Deluxe bathroom building
If bathrooms will be planned off-the-peg on the internet in future, then how will things look with premium bathrooms? Experts are of the opinion that classic bathroom construction has a future here – if the customer approach is right. A visit to a bathroom construction cathedral and an interdisciplinary sightseeing tour through psychology and the world of luxury wet rooms.
Stephan Krischer runs “Ultramarin” in Cologne's Old Gasworks, one of the finest bathroom studios in the country. The reporter asks: “Did you know that 'Frank Philipp' wrote in his Google rating about you that anyone without a budget of at least 50,000 euros shouldn't stop by for a look?” Krischer's response (emphatically neutral): “I know the rating you mean.” At the jewellers on Paris' ChampsÉlysées, suited men stand out front with spiral cables behind their ears so not just anyone gets in. A Google commentary fulfils the same function at Ultramarin. On the hunt for luxury. Coco Chanel is reported to have said that luxury was not the opposite of poverty. No, it was the opposite of the ordinary. This is why Krischer's Ultramarin more closely resembles a sacred space, like a church. Unusual in any case, most definitely not a plumbing retailer. Although Krischer is a trained craftsman and technician with a degree in engineering, there is no trace of technology: “I always loved the premium bathroom and its aesthetic, I found it fun as far as back my apprenticeship while my colleagues were afraid of it.”
Is afraid the right word? Perhaps it is. Luxury customers may be profitable, but they're certainly often stressful. They demand a lot and pay attention to details. The natural stone slabs are personally selected together with the bathroom designer at the quarry in Carrara. This is where decent work and artistic, meticulous craftsmanship part ways. You have to like it and you have to be able to deal with. That and a strong service focus are what have made Stephan Krischer into a luxury-compatible bathroom designer over the last quarter of a century. He started out small “working out of a car boot”.
A shift in values in terms of luxury is directly invested in the bathroom
Luxury bathroom studios have existed in many regions of Germany for some years now. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are countries that are often considered to be understated – unlike Russia and China, for example. Strangely enough, the DACH countries are currently experiencing a social evolution and a shift in values when it comes to luxury that is then indirectly invested in the bathroom.
Today's style of living demands its tribute: in western-style affluent societies, the service requirements are continuous and putting people under pressure. Nothing is predictable any more, nothing is plannable any more: working space, reputation, family – everything can change in the blink of an eye. The stress of retaining the wellbeing acquired both now and in old age is growing at the same pace as the uncertainties. This fluctuating set of values is clearly reflected in the approach to luxury, as a study by Nuremburg-based consultancy “Brand Trust” demonstrates.
On the one hand we have the classic, material luxury as an addictive reward, a differentiating fetish and a symbol of ascension. On the other hand, the experience or non-experience of luxury is a counter-concept to the classic model of luxury – and is a luxury in itself. This “new luxury” comprises health, good nutrition, self-determination and the consumption of experiences. Both kinds of luxury are inextricably linked: product-driven luxury is impossible without the experience and vice versa. These combine perfectly in the bathroom: Experience and reward, health, beauty and physical awareness can be masterfully celebrated in the luxurious environment - and without pomp and splendour. This is because luxury is a ride on the knife-edge: as soon as it is exhibited or inevitably has to be displayed, it can change. It's very clear: a Lamborghini or a thick watch on a wrist are different kinds of luxury to a bathroom. The racer is a statement for the street, classifiable and observable to every passer-by. A wrist decorated with a luxury watch is a sight you have to get closer to in order to classify it; the buttoned cuff has to hitch up or be hitched up so you can identify the Rolex. The perfect dose decides whether other people may read the signs of personal luxury – or even should. The bathroom goes a step forward when it comes to the opportunities for “dosing”: luxury in the bathroom is underpinned by absolute discretion.
5-star Hotel – Bringing comfort home
The owner of the bathroom must consciously lead interested parties and admirers here – or they enjoy it only for themselves and their family. The luxury of a bathroom is much more coded into the details than a Rolex, which everyone knows is expensive. “Anyone who comes to us is generally aesthetically inclined,” says Stephan Krischer. By this he means that the customers can read the interior designer's code – and have learned to do so. They can identify an LC 4 chaise from Le Corbusier as an original (and tell it apart from the copy). Stylishness, fine materials, precision work: in summary, says Krischer: “everyone knows the kind of value such a bathroom represents”.
“The bathroom is a personal luxury”, says Stephan Krischer. It is a place of retreat from the everyday, a dream day dream gate to be passed through at least once, twice a day in which people prepare themselves for the day and then free themselves from the residue of the everyday again. Contemplation, a leisure area in their own four walls, a space to transition to the next mind-set. The feeling of only doing what makes you feel good here leads affluent people to spend money. The motives behind it: searching for relaxation, using time for yourself, caring for the body as a vehicle of experience.
A major contribution to this image upgrade has come from the resorts, luxury hotels and wellness complexes located in the most beautiful places in the world. The bathroom is a vehicle for bringing this holiday comfort home. In realising dreams like these, it's usually about far more than just the bathroom: for example, integrating it into a Japanese garden or installing an open cubicle. This space for physical hygiene thus becomes the focus of a larger conversion project, structural restoration or new build. The bathroom constructor must hereby function as a specialist for incorporating the bathroom into the interior design. You won't get far with standard products here. A lot of material that characterises these bathroom concepts comes from the carpenter, glazer or stonemason – made to measure. Naturally, all of the functions are also embedded in the building control technology. Stephan Krischer: “In addition to unleashing that playful instinct and a certain unique selling point, digitalisation brings an enormous increase in comfort: Lighting moods, invisible music and remote controllability of functions are important to the premium customer and worth paying for.”