Q&A: Michael Seum on the state of modern bathroom design

Posted in Interior Design

Bathroom products have always been designed around consumers. There is a strong emotional connection when it comes to creating something that people utilise daily. When it comes to sanitary fittings, we’re usually spoilt for choice: from the latest design darling to inventions driven by smart technology.

Smart technology has also led to the creation of many exciting products that have either been disruptive or convenient. Think bathtubs with music or a rain shower that responds to your emotions.

We speak to Michael Seum (VP of Design, Grohe) on how his role as a designer has helped shape the future of water and on creating products that address today’s consumer needs. He also talks about upcoming bathroom trends and what to look out for when it comes to buying bathware and fittings.

Michael Seum
(Image credit: Grohe)

What have the biggest takeaways in the world of bathroom trends been for 2020?

Especially in Asia, I see simpler and lighter bathrooms due to smaller spaces, but with a modern and luxe feel. I also see a lot of individualisation, more preference for colours, and finally, more technology being incorporated in the bathroom.

Most bathroom technologies and innovations come from Europe. How do European standards fit into the Asian market?

Europe is the market leader in design, but from a technological point of view, we are getting a lot of innovation from Asia. For instance, the first made-in-Japan shower toilet (or ‘washlet’) with warm water shower spray and air dryer function was made by Inax, also under Lixil’s portfolio. Today, shower toilets are more common in Asia than in Europe or North America. So actually we are taking a lot of technology and innovation from Asia, reframing it with European design DNA, and bring it back to Asia. This is a balance of the best of both worlds: Asian technology, and European design, the DNA that Grohe is known for.

Michael Seum
(Image credit: Grohe)

What can consumers expect in the bathroom industry over the next two to three years?

We are going to focus on mega-trends to shape the future. For example, the way that people interact with home spaces is changing, so we will see bathrooms that are more flexible and dynamic, and kitchens that are more connected to living spaces. We will bring a sense of simplicity and become more minimalist, and we will see more individualisation, personalisation and smart technologies to manage water more intelligently. Finally, we are moving towards a more sustainable approach that will impact shower and water drinking behaviours.

How has smart technology influenced bathware designs?

It has altered the game tremendously. The design of our products complements functionality and technology and brings out the product as an experience as a whole. If we look at the Grohe Smart Control, for example, consumers can control the water dynamics depending on what they are doing in the shower – rinsing, washing hair, applying conditioner, and more. Technology allows a very intuitive and precise water control that enhances the shower experience.

Michael Seum
(Image credit: Grohe)

What are some of the obvious ‘do-nots’ when it comes to choosing bathroom fittings?

I personally think there are no ‘do-nots’ when it comes to this; We have a very extensive portfolio that can adapt to many different lifestyle needs, environment and design styles. It is up to the consumer to make use of the fittings around them to make the bathroom experience a pleasant one.

What are three useful pieces of advice when it come to shopping for bathroom fittings?

First, they should find their own inspiration for something they like. Second, bring this mindset to the store and let our staff advise them. Finally, choose the product that better suits their lifestyle. If I had to pick three lines form Grohe, I would start with Lineare, Atrio or the New Grohe Plus.

Find your nearest showroom or installer in Hong Kong at Grohe online.

This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur.

Staff Writer

Give Your Bathroom a Hotel-Style Makeover With These Luxe Interior Design Trends

Posted in Interior Design

When it comes to the ‘wow’ factor of any great luxury hotel, we think you’d agree the bathroom is an important part of the conversation. Stands to reason, if you could import any element of your favourite five-star suite into the home, a hotel-style bathroom would feature high on the list.

In fact, as far as building a design-led living space goes, having the right kind of bathroom is a highly effectual means of conveying an eye for beauty and detail. From spaces that explore texture to the ultimate terrazzo temple, take a leaf out of the playbook of some the world’s most breathtaking hotel bathrooms, with seven of our favourite interior decorating tips below.

A slice of nature

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: Four Seasons Resort Bali)

Embrace a sub-tropical atmosphere by situating your bathroom closer to nature — à la the Four Seasons resort at Jimbaran Bay. Each suite’s heirloom faucets and large tubs (with caddy fittings) imbue the traditional Balinese household with a European touch.

