The science behind the sensory space

Awareness of mental and physical wellbeing has never been greater, yet many still struggle to find the time, freedom and sanctuary necessary to recover from the stresses of everyday life. Drawing on content from a new white paper, Sophie Weston of Geberit explores the role housebuilders have to play in sensory bathroom design.

Faced with increasingly busy lives, nearly three quarters of us struggle to find time to relax according to recent research, and almost three quarters of people in the UK have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope in the last 12 months. It’s a damning snapshot of modern lives consumed by technology and an ‘always on’ mentality.

As a result, good design is increasingly less about how spaces look and more about how they make us feel – seeking to improve both mental and physical wellbeing through a multi-sensory approach. Where better to help restore the natural balance of our sensory system than in the bathroom, so often a place of sanctuary and rest.

Reimagining bathroom spaces

The domestic bathroom space offers a retreat from the pressures of modern life. In fact, Geberit’s research shows that in the quest for some respite, the most popular place of refuge was the bathroom.

That is why the modern bathroom or washroom should not be designed as a purely functional zone, but as a relaxing space to unwind, combining clever product innovations and intelligent design with nature-inspired materials and textures which help to restore the natural balance of our senses.

Key to this is biophilic design, an increasingly popular approach which covers everything from surfaces and design choices, to air quality, ventilation, acoustics and lighting, creating valuable opportunities to deliver sensory spaces.

With this in mind, finding the formula for a well-considered bathroom space could be the key to unlocking better lives.

Bathroom solutions

To do this, designers must first understand the four key senses – auditory (sound), visual (sight), kinaesthetic (touch) and olfactory (smell) – and the impact they have on our wellbeing, before applying this understanding to specify the bathroom technologies and innovations that can help reduce the impact of each.

Take auditory, for example. Architects have a role to play in minimising noise in any space and even behind the wall, by taking advantage of product developments such as acoustically optimised pipework with noise reducing properties and decoupled pre-walls. These innovative sound-proofing solutions help to mitigate the age-old issue of noise from flushing toilets, contributing to a better sensory experience for those in the room and in adjoining rooms too.

Preventing overstimulation of the visual sense can be achieved through orientation lighting, which helps preserve the sanctuary of sleep by eliminating the need to switch on additional lighting, or by innovative storage solutions, which support decluttering to instill a sense of calm in the bathroom.

Manufacturers have also developed solutions to support designers in meeting kinaesthetic demands, such as clean lines, sleek corners and the use of natural materials, as well as olfactory solutions – most notably modern, efficient odour extraction technologies.

Meeting current trends

These are just a small selection of the technologies and products available, of course. The key is in finding the solutions you need to meet the individual demands of residential projects.

Whether designing luxurious master ensuites, family bathrooms, guest bathrooms or creative cloakroom spaces, designers are increasingly tasked with getting the most from a variety of rooms, meeting changing demands from developers and homebuyers.

The need to bring the luxurious feel of a hotel bathroom into a stylish, family home is just one challenge. With the rise of home working, our relationship with the home is changing and designers must think more creatively in order to create the multi-functional rooms needed to live modern lives at home.

These trends and others identified in a new white paper, ‘The Science Behind the Sensory Space’ – such as increased global travel and the ‘joy of calm’ (think Netflix sensation Marie Kondo) – are shaping the way in which designers approach bathroom projects in high end properties.

The decluttering trend, for example, has given rise to enhanced storage solutions which offer space saving benefits to support the creation of calming, relaxing spaces free of unnecessary clutter. Meanwhile, achieving affordable style and international-standard spa-like opulence is made easier thanks to a growing number of partnerships between leading bathroom brands and global designers, making even the most luxurious of stylish living more achievable.

With a greater societal focus on physical and mental health and wellbeing to help combat the stresses of modern life, good design in the bathroom could be the key to unlocking better lives. It is critical for designers to be aware of this opportunity.

Sophie Weston is channel marketing manager at Geberit