Inside | Outside – Pop up my Bathroom defines long-term trends for bathroom design

To the Top Themes overview

Pop up my Bathroom, the information platform for creative bathroom planning, architecture and design, is kicking off the next bathroom season: for the ISH digital 2021, the communication campaign of the German Bathroom Sector Association (Vereinigung Deutsche Sanitärwirtschaft e.V. [VDS]) and Messe Frankfurt is shining a spotlight on the latest trends in bathroom design. First and foremost, it will be the three trends .Smart Bathroom, .Green Bathroom and .Living Bathroom that will have a lasting impact on the design and implementation of bathrooms over the next few years. With the new motto Inside | Outside, the Pop up my Bathroom initiators are drawing attention to the increasing influence of the innovative technology “behind the wall” in their portrayal of the trends.

Photo: Karsten Jipp, German Bathroom Sector Association (VDS)
Photo: Karsten Jipp, German Bathroom Sector Association (VDS)

What exactly is it that constitutes a modern bathroom? Is it the look or the sanitaryware, the choice of materials or, ultimately, the technology? The truth is: in future, it will be almost impossible to distinguish between the various factors – they are merging into a homogeneous offering with different quality levels. Owners and bathroom designers can set themselves apart from the crowd by opting for professional planning with intelligent zoning, a lifestyle-oriented design, a convenience and comfort bonus or an overall concept geared towards above-average eco-friendliness. More and more, it’s becoming standard practice to equip the bathroom with sustainable and innovative products and technology enhanced with digital features. And over the next few years, it’s precisely concepts like this, which deliver added value via their technical equipment, that will reveal which features can convince customers when implemented on a needs basis.

Jens J. Wischmann

“When it comes to setting a new quality standard, the new challenges aren’t so much associated with the individual products as with how to connect all the different products intelligently. For the future, we need a new understanding of integration, we need to adopt a holistic approach by trying out cross-system concepts,” explains Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the German Bathroom Sector Association (Vereinigung Deutsche Sanitärwirtschaft e.V. [VDS]), summing up the motive behind the new Pop up my Bathroom motto Inside | Outside. As usual, the motto for the VDS trend platform’s presentation of the latest trends has been chosen with the intention of highlighting developments that affect all areas of the sector.

Demand for modernisation and refurbishment in private households, educational facilities and the hospitality sector

If market researchers are to be believed, the property market is facing a long wave of refurbishments over the next few years. The results of a survey conducted on behalf of the German Bathroom Sector Association (VDS) suggest that renewing the bathroom tops the list of planned refurbishments in Germany. According to the findings, 16.7 million Germans are planning to invest in their bathrooms in the near future, and 6.2 million are even planning a complete overhaul. Given this background, the sector’s leading international trade fair, the ISH digital 2021 in Frankfurt, takes on special significance. Product concepts that are specifically intended for refurbishment and modernisation projects could help the sector take full advantage of the dynamism to be found in this market and make more efficient use of it, even when staffing levels are low. “With our Inside | Outside motto, we want to draw attention to the heroes of professional bathroom planning: the invisible products and technologies behind the wall that make holistic bathroom design possible in the first place and are making installation increasingly simple for the tradespeople involved. A modern bathroom is the sum of the innovative products in front of the wall and the intelligent systems and technology behind the wall – and at the ISH digital 2021, we’ll be seeing an abundance of innovative solutions for the booming bathroom refurbishment market,” anticipates Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the German Bathroom Sector Association (VDS).

The symbiosis of “in front of and behind the wall”: installation systems for private bathroom refurbishment

The more technical and bigger the product, the greater the role specialist trades and wholesale play in the bathroom refurbishment. The various installation systems available from the bathroom industry aim to make refurbishment as simple as possible. Several manufacturers offer pre-wall installations that make new water-carrying products considerably easier to fit, including elements for wall-mounted toilets and shower toilets with optional odour extraction. In addition, pre-wall elements are also available for wall-mounted mixers and showers with a wall drain. There are also elements for washbasins, urinals and bidets, and the industry even offers mounting plates for grab rails and supports for (re-)designing an accessible bathroom. For the ISH digital 2021, Pop up my Bathroom aims to shine a spotlight on the complexity of building projects that aim to create a lifestyle bathroom – projects that will only result in a harmonious whole when the various trades involved work hand in hand. This interdependency between sanitaryware on the one hand and installation systems for fitting and retrofitting them on the other is also the theme of the communication campaign’s new key visual: no trades, no private spa. Over the next few months, three Pop up my Bathroom trends will be visualised like the inner workings of a transparent clock. The interlinking of design-oriented and technology-based elements promises to be an interesting approach for architects and bathroom planners alike. The Pop up my Bathroom 2021 campaign is specifically designed to appeal to both target groups – at emotional and professional level.

