When nature calls: 'Vertical gardens' take bathroom decor to next level
I remember lingering in the bathroom as a teenager while urgent family members pounded on the door. "What are you doing in there?" they demanded.
Looking back, this seems like a reasonable question. What was I doing in there? Thinking about things, mainly. Taking time out from family life. Looking in the mirror, wondering if I'd do.
The bathroom isn't just for washing. It's also a philosophical space. Indeed a new survey shows that more than one in 10 of us have made a life changing decision in the shower.
This summer, Triton commissioned a survey on the showering habits of the British and Northern Irish public. The survey didn't extend to the Republic of Ireland, but there's no reason to think that we're radically different from our neighbours. It's a very funny survey indeed. My favourite question was: "What's the most unusual thing you've ever done in the shower?" Answers included: "Eaten pizza." "Epiphany." "Everything." "Forgot the towel." "Fallen asleep." "Fallen over." "Figured out my future."
Standing under a flow of warm water is conducive to thinking about life and, according to the survey, 12pc made a life-changing decision. One in five used the time to contemplate the meaning of life. But mostly, people thought about practical things like planning the day, what to cook for dinner, or what they were going to wear.
Almost half of the respondents admitted to the most obvious - singing in the shower, but what about the 10pc who dance in there? Eighteen per cent have sex in the shower (the same percentage admitted that things sometimes go wrong when they attempt physical activities when showering). Others multi-task. Shaving and brushing teeth are the most obvious ones, but one in 10 people wash items of clothing and 39pc clean the shower area. A small percentage do yoga, take a phone call, or wash the cat. Twenty-six percent confessed to peeing in the shower (I reckon that's a conservative statistic).
Tina Simpson at Triton Showers concluded that: "Whereas the bathroom is usually seen as an area of respite, our hectic day-to-day lives means sometimes the precious few minutes we have in the shower are now being taken over by a range of other tasks besides cleaning ourselves."
Looking closely at the survey, I'm not so certain. Yes, people are busy. But only 12pc of people admitted to thinking about work in the shower and less than 10pc interacted with media devices. Most of the time, people were just hanging out in there, having a nice time.
If I could wave a magic wand over my own bathroom, I would have a vertical garden behind the shower. I don't think this has filtered through into mainstream design, but I've seen vertical bathroom gardens at design fairs and the Noken Porcelanosa Showrooms in Spain has a wall of mosses and ferns behind the shower. It's utterly lovely and theoretically quite doable. Vertical gardens depend on hydroponics, a way of growing plants that uses mineral solutions instead of soil, and a bathroom wall would need plants that thrive in humidity and need very little direct light. That said, this is probably a tricky one to achieve at home and might limit your choice of shampoo.
Other trends in shower design are more achievable. Waterfall shower heads, combined with hand-held showers and the possibility of massaging hydrotherapy jets are an option. So are mist sprays, in which the water coming out of the showerhead is atomised so it fills the air and creates a sensation people have described as "hugging a warm cloud". This sounds gorgeous.
Prices at Tilestyle range from €492 for a square waterfall showerhead; €602 for a Forma showerhead with rainfall and waterfall functions; and €1,347 for a Lounge showerhead that includes mist, rainfall, and spray. The same shower also has a chromotherapy function, meaning that it emits coloured light. It's operated by remote control (prices exclude VAT).
Showers that include coloured light always seemed like a gimmick to me. Tony Murphy of Tilestyle swears that they're not. "Most people shower early in the morning or late at night. In the winter, it's dark. You need something to lift your mood and change how you feel."
It's also possible to change the temperature of light around a mirror from cold task lighting to a warm glow, and some bathroom designs incorporate a strip of LED lighting between the tiling and the floor. "It means that when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you don't have to switch on the main light," he explains. This is something that I could live with. Subjecting yourself to a cold blast of light makes it hard to go back to sleep.
Taking it another step further, Murphy suggests you get rid of the main bathroom light altogether. "You don't need a central light that was installed when the world first began and you never got around to changing it."
Lighting can also come as part of a mirror, many of which are round instead of square. This works so well that it makes you wonder why we were so wedded to square mirrors in the first place. Our faces are round, after all. But no matter, round mirrors look nice and some of them do tricks. The Arena mirror (€355 from Tilestyle) includes a heated pad that clears condensation from the glass and LED illumination around the rim. Even better, you can change the light temperature from flattering ambient warm light to the bright light that you might need for the nasty task of eyebrow plucking. The electronics are operated by touch switch.
In the shower too, touch buttons have taken over from the traditional clunky dial. "Everything else in our lives is operated by touch, rather than turning," says Murphy. "It changes the way we interact with a bathroom, and that changes the way we relax in there."
And taps - once a simple choice of brass or chrome - now routinely come in choices that include titanium, rose gold, and black. "A couple of years ago you wouldn't even have heard of such things," adds Murphy.
Triton Showers is a supplier rather than a retailer, with showers ranging from the accessibly priced Triton Amore (RRP €295) to the Host Digital Mixer Shower (RRP €720). For more information and a store finder, see tritonshowers.ie. See also tilestyle.ie and porcelanosa.com.
Featuring Dutch bicycles, Irish rain and the motifs of traditional blue and white delft, Alanna Plekkenpol's hand-printed ceramic wall tiles reflect her Dutch and Irish heritage. Prices start at €40 for a single tile from kilkennyshop.com.
Give it socks
What do you do with clothes that aren't exactly clean, but not yet ready for the wash? Designed with this in mind, Ikea's Nikkeby chest of drawers (€75 from ikea.com/ie) has perforated surfaces for ventilation. Ideal for students and teens.
The Queen of Hearts collection marks KitchenAid's 100th birthday and includes this 4.8 litre stand mixer. It comes with attachments that grind meat, roll pasta, spiralise vegetables and squeeze juice, all for the queenly price of €799.99 (see kitchenaid.ie).
This dainty storage stool combines the long standing trends for velvet, metallic finishes and furniture that's light on its feet. It's 45cm high, with storage under the seat, and would look the part at a dressing table in a lady's boudoir (€72 from next.ie).
Bird in the bush
Is that a flamingo in the shrubbery? The motif that just won't go away is with us for another season, seen here with tropical flowers and foliage. The pretty trinket box comes from Marks & Spencer's Amelie range (€24 from marksandspencer.ie).