Plumbing Info

Sapa-AFP – Sept. 10, 2003

PARIS – In the ideal environmentally-correct home of tomorrow, toilets will flush water recycled from the washing-machine or dish-washer, and showers will emit clouds of mist rather than gush water. With 2003 dubbed International Year of Freshwater by the UN, Europe’s cutting-edge designers this week placed the accent on water management during the Paris home interiors show Maison et Objet, and its specialist designer section “Now! Design A Vivre”.

But the focus was also on the changing identity and evolution of the bathroom in the architecture of the western home, the most notable development being the comeback of the bath tub in a room increasingly dedicated to more than mere hygiene.

“The two rooms that have changed most in the home are the kitchen, which is opening up to practically become a passage-way, and the bathroom, increasingly being closed off as a private intimate space,” said Annie Ziliani, of Novale Next, a market forecasting agency.

“People clean and regenerate themselves in the bathroom, while also seeking the private sensual and carnal pleasures of a boudoir,” she said.

So the once pristine, impersonal and functional white-tiled bathroom is disappearing in favor of bright colors, atmospherics and tactile personalized furnishings.

With massaging showers, hammams and aromatherapy in full vogue, the Paris show displayed soft and safe brightly-colored wash-basins unusually made from rubber, small bath fridges for high-end cosmetics and colored lighting — popular for mood-swinging chromatherapy — to boost the feel-good factor in the room.

“The bathroom is the last room in the home to open up to design,” said Belgian industrialist Jean-Pol Piron, who produces shapely cult bath tubs, including some by top designer Matali Crasset. In shades of ebony, sand or taupe, the baths are in materials such as lava stone, blue stone or even teak — and at prices ranging from 2,800 to 8,900 dollars apiece.

“We have removed the bath tub from its straightjacket,” he added. “The tub has become an object.”

Many designers and market analysts believe however that water management and ethics must be part and parcel of the thinking behind the bathroom of tomorrow, as the average American household uses 1480 pints of water a day against 14 pints for the average African home. In the west, 75 percent of water consumption in the home is used in the bathroom.

“We must put the environment back into design,” said Thierry Kazazian, who runs an eco-design agency in France. Current levels of household water consumption could be cut in half, he said, if quality water for drinking and cooking was recycled in the home for washing clothes or flushing the toilet.

Also on show in Paris were prototype washing-machines developed by Miele and Whirlpool to use as little water as possible and reduce the length of the wash cycle, as well as cooling systems that run on recycled water and mist showers.

Under a project entitled “reHOUSE”, a group of Swiss designers and architects meanwhile suggested a sustainable network of water-saving objects that include a hanging garden which also collects rainwater, and a water module in the kitchen that supplies both drinking water and fresh water for washing and rinsing, while also filtering gray water for watering plants.

The revolutionary reHOUSE toilet completely eliminates flushing, instead collecting feces in bio-degradable paper bags to create compost that in turn produces fertilizer for plants and bio-gas for a cooking stove.

“Ethics is important in the design of objects,” said German designer Konstantin Grcic. “And water management is important.”

But when he keyed in the words “water” and “design” on the Internet, he said, the first image to come up was of a policeman with a water-cannon. “This shows the absurd situation of how we waste water,” he said.

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