Ever stop to consider how much time you spend in the bathroom? Washing, bathing, brushing your teeth, dressing, applying make-up, taking a quiet break . . . According to Italian designer Roberto Palomba, though we may be unaware of it, the bathroom is our safe haven. It’s where we go to find ourselves at the beginning and end of each day.
Whereas we can point to umpteen design solutions for the living room, the kitchen and even the entrance hall, the bathroom often gets the short end of the stick. Of course there are bathrooms in minimalist white, in vibrant mosaic, with a Zen-style aesthetic and, for fans of the 20th century, with a familiar retro look. But that’s about it. Seems strange, and that’s what Laufen Senior Managing Director Alberto Magrans thought, too. ‘We wanted to create a bathroom environment with a strong personality, but with various ambiences,’ he says. ‘Our aim was to bring something totally new to the bathroom scene.’ With that aim in mind, the Swiss bathroom innovator went looking for a potential design partner and found its match in . . . Kartell.
‘Emotional’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘sophisticated’ are the keywords behind the design of the colourful, ambient Palomba Collection
Kartell by Laufen
Several years ago, it dawned on Kartell owner Claudio Luti that his company could make an essential contribution to the bathroom sector. Laufen was the logical choice. The Swiss firm had years of experience in the top market segment, and its latest technological revolution, SaphirKeramik – a seemingly fragile but super-strong material that can be used to create extremely thin walls – offered bathroom designers new opportunities for working with ceramics. ‘We share the same values and vision,’ says Magrans. Under the expert supervision of designers Roberto and Ludovica Palomba, the two companies spent three years exploring the potential of their collaborative efforts ‘to look beyond the obvious’.
Points of Departure
A number of things were clear from the start. Kartell’s expertise was to extend further than the development of a line of accessories. The goal was an integrated and complete bathroom project that would be both a combination and a foundation. Not a plastic bathroom but a synthesis of the plastics that have made Kartell successful and the ceramics that are synonymous with Laufen. The price range would be mid-high. ‘And don’t forget the emotion factor,’ says Roberto Palomba, who approached the project as an architect. ‘I’ve designed countless bathtubs, washbasins and so on. But the challenge here lay in writing a narrative, a sequence of forms and colours that together tell a story of their own.’ [He sighs.] ‘At the end of the day, our adage was “reduction”; it’s restraint that creates the desired emotion.’
Another novelty: washbasins with invisible drains. Water discreetly disappears into a narrow, hidden opening
The result is ‘happy’, says Palomba, without falling into euphoria. ‘And not meant to shock!’ The bathroom as a light, cheerful, emotion-laden sanctuary. Not a cacophonic ensemble but a sophisticated bathroom collection. Rather than allowing every element to be combined with all others in the Kartell by Laufen Collection, the designers came up with a number of set combinations. Palomba painstakingly picked his colours from nature: mahogany, tangerine and sky blue. For him, choosing colours and colour combinations is the designer’s responsibility, for Luti of Kartell a strategic choice. ‘It’s important for the collection to be recognizable worldwide and to be easy to reproduce in all our international sales points,’ says Luti, who wasn’t at all concerned about corrupting ‘his’ plastic by mixing it with a quality ceramic. ‘I like contamination between style and materials. What you get is a total image.’
From left to right: Roberto Palombo (designer), Alberto Magrans (Senior Managing Director Laufen), Claudio Luti (President Kartell), Marc Viardot (Director Marketing and Product Laufen)
Smaller Footprint, More Design
Laufen’s SaphirKeramik follows a trend that has overtaken the world of electronics – think thinner-than-thin smartphones and tablets. As strong as an ox, SaphirKeramik offers designers an opportunity to make basins and other sanitaryware with walls as slender as 4 mm, a result that Laufen Senior Managing Director Alberto Magrans says would not have been thought possible before now. ‘It’s a premium material, which will challenge designers to create sanitary products in a new way. We don’t want to redo existing pieces; our aim is a revolutionary new look. It’s also a sustainable choice, as a full 40 per cent less raw material is needed to create SaphirKeramik.’ As with all things new, the price is rather steep, but it’s expected to drop in the coming years.
The designers describe the bathroom as a refuge, pointing out that ‘you spend a very important part of your life in the bathroom’
Laufen for Kartell was launched at the ISH in March 2013.
Kartell by Laufen
Websites laufen.com, kartell.it
Designers Roberto and Ludovica Palomba
Products Basins, toilets, bidets, baths, showers (incl. trays, mixers), furniture units
Accessories Mirrors, tap-mounted trays, shelves, footstools, lamps, rails and more
Materials SaphirKeramik, vitreous china, fine fireclay, mineral cast, PMMA, chrome-plated brass
Flagships Laufen Forum (CH), Kartell (Via Carlo Porta 1, Milan)
Text: Alexandra Onderwater
To the website of Laufen
To the website of Frame Publishers