

Today, companies producing sanitary fittings - supported by the creativity of archistars, tend to propose coordinated solutions of the elements necessary for a bathroom and present them in rich, glossy catalogues (downloadable online in the digital version). The ambiences we find are very catered to and aim to satisfy customers’ demands with the most diverse aesthetic and economic solutions. Contour elements, too, that are not part of their proposals, clearly underscore the changes in taste. The walls and floors are no longer only in glossy ceramic tiles - field of action for the “housewife” of the 1980s. Rather, natural materials prevail: stone, plasters in stucco and exotic wood accompanied by stage lighting, completed by ancillary accessories and objects capable of arousing strong hedonistic desires.

WASHBASINS HAVE DIVERSIFIED THEIR SHAPE, they are less bulky visually, more geometric, often an oval basin on a wooden plane hides underlying pipes and serves as a support.

A solution that is becoming widespread is the double washbasin for couples who need to wash simultaneously and do not wish to share the space.

THE TOILET BOWL IS THE ELEMENT THAT, PERHAPS MORE THAN OTHERS, IS UNDERGOING IMPORTANT TRANSFORMATIONS. For a while now, oval shapes have given way to a rectangle rounded in the front. Often this element is proposed in the suspended version to satisfy a visual need for lightness, but also to allow easily cleaning every corner of the floor. The controversial use of the bidet that, in those countries where it is in use, is formally coordinated with the toilet bowl, today is flanked by the alternative of a hyper technological bowl capable of carrying out both functions on its own. This solution, present for some time in Japan, is today marketed by major European companies such as Geberit and Duravit. The innovative toilet bowl is correlated by an electronically controlled instrumentation that performs intimate hygiene and accurately and silently cleans the bowl through devices integrated in the ceramic.

BATHTUB OR SHOWER? This is the dilemma for those who have little space available. But for those who have no such restrictions, the sky’s the limit: from the classic enameled tubs with gilded griffin’s claws to large-sized tubs, in soft and natural shapes complete with shelves in natural acrylic and mineral resins, angular Jacuzzis (and psychedelic lighting!), to double bathtubs recessed in the floor. The bathtub is often considered a place where the body can relax, where thoughts become clearer. Vitruvius narrates that Archimedes had the intuition for his famous theory when he entered a bathtub that overflowed with water as his body became immersed; he came out naked, yelling through the streets “Eureka! Eureka!”

BUT EVEN THOSE WHO PREFER THE SHOWER CAN EXPERIENCE THE PLEASURES THAT WATER CAN OFFER. Modern showerheads afford a gentle, caressing flow of water that can turn into a refreshing cascade (for example, with the Arethusa model, manufactured by Tender Rain). Open shower ambiences can be created, too, with no glass cabin, by replacing the shower plate with small conduits running at floor level that can effectively collect and channel water. But even for those who fear flooding the bathroom floor and choose the traditional shower cabin, the opportunities are not limited. Next to the modern proposals with fixed glass cabin doors, we find OpenSpace by Duravit, thanks to which we can create a shower cabin with doors that, when not in use, can be closed by folding them against the wall, thus regaining usable space for the bathroom environment, and a virtual space with a mirror like door. And Duravit also proposes St.Trop, a shower cabin that doubles as a powerful Turkish bath with temperatures from 42 to 50° C and 100% humidity capable of benefitting, in a small space, the respiratory system, the skin and of pampering and relaxing the user.

STYLISTIC RESEARCH, PRECISE WORKMANSHIP, INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND CONTEMPORARY DESIGN make today’s bathroom environment not only flexible, comfortable and functional, but also customizable for taste and style. It is the most private room in the house but today it has acquired great importance of expression and has become an important means through which, anyone who wishes to, can affirm his or her personality and status. *

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