DIGITAL ROUNDTABLE: SENSORY BATHROOM DESIGN WITH GEBERIT
While virtual meetings are still the norm, SPACE has played host to a number of online discussions. With Editor Sophie Harper moderating these sessions, we find out more about the hot topics in the industry from some of our favourite designers. This issue we talk about the importance of sensory design in the guest bathroom and the direct impact it has on wellbeing.
SPECIFICATION SALES MANAGER, GEBERIT
Lynne is a Specification Sales Manager for Geberit UK, providing technical advice and specification material to architects and interior designers, as well as regularly delivering RIBA accredited Continued Professional Development Seminars to her customer base. She has more than two decades of experience in the field of Specification Sales Management, specialising in several product areas over the years. Lynne has enjoyed a varied career path, starting out as a professional classical ballet dancer, retraining into architecture, and then working in private practice, before moving into her current field. Her architectural background enables her to engage with the needs of her customer base at a highly technical level, as well as from an aesthetic perspective.
GLOBAL VICE PRESIDENT DESIGN – LUXURY & PREMIUM BRANDS, ACCOR
Federico leads the team that defines
the design and product strategy and creates standards and concept guidelines for our luxury and premium brands, overseeing design initiatives to evolve the performance, design, guest experience and market development of Accor managed properties.
He has over 20 years of experience in hospitality in both architecture and interior design, focusing on hotels and resorts, private residences and high-end retail projects. Starting his career with Gensler in London, moving on to manage the interior design studios of Anouska Hempel, Aedas Interiors London and 1508 London he has a focus on experience driven luxury hospitality projects, with a track record for developing innovative and award-winning restaurants and bars that become destinations.
Federico’s strategic team is the key link between the Luxury, Premium, Lifestyle & Partner Brands and the Regional D&TS Teams, working closely with Operations, Marketing, Brand, Development, facilitating concept creation with the necessary market adaptation across the globe.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ATELLIOR
Una started her career at Foster + Partners where she worked for seven years. Prior to founding Atellior Una had worked for fourteen years in hospitality and residential interiors. She headed up the Hospitality Sector and led the London and Croatian teams to design and deliver a number of successful projects.
Una leads the creative design process within Atellior and is currently working on a large number of hospitality schemes, from boutique, unbranded hotels through to internationally branded schemes with Hilton, Marriott, InterContinental Hotel Group, Park Plaza / Carlson Rezidor and Accor, as well as a number of high-end residential projects across UK and Europe, of which the most notable are conversion of the historic hotel Angel in Cardiff and recently opened 11 Cadogan Gardens with 6 luxury apartments in London.
ASSOCIATE PRINCIPAL, HOSPITALITY, PERKINS & WILL
Growing up, Neil was hugely influenced by his family’s work in music, art, and design, having a mother and sister who were both music teachers and a father who was a structural engineer. Neil has absorbed all of these influences into his own life, with three of his main passions in life being creative outlets: design, music, and cooking. Over the course of his education and career as a designer, his collected experiences from a range of cultures and countries have continued to mould his work and design philosophy. For Neil, design is a medium for communicating a story, something that triggers emotions and memories in those that experience it.
Specialising in hospitality design, Neil has been able to bring together his passions and his design ethos. Because, to him, the ultimate hospitality experience is enjoying a meal – eating fantastic food, against the backdrop of a beautifully designed space, accompanied by excellent music.
ARCHITECT, JESTICO + WHILES
Cecilia is an ARB registered Architect with more than 15 years of experience working on a wide variety of hospitality and F&B projects, from new built and conversions to refurbishment and restoration. She graduated cum laude from the University la Sapienza in Rome in 2005, before going to work for internationally renowned, design-led offices in Rome and London. Since graduation she has worked on a number of high-profile projects, including a Mandarin Oriental in Lucerne, a Kempinski hotel in Engelberg and two cruise ships for the quintessentially British brand P&O. Her comprehensive knowledge of hospitality design and F&B, combined with a pragmatic approach, results in considered design that marries with defined layout and efficient operation. Cecilia has a particular interest in a holistic approach to space planning, architecture and interiors in the hospitality environment, and has worked collaboratively with a number of different operators to develop successful schemes for a variety of hotel types including boutique and luxury brands.
The panel met online to look through a presentation from Geberit on the Science Behind the Sensory Space before an open discussion took place to brainstorm ideas on what sensory design looked like in the guest bathroom…
Is good design less about how spaces look and more about how they make us feel?
