Everyone should be able to use the bathroom which suits them best. That, without question, applies to one’s gender identity. But it increasingly goes for self-expression of all kinds, as bathrooms and the devices within them are exploring the reaches of the aesthetic spectrum.
At this year’s Milan Design Week, Kohler shows just how far they’re pushing beyond classic white, steel, and gold. In a “digital garden” planted within the Palazzo Del Senato, they’ll debut their concept for 2019, called Experiential Luxury. “The reality of the modern world,” says Mark Bickerstaffe, Kohler’s director of new product development, “is that luxury is not just about a good-looking interior. It’s about a quality and depth of experience.”
Which, when it comes to the powder room, means water-efficient Intelligent Toilets with lids that raise when you approach, wash the room in eight colors of ambient lighting, play pre-programmed or Bluetooth-ed music, or display a welcome message from an SD card—all in a surprisingly streamlined design. “The best tech cannot be at the expense of aesthetics,” Bickerstaffe says. “You have to make the tech inherent.” Their new Digital Showering accomplishes this with a simple interface that manages spray, steam, sound, and lighting while seeming to disappear within the walls. “It’s good for hygiene,” he says, “because the fewer joints there are, the easier to clean. And it lets the marble or stone shower walls be the hero.”
Or, perhaps, the more adventurous materials and finishes on offer for sinks. “Tech is a layer of experience,” he says, but just one of many. “We’re seeing interiors fascinated with layers of details where materials are used together, with intersections of two or more.” This modern mix is reflected in the Kensho sink, which combines Japanese sashiko stitching with 15th Century Italian acqueforti etching for a patchwork effect. A more modern form of engraving can be found in the Etch faucet, for which Kohler invented a process to inscribe geometric patterns via lasers.
“It’s not about gadget-laden environments,” Bickerstaffe concludes. “We’re really about pursuing consumer delight.” And what more luxurious experience is there than delight?