Sleeper caught up with Carina Buhlert, Senior Design Manager Brand Environments at Grohe, during Sleep + Eat to discuss sustainability, sensory design and the future of bathrooms, as well as the German manufacturer’s approach to this year’s VIP lounge.
What was the design inspiration behind Grohe’s VIP Lounge at Sleep + Eat 2018?
Our approach is centred on how hospitality is evolving following the influence of disruptive brands and new types of accommodation like Airbnb. The whole industry has had to rethink its ideas and even its consumer, so now when you think about a lounge, you should have an experience. At Grohe, we can provide beverage experiences through our water systems. What we wanted to do here was to create a hospitable space with beverage enhancements like lemons and cucumber that event visitors could enhance their water with and experiment a little bit. With Grohe Red we are offering boiled water, while with Grohe Blue – a water system that provides still, medium or sparkling water – we are showcasing a way in which hotels and bars can become more sustainable by reducing the need for plastic bottles.
How important is sustainability to Grohe as a sanitaryware brand?
Sustainability has always been a big part of what we do, as it makes up one of our four pillars alongside quality, design and technology. As one of the largest brands in the sanitary market, we have to think about our responsibility to save resources like water, and that’s why we try to develop and revolutionise our own products. We also live in a world that has to be transparent to the customer, so here for example, we want to show that a space can be hospitable, functional and sustainable all at once.
This year’s show theme is ‘Recognisable and New’, was that a key element when designing the space too?
Yes definitely. The brand itself has to be recognisable, but we also have to understand that our consumer is a human being and will evolve. That’s one of the reasons why we want to try new things and explore emotional spaces to create immersive experiences for our consumers. With this space, we set out to achieve semi-transparency so that passers by could peek in at the bar space and seating. You can see the people react to it with intrigue, and that is the emotion that we wanted to trigger. The main focus is on the bar, but the seating is very important too as we had to think about who our customers were going to be – namely VIP guests – and what their needs were.
Sensory design has also become a buzzword in recent times, what impact has the trend had on bathroom design?
Bathrooms nowadays are more like sanctuaries where consumers can have personal rituals, so it’s more important than ever that we create spaces that are almost cocoon-like and offer a sense of escapism. The counter-trend to smart devices has not come as a surprise, but our whole approach to interior design as a brand has evolved to tell stories and generate memorable experiences. We want to produce installations that are immersive, water stations that address the consumer in a very human and emotionalised way, and products that have a meaningful story behind them. Surface design is also becoming an important aspect to complete bathroom solutions, and we hope that our Spa Colours provide customers with inspiration on how to curate their bathroom into a wellness area.
Where do you see bathrooms heading in the future?
It’s difficult to say exactly where it is heading as there are many different segmentations. The maximiser, for example, wants luxury, elegance and a playful environment, which we can address using our Spa Colours, while others are looking for ritual-like experiences and spaces to find their own peace. We are, however, seeing a lot of raw material bathrooms, so studying different colours and finishes and how we can incorporate our products into more tactile environments will be key in the future.
What’s next for Grohe?
We’re working hard in the lead up to ISH in March, where we hope to provide visitors with more inspiration and possibilities for complete bathroom solutions.