Terrazzo edges

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: The William Vale)

In Brooklyn, The William Vale lends a healthy dose of inspiration with its all-white guest bathrooms: each a spectacular barrage of geometric mirrors and all-over terrazzo surfaces. If this composite material isn’t to your liking, try substituting with granite or veined marble for a similar (though somewhat softened) visual effect.

High contrasts

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: Vue Hotel Houhai)

For a successful case study in ‘how to intermingle high contrast in low light’, take a moment to survey Vue Houhai‘s hotel-style bathrooms. A whimsical selection of tinted screens — used on showers and mirrors — creates a pleasing foil to dark, alabaster flecked marble surfaces. Contrary to popular belief, this is a great visual trick to use in smaller, apartment block bathrooms — lending an easy-to-execute element of luxury hotel cred.

Creative tiling

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: The Calile Hotel)

If you’re bored of conventional, horizontal, slatted monochrome tiles then there’s never been a better time to eschew those for a pop of colour. In 2020, embrace new finishes and shades in the manner of the extraordinary Calile resort in Australia: which alternates the tiling in each guest bathroom between a serene palette of blue, green, and reddish pastels.

White marble

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: Hotel Café Royal)

White marble is both the most financially exorbitant yet visually striking resource for turning your wash space into a hotel-style bathroom. We’ll simply say this: if you’re going to use marble to spruce up the fit-out, its well worth using a lot of white marble. Guest bathrooms at the Hotel Café Royal in London handily illustrate the value of this advice: even extending the Tuscan masonry motif to the bathtub. For best results, make yours a centrepiece by tweaking the tub’s size and location relative to the rest of your space.

Wooden floors

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: The New York Edition)

For once, it pays to the take the old adage ‘stay grounded’ a little too literally. Standing surfaces are often a missed opportunity to impart a dose of warmth upon otherwise sterile, perfunctory spaces. In a simple twist, private bathing spaces at Ian Schrager’s Manhattan Edition swap out unpleasant linoleum tiles for blond wooden flooring — a fine match for ultra-sleek countertop and soaking tub surfaces.

A retreat-like atmosphere

hotel-style bathroom
(Image source: The St. Regis Maldives)

Another decorating tip from the always reliable ‘bigger is better’ playbook is to simply build out a huge bathroom space. For this, turn to sprawling resorts like The St. Regis Maldives for inspiration: taking note of decadent surface area-intensive features like a balcony, walk-in closet and multiple vanities. In a nutshell — everything you’d expect from your favourite five-star spa.

An edition of this article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

Randy Lai

The N02 Chair by Fritz Hansen and Nendo Stylishly Adopts Recycled Materials in the Home

Posted in Interior Design, What to Buy

Known for its handsome, room-enriching contemporary furniture pieces, Fritz Hansen sought out Japanese design studio Nendo in order to jointly develop the brand’s first chair using recycled materials, the N02.

Head designer of Nendo, Oki Sato, modelled the N02 after a folded piece of paper — a simple, elegant shape he reportedly discovered while working at his desk. The same fold is incorporated into each N02’s back; and doubles as an aesthetic flourish as well as a means of enhancing flexibility and user comfort.

Fritz Hansen
Japanese architect and designer Oki Sato (pictured), head of design firm Nendo.

The body of each chair is manufactured using ‘circular plastic’ — a composite of household waste polypropylene — used in items such as yoghurt tubs and sandwich bags — which are collected, processed and up-cycled within Central Europe. Fritz Hansen insists on this sourcing arrangement because of its effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions and improving waste management throughout the region.

Fritz Hansen
The N02-20 (pictured) is available in the same five colourways as the original, and features a distinctive tubular steel ‘sledge base’ instead of 4 legs.

