Bathroom Design Week

By complementing bathroom surfaces and fixtures with striking fittings, designers can create characterful sanitary spaces without overloading them with decoration.

The crystal glass spout on Philippe Starck’s Axor Starck tap helps visually present the natural shape of the flow of water, by keeping its interior workings in sight

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

The crystal glass spout on Philippe Starck’s Axor Starck tap helps visually present the natural shape of the flow of water, by keeping its interior workings in sight

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Simple is best when it comes to calming, tranquil bathrooms, using negative space to achieve a maximum result. It’s all too easy, however, to fall from the other side of the creative scales, ending up with a characterless space, crying out for identity.

How, then, to combine simple layouts without the superfluous aspects of photoshoot bathrooms like hard-to-clean storage and poorly-tended plantlife, that still burst at their grouted seams with character and charm, hitting you like a lavender-scented wave? By concentrating only on the functionally essential elements, like tapware, and making them pop with colour, finish or design, specifiers can find options to help their bathrooms stand up and stand out, while welcoming users in.

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Kenny & Mason’s vintage-style fittings at Veulen Castle (top), the brand's Discovery collection (middle) and rvb’s wood-handled 1935 Wood series (bottom). Photo: Claude Smekens (top)

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

Kenny & Mason’s vintage-style fittings at Veulen Castle (top), the brand's Discovery collection (middle) and rvb’s wood-handled 1935 Wood series (bottom). Photo: Claude Smekens (top)

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Vintage bathroom tapware

A worn brass finish adds legitimate realism to the vintage design credentials of Kenny & Mason’s product lines, selected to serve Veulen Castle in Belgium, including custom-designed tap heads featuring the castle’s own coat of arms, literally providing them with their own identity.

Elsewhere in the catalogue, the brand also creates a slightly modernised drooping-nosed mixer with dali-esque melting capstan tap grips. The traditionally-styled 1935 Wood series from rvb, meanwhile, retains its new-product chrome finish, but combines it with a wooden handle lever, adding a tactile nuance to the satisfying squeeze of its operation.

The long-armed, gravity-assisted washbasin tap at Masquespacio’s Living Bakkali restaurant (top) and Axor’s long-standing mixer, perfect for central fixtures (bottom). Photo: Sebastian Erras (top)

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

The long-armed, gravity-assisted washbasin tap at Masquespacio’s Living Bakkali restaurant (top) and Axor’s long-standing mixer, perfect for central fixtures (bottom). Photo: Sebastian Erras (top)

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Exposed pipework

Veulen Castle makes a show of its fittings’ worn brass finish, with a central bathtub and washstand basin both exposing their plumbing. The same raw, unfinished style is utilised in the much more contemporary washroom at Masquespacio’s Living Bakkali restaurant in Valencia, with the long arm of its washbasin tap emerging from up high and dropping down like an outdoor bib tap. The effect is accentuated by positioning a mirror behind the fitting, doubling its impact.


The long arm of the washbasin tap emerges from up high and drops down like an outdoor bib tap


You don’t need to go crazy with a sledgehammer, however, breaking through walls to expose trendy pipework. Centrally-located bathtubs and sinks have a natural need for floor-standing taps, and there are contemporary alternatives, like Axor’s minimalist Uno, as well as traditional ones.

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Fontane Bianche Salvatori’s matt black Fantini tapware with submarine-style control wheels (top) also exposes its industrial design with vertical-drop pipework (bottom)

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

Fontane Bianche Salvatori’s matt black Fantini tapware with submarine-style control wheels (top) also exposes its industrial design with vertical-drop pipework (bottom)

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Industrial-style taps

Combining the traditional elements of vintage fixtures with contemporary design is an ever-popular choice for clients and bathroom specifiers, but it’s not an easy mix to get right. The Fontane Bianche Salvatori range from Fantini, however, handles the mixture of plumbed-in style with aplomb, blending together the simple iconography of smooth, 90-degree-bend pipework in matt black with industrial accents, like its submarine-styled control wheels. The result is a simple, sweet form that delights as much visually as ergonomically.

A black-on-white combination in New York (top), gold-on-cream combo in Sorrento (middle) and Laufen’s PVD-coated Kartell range (bottom). Photos: Florim (top), Vincenzo Tambasco (middle)

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

A black-on-white combination in New York (top), gold-on-cream combo in Sorrento (middle) and Laufen’s PVD-coated Kartell range (bottom). Photos: Florim (top), Vincenzo Tambasco (middle)

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Colourful bathroom tapware

It might be a super-trend worthy of eye-rolling from timeless interior purists, but matt black tapware, when combined in contrastingly surfaced sanitary spaces like this luxury home in New York, makes creating striking spaces look easy, utilising a monochrome effect that feels like going over a pencil drawing in pen. Similar to committing ink to a well-crafted drawing, however, it takes confidence.


Utilising a monochrome effect feels like going over a pencil drawing in pen. Similar to committing ink to a well-crafted drawing, however, it takes confidence


Other contrasting colour schemes can also bring joy, or even luxury to the bathroom. The Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento in Italy adds fittings with a smooth gold finish to creams and greys for a less graphic contrast. While Laufen’s Kartell range features PVD coatings in three separate metallic finishes, allowing designers to play with colour combinations.

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Grohe’s Essence E mixer packs a lot of tech into its wide-based mixer (top), while the wide architectural base of Rubinetterie Stella’s Cassanova has a long-lasting classical style (bottom)

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

Grohe’s Essence E mixer packs a lot of tech into its wide-based mixer (top), while the wide architectural base of Rubinetterie Stella’s Cassanova has a long-lasting classical style (bottom)

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Oversized tapware

If straying away from the traditional chrome finish goes too far from a client’s tastes, there are other ways of finding that splash of personality they’re looking for. Perhaps their individuality lies not in glitz or glamour, but either function or form. Grohe’s Essence E mixer is a chunky-based model that sets itself apart with technology, with sensor operation, seven pre-set programmes and intuitive auto-cleaning squeezed into its housing. Alternatively, Rubinetterie Stella’s Casanova model moves time in the other direction; taking on the characteristics of Ancient Greek architecture, the series brings a whole new meaning to the typology of the pillar tap.

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Celebrating the nature of water by visualising its natural flow, Axor’s Massaud mixer has the wide waterfall spout (top) while Starck shows water twisting and turning like in a rocky stream (bottom)

Turn on bathroom spaces with distinctive designer tapware | News

Celebrating the nature of water by visualising its natural flow, Axor’s Massaud mixer has the wide waterfall spout (top) while Starck shows water twisting and turning like in a rocky stream (bottom)

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Feature-designed fittings

While Rubinetterie Stella’s Casanova model takes on the look of a pillar, seemingly ready to hold a sculptural artwork, other contemporary taps like those in Axor’s Icons series are designed to look more like the artworks themselves. The range includes fittings from guest designers such as Jean-Marie Massaud’s waterfall-like Axor Massaud or the transparent crystal glass spout of Philippe Starck’s Axor Starck, presenting a visible water vortex.

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