Blissed out bathrooms: How to sell that spa feeling

This month kbbreview steps into the calm and serene world of the spa bathroom, taking stock of the latest trends and innovations and asking how retailers can best sell the concept in their showrooms. Francesca Seden dives in…

The ritual of bathing and the recognition of the healing and restorative properties of water reaches back millennia – to the ancient Greeks and beyond. How the legendary King Minos, from his palace in Knossos, would have marvelled at our smart and connected modern steam showers, at hydrotherapy massage jets, and at our high-tech whirlpool baths, even if he did indeed have a plumbed-in tub of his own.

The Effe Yoku S Sauna from CP Hart is an integrated steam and sauna system.

Nowadays, our washing and bathing rituals are inspired less by ancient western traditions and more by the traditions of the Far East or Scandinavia, as mentioned by a few of our contributors this month.

Additionally, according to the 2023 Pinterest Predicts forecast, “spa-like showers will replace long soaks in the bath thanks to a global push towards water conservation, and the need for increased floor space.” In the period between September 2020 and September 2022 the search terms “amazing showers walk-in” and “home spa bathroom” grew by 395% and 190% over the previous year, respectively.

Zoning in on the hottest trends and innovations in this area, both Dornbracht and Grohe showcased new luxury showering concepts at the International Bathroom Exhibition at Salone Del Mobile in Milan. Dornbracht unveiled its new rain panel, Serenity Sky, which promises to offer therapeutic water experiences. Available with two or five flow modes from July 2024, and combining different principles into one product. According to the brand, not only does this ensure complete and utter relaxation, but it also supports physical and mental wellbeing – fully in keeping with its motto: “follow your bliss”.

Grohe, meanwhile, presented an outdoor shower concept. It offers, Grohe says, “the invigorating sensation of showering under the open sky, surrounded by nature which adds to the feeling of relaxation.” Though this is just a concept, with no current plans for production, it offers a glimpse into where trends could go, even for those UK homeowners who are a bit more adventurous.

Thinking about trends more generally, steam showers have grown in popularity over the past few years, with commentators seeing them “everywhere” at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in the US.

Creating immersive displays will help customers visualise the relaxing environment of a spa bathroom in their own homes.

Ben Bryden, UK sales and marketing director, Rak Ceramics

Combining multiple showerheads to create a spa shower is becoming increasingly popular too, offering homeowners the chance to have a personalised and varied experience – a quick invigorating power shower in the morning before work, and a more luxurious option, featuring massage jets and aromatherapy for when one has the time to relax.

Where aesthetics are concerned, the consensus is around Japanese and Japandi (with elements of Scandinavian influence), and also minimal ‘quiet luxury – think bamboo accents, and the use of natural materials such as wood or wood panelling for walls, and plants brought in to give the vibe of an outdoor experience.

Colours are more natural, more neutral and muted. Design should be about creating a space that promotes stress reduction and overall well-being.

Practical thinking

It’s important to consider the practicalities, as spa experience can be tricky to desgn and install. For example, steam showers must be contained within a completely sealed unit, as high levels of steam can cause damp issues.

AYO by Flair is flexible, contemporary and of high quality.

Regarding more traditional shower set ups, especially if multiple showerheads and jets are involved, water pressure is something that needs to be discussed with customers, as well as “the electrical capacity of internal ring circuits, drainage and the materials in your bathroom”, head of design for Bathroom Brands, Jorge Hernandez adds.

Lewis Neathey, leader of product management at Grohe recommends keeping pipework and fittings to a minimum to give bathrooms a clean and sleek look, which is vital to achieve a relaxing space.

Also, ensure you stay abreast of any changes to regulations which may impact your design. HiB product coordinator, Paulina Filipiak, comments: “Up until very recently, much of the focus on increasing efficiency was concentrated on insulation, but airtightness in new and existing properties is now imperative for achieving an energy-efficient result. It’s crucial to enhance well-being by ensuring better air quality, and proper ventilation plays a key role.”