At launch, the N02 was offered in five different colours; with the brand releasing yet another two variants on the basic four-legged design last November. The N02-20 features a tubular ‘sledge base’ leg — said to make sitting for longer periods more comfortable — whereas the N02-30 takes the ‘paper fold’ shell and transfers it onto a swivel platform. In keeping with Fritz Hansen’s theme, the base is also made with 95 percent recycled aluminium. With the exception of the latter wheeled variant, each N02 is easy to clean, space-efficient and suitable in a variety of household or commercial environments.

Originally established in Copenhagen in 1872, Fritz Hansen is a leading global design brand in the fields of furniture, lighting and interior accessories. Best known internationally for its six collaborations with the Danish Functionalist Arne Jacobsen (between 1952-1958), in recent years the brand has gone on to collaborate with other notable contemporary designers including Piero Lissoni and Jaime Hayon.

This article was published via AFP Relaxnews.

Staff Writer

Insane ‘Billionaire Bunkers’ Where the Ultra-rich Will Wait Out the Pandemic

Posted in How the One Percent Live

For us, it’s the end of days. For them, an excuse for a remote destination holiday — armoured convoy included. We are, of course, referring to ‘billionaire bunkers’: those inscrutable edifices built by the one percent in order to wait out war, natural disasters, or, in 2020, a certain global respiratory infection.

Over the last decade, the ultra-rich have become increasingly paranoid about the advent of such cataclysms; and with a limitless supply of capital and ever-dwindling array of meaningful investment options, there’s more interest around a state-of-the-art luxury bunker than you’d initially think.

Here are three of the most insane examples: far from the dank, slightly bleak vibe of National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers or the fallout shelters from cinema and video games; these allegedly indestructible structures all come equipped with pools, private cinemas and much much more.

billionaire bunkers
California-based Terra Vivos have constructed a number of bunkers available for co-share, including this one in South Dakota (roughly the same size of Manhattan).

Europa One

billionaire bunkers

Marketed as a “modern day Noah’s Ark”, the Europa One compound is California-based Vivos Group’s answer to the quintessential continental holiday home — notwithstanding a few, shall we say, upgrades. For starters, the whole structure is carved out of solid bedrock; beneath a 400-foot mountain in the free state of Thuringia (Germany). At the time Vivos originally earmarked it for modernisation, it had been a Soviet military cache — used to store Red Army munitions during the Cold War. When buyers acquire one of the Europa One bunkers (private apartments from €2 million, approx. HK$16,782,900), the typical ‘starter kit’ involves a 2,500 sq.ft. residence spread across two floors; and access to a variety of communal facilities such as a chapel and pub. Factored in to the cost of purchasing one of these modest, subterranean fiefdoms is a full-time coterie of staff and security personnel.

The Oppidum

billionaire bunkers

Whereas a majority of the existing billionaire bunkers around the globe enable multiple wealthy families to clump together (strength in numbers everyone!), The Oppidum is a strictly ‘sole owner’ proposition. And when it comes to apocalypse-proofing, it boasts some pretty mean credentials. Originally developed as a joint military installation between Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union, construction began in 1984. This massive, fortress-esque compound was built (in theory) to withstand manmade disasters and nuclear attack — it was the 80s, after all — but underwent extensive beautification in 2013. The price is only disclosed to serious buyers, but the lucky owner can expect what’s allegedly the ‘largest billionaire bunker in the world’ (77,000 sq ft) to be accompanied by a subterranean garden (with artificial lighting to mimic natural sunlight), lap pool, spa facilities and wine cellar. Clearly, the remodellers had their priorities in order.

The Survival Condo Project

billionaire bunkers

Given the highly specific proclivities of the ultra-rich, there’s even an underground bunker that could make Ernst Stavro Blofeld jealous. Said to be “at an undisclosed location in Wichita, Kansas,” the Survival Condo is a 15-storey facility that is built into a decommissioned Atlas missile silo. (For all you military nuts out there, that’s the first ever intercontinental projectile developed for the US Air Force). Survival Condo CEO Larry Hall describes it as “true relaxation for the ultra-wealthy,” replete with all the classic bells and whistles you’d expect, from pool and spa to Kohler bath and kitchen amenities in each unit. The project is designed to sustain 75 people comfortably for more than five years, and prices start from US$1.5 million for half-floor units at 920 sq.ft.