FEDERICO: As a group we’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, and really the generator for this line of thinking is experiential and wellbeing and addressing the senses of our guests. It’s been in the DNA of our Swissotel brand from the beginning. We came up with the Vitality Suite where guests had things like ergonomic moveable furniture, they had clean air, circadian lighting, and they have experiential bathrooms where you can sit in a chromotherapy bath with a perfumed scent mist sitting on top of the water and natural materials around the room with nice views from the windows. That kind of philosophy then entered into the way of thinking about how wellness and wellbeing can drive guest experience and then approaching our suppliers to see whether their products could help us deliver those things. With Raffles we launched what we call design for harmony where we’re trying to address the senses of our guests as a generator of experiences from the guest room out. We’ve added to the five senses with things like familiarity and comfort and safety as part of the considerations
we’re making. Then there’s biophilia and biomimicry to consider as well, because as humans we respond to nature – it’s proven to give us a better mental state, make us recuperate from illness, so we’re looking at how we can bring that in working with suppliers.
UNA: In the last year or two we have really started noticing that not only are we driving the agenda but that our clients are driving the agenda as well, which is really refreshing and exciting. We have three projects on our drawing board where either the client has brought it up or we’ve brought it to the table and the client has bought into it, and that’s to design with a biophilic approach. We’ve noticed that the luxury segment of the market is more perceptive to it as budgets are greater and you get to spend more time thinking about the experiential aspect of guest arrival and the use of the room, but what’s really important I think now is to bring that into the more limited service and budget market and make sure that biophilia and sensory design is something that we think of at all levels – because it should be for all of us and not just for a certain segment of the market. That’s an agenda I’m driving now – to try and bring elements of sensory design to all our projects if we can. Using biophilia does create a calming and restorative environment, in architecture it’s used in commercial spaces where it can help improve people’s productivity, which works in hotel meeting spaces, and for the leisure segment you want people to feel reenergised and renewed after their stay.
CECILIA: The way bathrooms operate on a cruise ship is different to a normal inland project. One of the things that is very important is lighting, where you want the guest to always see the best version of themselves. Because very often in a bathroom on a ship there is no natural light, we work with a lighting consultant in order to get the warmth and the direction right. The bathrooms might be quite small, compact, so we use mirrors extensively so you always see yourself, which is something that not everyone is comfortable with so you need to make sure that what people are seeing is the best version of themselves and then it’s a more pleasant experience. Space and proportion is one of the most important things so we have to get it right. If you get the perspective right, the mind will think of it as a pleasant experience.
NEIL: We look at things like healthy materials and wellbeing, which has been at the forefront of our company for the last 25 years. We look at using natural materials where we can, natural stone etc. ideally brassware would be made of brass because it’s got antimicrobial properties, but then obviously you have to put a polyurethane coating on otherwise it’s going to go green, which is something that would be a challenge to convince a client about. In terms of planning hotels, as an interior designer we work on all spectrums of hospitality and 90% of the time you’re not going to have any natural light. We’ve got a project at the minute which is a resort in the Middle East and we’ve wrapped private gardens around the bathrooms and then created these glass walls, so actually when you’re washing your face you’re in front of a glass wall with a garden behind it. We don’t always have the luxury of pushing our ideas through though. Lighting is a big one that we always think about, sonics is becoming more and more prevalent, there are lighting designers now that are creating sonic soundscapes. If you make a room that performs perfectly acoustically you’re going to hear all the mechanics so what they’re doing is dampening that out with soft sounds in the background.
LYNNE: in terms of innovation and research and development, lighting and acoustics are probably equally as important to us for exactly the reasons everyone has mentioned. 99.9% of the time the bathroom has no natural light and so it’s very important that good lighting is provided for shaving or applying make-up but also have an ambience whereby you can reduce the levels of light to a really relaxing, meditative level. Survey results from the white papers we’ve done show that being exposed to harsh light in the middle of the night completely disrupts your sleep patterns so you will wake up more than necessary and probably struggle to go back to sleep. Having motion-detecting light attached to product is a much more user-friendly way to tackle that problem. It then becomes part of the sensory experience. From an acoustic perspective, no one thing is going to resolve an acoustic issue and acoustic issues can be expensive and complicated to retrofix, so design around acoustic needs to be implemented in the very early stages. There are so many simple and inexpensive fixes, it’s a holistic approach though, you need to look at the whole broad spectrum of things going on from an acoustic perspective.
What innovations and solutions do you believe help to meet the demands of hygiene in light of the pandemic?
UNA: If you look at working with branded operators, the brand standards have inherently always promoted hygiene and they’ve always thought about longevity and maintenance and cleaning. It’s not a new thing, but recently it’s dawned on us and we’ve correlated and now it makes sense, but I haven’t had anyone say you’ve got to really think about Covid and design around Covid because actually hygiene was inherently there – it just wasn’t spelt out in the same way.