.Smart Bathroom: innovative technology optimises procedures and routines

Source: Keuco
Source: Keuco

Rather than showing the bathroom of a distant future, Pop up my Bathroom portrays the Smart Bathroom equipped with the technical possibilities of our time. Combining products that are already on the market can result in an exemplary .Smart Bathroom – with a mirror that doubles as an information centre, smart controls for water applications (shower etc), app-controlled shower toilets, UV-based hygiene functions, an intelligent lighting control system and touchless technologies.

.Green Bathroom: sustainable products, new designs and new material options combine resource conservation with a sense of being close to nature

Source: Dornbracht
Source: Dornbracht

The .Green Bathroom is an evergreen that’s playing an increasingly important role for the sector. But the way to a sustainable bathroom isn’t only paved with highly complex technical products and state-of-the-art technologies; products made of natural materials that can be used for many years to come also play a vital role. The .Green Bathroom is a future concept that strives for the optimal combination of smart, water-saving and energy-saving products, eco-friendly industrial production, sustainable materials and enduring design – while simultaneously conveying a sense of being in touch with nature.

.Living Bathroom: the bathroom is increasingly becoming a lifestyle space

Source: Villeroy & Boch
Source: Villeroy & Boch

The .Living Bathroom is a response to the still-growing demand for an individual, comfortable and cosy wellness retreat in one’s own four walls. The bathroom has undergone a continuous upgrade in recent years. Cosiness, zeitgeist, fashion and style are very much in demand as the cornerstones of a professionally planned bathroom, as are modern usage concepts that enhance the quality of the space and permit health-related activities. The .Living Bathroom features more furniture and more fabrics, is more flexible and more attractive – and there’s no shortage of old bathrooms that are waiting to be kissed awake.

The coolest bathroom showcase on the web: relaunch of the website and expansion of social media activities

Pop up my Bathroom aims to give bathroom planners, architects, interior designers and trend researchers, as well as industry, wholesale and the trades, new ideas and inspiration for modern bathroom design and the possibilities it holds for the bathroom culture of an individualistic society. After a comprehensive relaunch of the site, visitors will find a huge treasure trove of bathroom-related reference projects and an up-to-the-minute overview of trends, materials and new products. The expansion of the digital bathroom showcase to the social web is also meeting with a very positive response on Instagram: what is perhaps the coolest bathroom showcase on the net benefits greatly from the journalistic editing of the content and is growing continuously. “With 1 million views this year, our neutral and ad-free Pop up my Bathroom platform is heading for a new record. And about one-third of visitors to the site come from outside Germany,” says Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the German Bathroom Sector Association (VDS), summing up the successful track record of the bilingual VDS platform.

Cosiness, sustainability and smartness: Pop up my Bathroom becomes the information hub for The Bathroom Experience

The outlook for the future of the bathroom is a platform-based installation system for customisable design solutions with very different areas of focus – and the systemic approach of understanding the bathroom as a holistic planning project has a key role to play in that. As a shop window for products that are installed both in front of and behind the wall, the ISH digital 2021 will reflect this outlook. Besides expanding the website into a central information hub for bathroom planners and architects, the VDS also sees the publication of press releases via Pop up my Bathroom’s digital press centre as a supporting function for both the sector and the ISH. “Pop up my Bathroom will definitely take on a special role in the ISH digital 2021 because it already has a big community that we can build on, so to speak. For the ISH digital 2021 we’ll be focusing on three important trend topics in The Bathroom Experience. In the next few years, cosiness, sustainability and smartness will be the three themes that shape tomorrow’s bathroom – that’s why we want to point the way with our Pop up my Bathroom campaign,” says Jens J. Wischmann of the trend platform’s role in the ISH digital 2021.