In a slightly unnerving twist — the mechanics of which seem tenuous at best — under a ‘crisis scenario’, the Survival Condo’s board of directors may restrict a resident’s ability to leave the bunker without first securing permission. Remain indoors — it’s for your own safety.

Randy Lai

Q&A: Award-winning interior designer Fiona Barratt Campbell

Posted in Interior Design

Though most design boffins will recognise her considerable body of work throughout Europe, Fiona Barratt Campbell is making rapid headway here in Asia. The Northumbrian designer — who has headed her own interiors firm in London for well over a decade — is best known locally for collaborating with The Upper House, and recently completed work on one of K11 Artus’s 3,703 sq. ft. penthouses — bastions of stylish living, nestled high above the revitalised Victoria Dockside development. With her first regional project in the bag, we thought now would be the perfect time to grab Barratt’s hot takes on all things design: from her love of historic architecture to challenges facing the industry in 2020.

First up, tell us how you got into the industry — it’s well-known that you initially studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Parsons School of Design. Did you always suspect you would end up designing interiors?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

As a child I enjoyed creating and building things. I’d originally planned to study architecture at university, however I quickly realised that my passion lay within the home. After graduation, my first job was for a well-known design firm in London. I gained about three years of invaluable experience there, before going on to establish my own firm — that was 14 years ago now. I’m very much a people person, so the main object of my practice as a designer is to understand and interpret someone else’s vision. The personal journey and evolutionary process you go through with each project is something that I’ll never tire of — every client is unique.

You always credit Sir Lawrie Barratt as a significant mentor and influence on your work. Tell us a little about how he nurtured your talent and/or supported you when you made the decision to start your own studio in 2006?

My grandfather [founder of Barratt Homes] was a major inspiration. I always enjoyed the fact that his job yielded something physical, and that he was creating opportunities for people to actually own a home (he was instrumental in creating the first affordable housing of its time). He was incredibly supportive of my passion for design. Point in fact: he helped me secure placement for work experience at a London-based architecture firm. That said, he had a pretty tough philosophy that every generation of our family must begin their own business without help — as he had done.

You often speak about how historic and naturally occurring phenomena has been a strong theme throughout much of your work. What about it speaks to you?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

I grew up in Northern England — where we’re fortunate to be surrounded by a variety of wonderful, very inspiring World Heritage sites that can be dated to the Roman era. I was fascinated by how progressive their building style was for their time period. That inspiration is everywhere: from the shape and pattern of their drinking vessels to the columns they used in temples and choice in building materials. In particular, I gravitate to how the Romans used natural wood. It’s a material that’s in a state of constant evolution and there are an abundance of different textures, colours and materiality — often within a single species. There’s also something very comforting about it: wood is literally grounded in nature, so there’s some aspect that’s relatable to everyone.

As somebody who works on numerous residential projects, what’s your biggest challenge when it comes to practically realising the desires of a client?

The first rule of thumb is always to foster a strong sense of mutual trust: the client has agreed to let you create their home; and so it has to reflect their own ideas and living requirements. That’s not to say there’s no underlying philosophy threading its way through every project: it’s just manifested in a unique way depending on the client. A ‘good’ interior is one that enhances, not dictates, the way in which you live. For the K11 Penthouse, I worked closely with Adrian [Cheng] to deliver on his vision for a showcase that was very artisanal, yet at the same time, capable of co-existing alongside all the unique artwork he’d sourced for K11. So the challenge was to tell the story of British craft in Hong Kong, albeit through my own philosophy of design and experience.

Just expanding on that: what were some of the unique challenges and advantages associated with the K11 Penthouse project?

Actually, the main challenge associated emerged right at the beginning. We took several months to do spatial planning, as K11 were highly specific about what amenities — storage being a key one — needed to be incorporated within the space. We managed to create a fantastic fluid layout, incorporating a view from every room. For me, the latter element was fundamental to the project because its location is so unique. On the one hand, you’re basically on the water but also have unbelievable views of Central and lush green mountains beyond. As [Fiona Barrett Interiors] are known for our unique use of texture, it was obviously crucial to include a selection of specialist finishes within the space too.