FEDERICO: I completely agree with Una. The focus is on hygiene but we’ve always said design something properly so we can clean it – we don’t want three members of staff taking two hours to clean each room. You can’t make sterile rooms, you don’t want it to look like a medical environment, you need to layer. We choose different products and materials, there are all sorts of materials out there that have antimicrobial coatings.
CECILIA: It’s exactly the same in the cruise industry, hygiene has always been at the top of the list which can be seen in the ship we were planning before Covid and another one since – the brief for hygiene hasn’t changed because the focus was always hygiene and efficiency.
NEIL: In terms of keyless and touchless entry, we’ve been talking about that for years, but I think Covid has just accelerated those things. The struggle a few years ago was the limited range of infrared mixers but I’m assuming that’s changed a lot now.
LYNNE: From a manufacturer’s perspective, the technology used to be motion-detected so you had to frantically wave in front of these products to get them to respond but now the technology has moved on a lot and has become presence detecting for things like flush plates. It’s an example of how changes in technology can provide benefits that help everybody – the hotel operators, and of course for the guest. Infrared technology has always been used in public areas, from public bathrooms to reception areas and spas, but now we’re seeing the same technology being used in guest rooms.
As we focus ever more on health and wellbeing to help combat the stresses of modern life, what are the challenges facing future hotel design and the needs of the modern guest?
FEDERICO: We’ve looked at connection to nature through the senses, so we provide meeting room spaces with breakout areas where you’re supposed to take your shoes off and walk on different kinds of carpets, different kinds of surfaces that help stimulate and relax you, refresh you from the meeting you’ve just attended – the point is there are connections to nature everywhere, in materiality, in textures, in lighting. Fresh air helps you relax, helps you clear your mind, so there are lots of things you can do, even the smallest thing is still worth thinking about – the opportunities are endless and the benefits are there. It’s our responsibility as a design community to make sure project owners understand what are must-haves early on in the process. Owners are getting much better and coming to us with ideas, but it’s a continuous and constant educational challenge.
I’ve been in resorts where you’re standing in a guest room that looks exactly like an inner-city guest room and therefore completely negates the fact you have access to the sea or the mountains so I think the considerations for different hotels based on location are similar, it’s just how you execute them.
NEIL: I did a concept for an Indonesian resort brand a few years ago where they wanted to bring the brand to Paris and the starting point for us was the history of perfume in Paris and it got us thinking that maybe we could take the essence of the resort and extrapolate all of the different senses. We pulled it apart and the clients were really responsive to it but it’s working out how far you push these things. One of the biggest challenges I find with city hotels is lighting.
UNA: We’ve been developing a brand with Kerzner that is inherently urban but this one is in a seaside location and the intention is not to necessarily draw on the locality but to have a very holistic approach that includes biophilia, wellness, and recovery of the mind, body and soul, and it’s really interesting to work with an operator like Kerzner and see that they’re driving wellness and wellbeing – it doesn’t matter if you are in a resort or if you are in an urban setting.
LYNNE: The research we carried out for one of our white papers involved 2000 people and one third of the people we interviewed said they were now actively and consciously taking time out of their day for relaxation, reading, exercise, so if you’re in a city centre hotel you might not find green outdoor space close by, so that has to be part of the consideration.
CECILIA: In the same context, I think technology should be taken into consideration within the experience. You might be overwhelmed with information and it would be great to just simplify the way the guest experiences, in this case, the bathroom. And when we’re spending so much time on our screens – some people might love trying all the technology out in a bathroom, but we need to anticipate the needs of the guest and not present people with another display of things they have to then work out how to use.
FEDERICO: We’re looking at technology that’s more intuitive, perhaps with fewer buttons, with sensors instead, but it’s really about the basics – what do you need to do to give your guests access to everything and how can you do that in a reciprocal way. But we have to embrace technology, at the end of the day it’s there to improve what we do for our guests but you want to make sure that you’re innovating rather than alienating.
LYNNE: The technology is often there but you don’t see it – it’s just part and parcel of creating a good user experience but if it’s not presented in the right way, you wouldn’t even know it was an option. It’s part of what we do at Geberit on a daily basis. You want to be designing for the future, you want something that’s going to be relevant in a few years’ time, which is why it’s great finding out what sorts of products you would like to see – then our challenge is to look at that from an aesthetic perspective and from a functionality perspective – it’s multi-layered, but understanding what you would like to see is so helpful to manufacturers.
In summary, the panel were able to voice a number of ideas on what sensory design meant to them whilst thinking about and planning hotel projects. The general consensus was that everyone would like to utilise technology more so and felt that thinks like acoustics and lighting were key areas to tackle, while biophilia and sustainability were still hot topics for improving both guest experience and the longevity of product and design. All agreed collaboration is important, but you’ll have to watch this space to find out if any ideas for new products come to fruition!
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