Further information:

Jens J. Wischmann in interview

Jens J. Wischmann (Source: Association of the German Sanitary Industry (VDS) / Karsten Jipp)
Jens J. Wischmann (Source: Association of the German Sanitary Industry (VDS) / Karsten Jipp)

"The bathroom is becoming green, smart and multifunctional. And ISH digital 2021 will be the first in a new generation of trade fairs." Jens J. Wischmann, Managing Director of the Association of the German Sanitary Industry (VDS) and joint founder of the trend platform Pop up my Bathroom, sets out the three most important trends in bathroom design and describes the current economic situation in the sanitary industry.

Mr. Wischmann, how do you view the current economic situation in the sanitary industry?

Jens J. Wischmann: For self-evident reasons, the home is now the focal point of our lives. Even if living and where we live formed a major topic before the pandemic, now it has gained in importance again: people are investing in their homes, renovating them, working at do-it-yourself, creating a fine living space. The popularity of the subject means that the bathroom is becoming an increasing object of attraction. More and more, it is seen as a fully recreational room – with all associated expectations by way of aesthetic design and convenient fittings and furnishings. The major importance of the living environment for quality of life in the private sphere is certainly a driving force for the good to very good economic state of the sanitary industry in Germany. The bathroom is becoming a pleasant retreat within one's own four walls and is enjoying an enormous upgrade through higher-quality furnishings.  

On the other hand, the industry still needs to counterbalance restrictions, too – is that not the case?

Jens J. Wischmann: Given the excellent conditions in the market, the challenges faced by the trade come principally from the thin nature of the workforce, with hardly any reserves, not least because for years we have had a problem when it comes to recruiting new entrants to the industry. Of course those of our member businesses which are strongly export-focused have also been hit quite directly by the global consequences of the pandemic for the economy – so far, however, with a manageable fall in sales. So, as a leading trade fair, ISH would have been just right in its timing and would have provided new incentives in this stage of the pandemic. But I firmly expect to see these incentives to come equally from the purely digital ISH digital 2021 – even if certainly not to the same extent. 

You use Pop up my Bathroom at ISH to pick on the relevant bathroom trends. So has a lot happened over the last two years?

Jens J. Wischmann: Of course we want to reflect current trends in style and to promote new developments, but our priority aim has always been to identify and spotlight longer-term developments early on. And yes, a lot has happened over the last two years. These are exciting times and sanitary businesses need to respond to social changes and general conditions – for instance in the form of new products and concepts. Through Pop up my Bathroom we are attempting to launch incentives and to shift the focus onto major developments in the bathroom. In this process a number of trends are intertwined. One result of this, for instance, is the private spa – a major trend, which we analysed, designated and communicated twelve years ago at ISH 2009.

In Pop up my Bathroom how do you estimate current trends, and what messages do you have for the industry and for the general public?

Jens J. Wischmann: At the moment we are seeing three dominant bathroom trends and two trend drivers. .Green Bathroom, .Smart Bathroom and .Living Bathroom describe the developments determining the design and equipment of the bathroom of the future, because in the first place consumers want to invest in an environmentally-aware and value-oriented way, secondly smart technology is setting new standards in hygiene, convenience and the nature of the bathroom experience, and thirdly people have higher quality expectations which a bathroom must fulfil as a place to spend time in and higher expectations of its potential uses, as a relaxing private spa and healthcare zone. While the trend towards the .Living Bathroom is becoming more important again through the general experience of the pandemic and the increasing regard paid to house and home which has resulted, I would point to two drivers – the growing awareness of hygiene and the backlog of renovation needed by private bathrooms and (semi-public) sanitary facilities – which are industry-specific and are likely to impact on market shares to the benefit of the respective product segments. Loads of old bathrooms are waiting to be given a new life. And of course the pandemic is also closely involved in the subject of bathrooms and is making people more aware of questions of hygiene.       

At the last ISH the trend forum Pop up my Bathroom attempted to win the industry over to the rising topic of a more daring coloration – and was very successful in doing so. What motto have you taken as your prime statement this year?