In the master bedroom, the wall flanking the steam room/shower was actually clad in antique barn wood that’s 100 years old. The wood has been tinted with silver paint that is then coated in resin, in order to make it waterproof. Whenever we sample wall finishes or joinery, we work very closely with local craftsmen — communication at every level is really key whenever you’re translating such a meticulous detail into reality.  

If we can get overly critical for a moment, what are some of the biggest challenges that have developed in the design industry over these past few years?

For me, it’s the blatant plagiarism of a brand’s products — typically furniture pieces and lighting. I have my own furniture brand [FBC London] and we’ve seen many of our own designs plagiarised in other projects. Also, in a way the deluge of information on the internet (e.g. Pinterest, Instagram) that we’re exposed to on a daily basis has made it increasingly difficult for clients to be decisive — they’ve been overexposed to so much choice.

You’ve described the object of your design philosophy as being “to enhance, not dictate, the way [clients] live”. Care to expand on that?

Homes are one of the most important spaces you’ll inhabit throughout your life. They are shelter; comfort; and an incubator of memories made amongst family and friends. Ultimately, home should be a place where you can recuperate from the toil of everyday life. So naturally, there are a lot of factors that go into creating a unique living space. I firmly believe that the interior should always enhance a building’s external elements and take the surrounding location, heritage and materiality into account. In a previous project in Mallorca — a private villa — we took some of the sand and small stones from the surrounding beach and incorporated them into a specialised plaster that we used to finish the walls of the home. We also used woods like iroko and teak, selecting those materials for their suitability and relevance to the project.

Now for something a bit more personal: what’s one indispensable trick/tool that you use to boost productivity during your work day?

I don’t eat breakfast. Everyday I fast until lunchtime and that keeps my mind sharp (along with several cups of black coffee). I also allocate blocks of time to the completion of specific tasks and try to stay vigilant about these.

Finally, if you could travel back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

I’m reminded of Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” That advice is particularly resonant for this day and age — when everyone and everything’s business is so very visible. Better to stay true to your core beliefs and vision.

Randy Lai

7 Easy Home Styling Tips to Supersize Your Space

Posted in Interior Design

While smaller homes have their own charm, it can sometimes feel rather claustrophobic. Sadly, for those living in crowded metropolises — especially Hong Kong where we have one of the most expensive housing markets — the struggle of getting a bigger living space is far too real. The good news is, there are actually simple ways to help make your space feel a lot bigger and more inviting, and it all boils down to fooling the eye with some easy home styling choices. Scroll down to see what they are.

Use light colours for walls and floors

While many believe that painting the walls all white brightens up the room and therefore makes the space feel bigger, it can actually do the opposite and make the room appear boxy and bland. Instead, you should use it an accent or trim colour, framing light colours such as a soft pewter grey for added depth.

Draw the eye upwards

Mount floor-to-ceiling curtains, add ceiling details, or line your artworks or photos higher up — anything that draws the eye upwards will give the illusion of a much taller space.

Go for bigger decor pieces

Smaller furniture tends to cluster up the space and make it look small, so choose bigger ones instead and in minimal quantity for a clean overall aesthetic. For wall art, in particular, go for one large-scale piece rather than multiple pieces. If you really wish to hang up a series of framed works, limit that to only one wall.

Style your shelves

For smaller items, make use of shelvings and arrange them in a coordinating colour palette to create a streamlined visual.

Make use of the stripes

Just like wearing clothes with stripes, a striped rug will create an optical illusion of a wider space. Line them up so that they take up the entire length of the space for best results.

Choose furniture with exposed legs

Whether it’s the sofa, coffee table, the stool or the cabinets and bookshelves, opt for furniture with exposed legs. Not only do they look less boxy and more airy, the extra verticals and negatives will also give the illusion of a larger room.

Add a mirror

Got a corner or a wall that doesn’t get much light? Add a mirror and watch it bounce the natural light around for the illusion of a much bigger space.

Cindie Chan