Cosentino’s Le Chic collection features natural stone inspired by marble.

CP Hart designer Rosie Fowley adds: “Retailers need to have a deep understanding of their clients’ lifestyles, enabling them to recommend products that are tailored to individual needs, such as infrared features for joint repair, specialised shower options for skin conditions, or creating a sanctuary for relaxation after a stressful day.” 

Whether your client is having a luxurious bath or spa shower, the canvas or foundation on which everything else sits is crucial. Think carefully about surfaces and lighting as there are, of course, important practical and safety implications here, in addition to the aesthetic ones. 

Neolith’s senior sales manager, Ross Stewart recommends sintered stone due to its high durability, as well as its low maintenance, which can be used for countertops, flooring and on the walls to create a cohesive look. This will also be non-slip. 

For those working with a stricter budget, Steph Harris, product manager at Showerwall, points retailers towards its wall panelling solutions in marble, terrazzo or tile effects without the cost, grout or sealing of traditional tiles.

Lighting is another crucial consideration, as it will set the whole tone and ambience. Soft, diffused light promotes relaxation and enhances the overall spa-like experience. “It serves as the backbone of the design,” HiB’s Filipiak adds. Of course, it’s important to have a mix of ambient and task lighting and a source of natural light is ideal, if possible, particularly if you want to create a nature-bathing/biophilic aesthetic.

Grohe Atrio Outdoor Shower Concept in Satin Graphite.

Showroom strategy

Moving on to how retailers can present spa bathroom ideas to maximise sales, most of our contributors agree showrooms should try and recreate the spa experience as far as possible, with working products that can be demonstrated.

“Creating immersive displays with elements such as spacious showers, freestanding bathtubs, floating vanities, and ambient lighting all help here,” says Rak Ceramics’ UK sales and marketing director, Ben Bryden. He continues: “Incorporating soft music, subtle lighting and aromatherapy diffusers help to create a calming atmosphere and can help customers visualise the environment of a spa bathroom in their own homes.”

Stefan Gesing, CEO of Dornbracht, adds: “A fully working shower is as close to experiential as possible in a showroom; presenting each jet type and allowing customers to see how it feels on their hands helps them understand the effect on the body. Offering the chance to play with controls also helps customers visualise how a product could work at home.” 



Steam Dream

A highlight of the new Scope Bathrooms’ showroom (featured as this issue’s Showroom of the Month on page 64) is its working Steamist steam shower, deliberately designed with an accessible footprint to suit most consumer bathrooms. “It’s a great talking point for the sales teams because aromatherapy oils can be added to really sell the luxury,” general manager Derek Miller explains. “Additionally, it provides a chance for the team to demonstrate our technical ability as it needs to include bespoke glass, with a fully tiled ceiling.”

Also ensure displays are fully dressed with things like towels and candles to create a feeling of calm.

Finally, each of our contributors agreed that sustainability has to be part of the conversation, and noted that, with modern technology – low flow, flow restrictors, air injection and clever bath design, as well as energy-efficient lighting and recycled and recyclable “cradle-to-cradle” materials, including some metals and other proprietary materials such as those offered by the likes of Kaldewei and Bette.

Abode’s design manager Paul Illingworth thinks sustainability should be part of the client discussion, by selling the properties of materials such as brass, which he says offers “amazing eco-credentials”, as it can be recycled repeatedly and retain its durability, anti-corrosion and heat-resistance benefits.

Looking to the future of spa bathroom design, sustainability will no doubt continue to play an increasing role in decisions, and technology will help facilitate more sustainably luxurious designs. Grohe’s Neathey predicts that more homes will begin to future-proof their bathrooms with shower toilets, particularly as their associated hygiene benefits begin to be more widely understood. 

Lastly, Bathroom Brands’ Hernandez finishes with the idea that the future includes the democratisation of spa features such as steam, UV, chromotherapy and hydrotherapy to the average home. “Why shouldn’t we be able to integrate these features into any space?”

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