Jens J. Wischmann: We are taking up a development which is attractive both to the trade and to consumers – especially to clients who want renovation. Actually this development is not new, but rather in the last few years it has been working unobtrusively in the background and is now having a major impact on the layout of bathrooms and on product design: Increasingly, "front of wall" products are undergoing a symbiosis with "rear of wall" products – we call it "inside | outside." Using this motto we shall also be showcasing the three bathroom trends at ISH digital 2021. For this subject is not only becoming more and more important for the development of the industry, but it also shows how closely design and trade businesses, lifestyle and technology go hand in hand.

.Green Bathroom

At ISH digital 2021 you are spotlighting three major trends. What do you mean by a ".Green Bathroom"?

Jens J. Wischmann: Well, up to now few bathroom designers have moved sustainability more strongly to the forefront of this sales process. Yet, the sanitary industry has been offering sustainable product solutions in the bathroom for a long time. There is a whole host of water-saving fixtures which do not sacrifice convenience, cleansing-friendly WCs which, by means of an innovative flushing technology without a rim, help to reduce the amount of cleansing materials needed, plus shower WCs, which save toilet paper by cleansing with water. Environmental awareness hasn't just risen to the top as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – the desire for ecologically sustainable construction has long been a genuine preoccupation among many builders' clients. Now that high design expectations have been established over the last few years, the .Green Bathroom will develop into the next fixed standard.  

So you see a greater potential for ".Green Bathroom" as a subject for communication by the sanitary industry?

Jens J. Wischmann: Yes. Moreover is it very good for marking yourself off from your competitors. If you put the focus on sustainability in bathroom design, you don't just set the client's imagination running wild; you can also score with hard facts. If you incorporate bathroom design early on in the architectural concept, the ".Green Bathroom" can be realised in a much more consistent and attractive way, for instance by linking the bathroom directly with the garden or by orienting the bathroom towards the preferred position of the sun. When presenting the tender and design, a list can be made of sustainable aspects. At this point, using innovative story-telling, the trade supplier can mark himself off from his competitors, particularly from those trading online.  

Will all bathrooms now go green?

Jens J. Wischmann: Plants in the bathroom are a great idea, but they don't make a green bathroom. To make a green bathroom you need sustainable solutions with long-term effects. Just as with the private spa, it needs a designer who develops holistic bathroom designs under the aspect of sustainability. Here too I see a major growth market.

Will the desire for sustainability change the bathroom?

Jens J. Wischmann: Definitely. We shall soon be seeing a sort of ecological package insert coming to bathrooms. Credibility will be the biggest asset here, because evaluating sustainable action or sustainable production is so complex. Transparency alone will not help in this; the standards achieved must also be communicable. Certificates, such as the Blue Angel, FSC or PEFC, plus the sustainability reports by the sanitary companies, can provide orientation here.

Is there not a danger that in many "green" bathrooms it will just be a case of "green whitewashing"?

Jens J. Wischmann: As long as you communicate honestly and don’t make too much fuss, this charge can bear no weight. What you need is a sense of proportion and a respect for facts. The industry has already established a good basis, in the shape of its Blue Responsibility Initiative. But of course you are not wrong: on the producer side a certain respect for the subject is becoming evident, precisely because they know how properly aware consumers respond to "green whitewashing." If, for example, companies have already firmly established sustainability as an integral part of their corporate philosophy over a long period, of course that pays dividends in terms of credibility. I am quite sure that many sanitary businesses will follow this example, since decisions to purchase will be guided more closely in future by the sustainability profile. This applies also to the whole three-stage sales channel. Trade and retail will need to make the same contribution to this subject.

.Living Bathroom

The bathroom is becoming more a part of the home – this development is not new. Why have you taken up ".Living Bathroom" as a top trend for bathrooms in your 2021 campaign for Pop up my Bathroom?

Jens J. Wischmann: At ISH digital 2021 we have restricted ourselves to three trends – we are setting out the three most important trends which will be with us over the next few years and which will have a major impact on bathroom design. Even if, for industry insiders, bathroom upgrading nowadays may be a matter of course not needing a great deal of discussion, still the evolution which the bathroom, as a room, needs to undergo is a pretty large one for many. For this relatively short time it seems to many end customers almost like a small revolution. People will first really have to get used to it. It is not so long ago that rented-apartment blocks had WCs per floor, and now we are speaking of a lifestyle bathroom with a high quality of fittings and furnishings, a quality space to spend time in. The .Living Bathroom trend will probably be the most important catalyst for sales growth in retail, trade and industry – and not just in the domestic market, but also in international markets. High-quality design and innovative technologies "made in Germany" for the private spa will quite certainly be hits for export. 

