Cameron Fraser of Ceramique Internationale explains how the use of wetroom systems is influencing both bathroom design and the creative use of tiles.
Consumer demand in the bathroom environment is changing, with spa-style bathrooms and wetrooms becoming increasingly prominent. According to a study conducted by AMA Research, the industry saw a 10 per cent increase in the demand for wetrooms between 2014-2016 – and this figure is expected to vastly increase by 2021. Wetrooms are no longer the preserve of upmarket homes with several bathrooms, but in fact can provide a stylish and practical option at almost any market level.
Previously just a practical room, homeowners are now beginning to treat bathrooms as a luxury space, a place for relaxation, pampering and escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. They have to be practical, look good and offer a luxury element. In terms of the aesthetics, tiles can play a significant role.
Before the tiling process can begin, the wetroom needs to be designed and created, which requires skilled installation, especially as waterproofing is of paramount importance. The advent of BBA-approved construction boards has made the task of creating a spa-like environment easier for housebuilders and developers, coming in a flat pack to simplify installation. In addition, there are also a number of construction board systems that offer the opportunity to personalise wetrooms with kits for hanging-wall units, bench seats, and arched or curved walls – all of which offer the perfect substrate for the creative application of tiles and mosaics.
Once the wetroom has been created it is time for the important part, the tiles. In recent years there has been huge changes in the styles and trends. Consumers are looking for sleek, minimalist tiling to replicate hotel and spa-style bathrooms, but still want to achieve standout and focal points within the room. While this may have consisted of dolphins or a Grecian Goddess in the 1980s and 90s, we’re now seeing feature walls consisting of three dimensional or textured tiles.
The advancement in inkjet printing has also enabled manufacturers to replicate natural materials, such as limestone, wood and marble on ceramic tiles, opening up new possibilities for housebuilders and developers to bring natural materials into the bathroom, while still benefitting from using ceramic tiles.
One thing that has never gone out of fashion is the use of mosaics in wetrooms. In addition to more traditional mosaics, demand is rising for coloured glazing – particularly in small 12 x 12 mm mosaics mounted to 300 x 300 mm sheets – which helps to create the high-end design of spa showers.
Another tiling option, which has traditionally been seen as high end, is also predicted to see its popularity stretched across a much wider market. Marble – often associated with opulent homes of the rich and famous – has enjoyed a new lease of life, again thanks to the advances in inkjet printing, which allows its intricacies and delicate veining to be reproduced on ceramic tiles. Marble’s popularity was demonstrated at this year’s Cersaie exhibition in Italy, with many stands featuring marble effect tile, often in a Statuario design – a marble effect with a white background and sparse dark grey or gold veining.
This is nothing new, but now these marble tiles are being manufactured on extra-large format tiles. This is a natural extension from the large format tile trend, which has been growing in popularity over the past 12 months, with developers using large tiles as a tool to make a room appear bigger. And of course, ceramic tiles offer many advantages over real marble – not least the reduced maintenance and care they require in a wet environment.
Selecting on-trend tiles to create a stylish and luxurious bathroom is not the only concern for developers however, they need to also consider safety. Anti-slip tiles which have an A, B, C rating – or put simply good, better, best tiles – have a surface texture or particles on the surface to help reduce the aquaplaning effect between bare feet and moisture, and should be used on the floors of all wetrooms.
The ultimate luxury in a wetroom is likely to be underfloor heating (UFH), which is simple to install at the point of floor installation. Not only does it enhance the homeowner’s showering experience by offering a warm floor to stand on, but it ensures puddles of water quickly evaporate. The heating systems can be used to complement or replace traditional convected heat sources, such as radiators, helping to offer that minimalist feel.
New products and advancements in tile manufacturing are providing consumers with more choice than ever before and, in turn, offering housebuilders and developers the chance to provide a stylish, luxurious bathroom, which will help increase the price of the property.
Cameron Fraser is director of Ceramique Internationale