So what should a ".Living Bathroom" consist of?

Jens J. Wischmann: In a home-oriented bathroom, bathroom furniture will not only assume an optical function but will at the same time ensure sufficient storage room. The .Living Bathroom must offer plenty of space for decoration. Its interior design will borrow design factors from the remainder of the home: plenty of fabrics, warm wood tones, plus seats and accessories will give the bathroom a home character. Perhaps there will be a carpet on the floor, perhaps a bench or chair will attract you to spend a little time there, and a professional lighting design will accompany the user from his or her stimulating morning toilette to their emotional relaxation in the evening. The experience of the pandemic has made the function of the bathroom even more important as a retreat zone, and the extension of the bathroom's function as a room in which you can train and maintain health and fitness appears attractive to many people, in view of reduced opportunities for exercise and contacts with training partners. That runs from a normal ergometer to online training on a spinning bike, from the exercise mat to a smart workout mirror. The more space I have for sitting down or a training appliance, the more the ".Living Bathroom" will become a true living space.

At ISH 2019 the trend forum Pop up my Bathroom hit the spirit of the age for the industry with its motto "Colour Bathroom." Is colour in the bathroom still a topic? And which colours are determining bathroom design at the moment?

Jens J. Wischmann: Colour in the bathroom is a topic as contemporary as never before. ISH 2019 triggered a true colour campaign in the bathroom. In these times of corona virus a comfortable home for living is in particular demand. So it is plausible to suppose that the pandemic is impacting on the range of colours in the bathroom. Beige tones convey not only a natural environment, but also homeliness. So it is no surprise that more and more bathrooms are designed in beige tones – if we once discount the ever-prevailing white. With beige as a basic colour, greige – still completely predominant two years ago – shifts up one key into the homely range, since it invokes more clearly the brown hues familiar from the rest of the living area.

.Smart Bathroom

The bathroom is becoming more digital. How is the ".Smart Bathroom" trend to be classified?

Jens J. Wischmann: The networking of products and appliances in the home environment is a growth market world-wide. Along with the digitalisation of building and security technology in the private home, the kitchen and bathroom are highly suitable for integrating existing products into the network – though always with a view of optimising convenience for the bathroom user. I see increased digitalisation coming in the bathroom over the next few years.

What will a ".Smart Bathroom" be like?

Jens J. Wischmann: The principle of smart applications in the home is based on networking applications and digitalising routines. Thus even today it is possible to call up your individual shower program to start your day – each member of the family will be able to adjust the degree and intensity of the water applications via a profile of their own. When it comes to shower WCs, the level of digitalisation is already very high. A click on the app is all it takes to activate and operate many shower WCs. Mirror cabinets will take over smart functions for purposes of light design in the bathroom and simulate major functions in the course of the day via the temperature of the light. And touchless taps are becoming increasingly popular in private bathrooms, too. The manufacturers of taps and other fittings are really far advanced in their developments for the bathroom. Today the automated filling of a bathtub or a shower underpinned by multimedia is no longer a mere futuristic vision. Water at the touch of a button is the trend of the hour in the .Smart Bathroom.      

What is the current state of development of smart applications in the bathroom?

Jens J. Wischmann: I think at ISH digital 2021 we shall be seeing a further level of digitalisation in new products. First on the list will come the simplification of daily applications for the bathroom user. We shall also be seeing more and more interfaces which will provide the trade with facilities for maintenance. Of course this smart technology appeals particularly to technology-conversant users, but the sanitary manufacturers are working above all on smart usages to simplify life in the bathroom. Smart products are intended to raise the quality of the time you spend in the bathroom. This will also benefit older people, for instance, who will be able to remain independent for longer. I am thinking in particular of a support through ergonomic products: products whose height can be raised or lowered, better lighting, heating, fitness, water at the touch of a button, or an increase in the hygiene standard through a shower WC.

To the complete interview