Bathrooms have changed beyond all recognition in the last 50 years. It wasn’t until the 1950s that houses were built with an inside toilet as standard, and even by the 1970s only 1 in 5 homes had a shower. In the 21st century, we all take having an inside loo and at least one shower in a property for granted. So what changes are we likely to see in the next 50 years? Technology, modern design and bold new trends have taken over various other areas of our lifestyles. The bathrooms of the future too, will be unrecognisable – from a functional and basic feature in your home to a luxurious and hi-tech sanctuary. There are so many gadgets and innovations already on the market which look set to become commonplace in bathrooms around the UK, as well as many other quirky, problem solving ideas that are bound to be released in the near future. The possibilities are endless, but here are just a few…
Looking back over the last few decades, the aesthetics of bathroom appliances and furniture have already been overhauled a number of times. The colourful bathroom suites, patterned tiles and questionable carpets of the 1970s have quickly given way to clean lines, pristine white furniture and an air of clinical hygiene. Floors are tiled, laminated or plastic based and everything is wipe clean. Most noticeably over recent years, style and sophistication in bathroom products has been evolving, as the main functions remain the same. Taps for instance are no longer squat, square pipes, but have to become more pleasing to the eye, with waterfall taps, mixers, and an array of different handle designs to suit every fashion and taste.
Looking ahead to the decor of future generations’ bathrooms, they look set to continue to play on sleek lines, minimalist colour palettes and lustrous design features but will undoubtedly include the addition of high tech gadgets and integrated lighting, making it closer to a luxury spa suite than to their outhouse predecessors.
You may think that the toilet, as the most primitive and necessary element of any bathroom or water closet, would remain fairly simplistic and unchanged in the bathrooms of the future – you’d be wrong. Already, countries like Japan are rapidly innovating and changing the way they use toilets and their personal and public toilet facilities are light-years ahead of our in the UK; however, it is only a matter of time before these new technologies become commonplace in every home. Toilets can be built with motion sensors to detect the user has entered the room, allowing the toilet seat to be lifted and a pre-rinse of the bowl to be enabled. During the night, led lights can illuminate the bowl. A remote control then gives you the option of heating the seat and activating a foot warmer below the pedestal – perfect for those chilly winters and stylish tiled floors! How about listening to your favourite music while spending a penny? MP3 systems can now be fitted into these most space age toilets. The luxury can also continue after using the toilet; other features on the remote control initiate a bidet style cleaning system where an adjustable rod emits water, and then jets of air to effectively clean and dry as appropriate. A deodorising feature then ensures that the room stays fresh and clean, while some toilets include a spinning seat complete with cleaning module which sanitises the whole seat each time it is used – a technology ideal for public toilets! Naturally, the toilets of the future are then self-closing, so you can avoid touching any germ-ridden surfaces.
The western world may seem pre-occupied with overly extravagant gadgets (including a folding toilet which converts between standard pedestal style and a urinal set up!) but the innovation continues in making toilets accessible and usable to everyone in the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with many other groups, continue to strive for plumbing-free toilets, not only to revolutionise the outdated sewage systems in the UK and other developed countries but also to facilitate waste disposal in developing countries where running water is not freely available. The novel invention separates waste; solids are stored in a chamber and burnt, before being emptied weekly. The liquids then pass through membrane filters to purify them, making the resulting water clean enough for washing and watering plants with, although not for drinking.
Perhaps among the most decadent advancements that are likely over the next few decades is the ability to personalise your bathrooms ‘settings’. In the same way that your phone can now recognise your face or your fingerprint, before long, the bathroom of the future will recognise its user and apply your preferences without any input from you. This includes adjusting any of the technology in the bathroom, whether that’s the brightness (or even colour!) of the lighting, the music or ambient sounds you like to listen to and the temperature of your tap or shower. The heights of surfaces and furniture could also be adjusted to suit your needs. Even more imaginative is the idea that instead of a standard bath mat, you could step out of the bath or shower to your choice of surface simulated in the floor tiles, whether that be warm sand, refreshing, cool snow or the leaves of a forest floor. The sensory elements of the bathroom would continue, not only do you have the ideal texture, sound and temperature to your newly indulgent wash room, but you could even specify the smell you prefer to be surrounded with – perhaps the most important sense needed in bathroom technology!
Bathrooms of the future will take into account all senses in order to create the most relaxing and pampering atmosphere for the user; a chance to escape the stresses and strains of modern life. Looking ahead at the trends and technologies coming up, your own bathroom will begin to resemble the experience currently associated with spa hotels and retreats. Showers will no longer be a means to an end, to quickly clean and leave. Instead, experience showers as well as features such as saunas and steam rooms will become more widely available in the home. The 90s ‘Jacuzzi’ baths will give way to even more advanced hydro-pool technology with powerful jets to ease muscle pain and tension. Once you’ve finished washing, you could step into a full body air dryer, without any need for towels.
In the busy life of a modern family, the bathroom will continue to be a place for relaxation and rejuvenation… when there’s time to relax! However, functional, time-saving additions will also work their way into your sanctuary. According to a number of studies, more than a third of people admit to taking their smartphone or tablet to the toilet with them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next step will be merging the screens of devices with the mirrors and shower screens in bathrooms. This would give people the ability to check social media, send messages, check the news and weather; all while brushing their teeth! Combine this technology with the voice controlled assistants that have crept into our homes and you would have a hands-free, multi-functional room. If checking the weather in the mirror doesn’t excite you, how about watching a YouTube tutorial in the mirror whilst recreating that hair or make up style in real time? Googling haircuts and seeing them simulated on your head in the mirror? Playing your favourite video game while having a wash? Adding shampoo to your shopping list while you’re still in the shower? Augmented reality could allow you to have a video call conversation with your friends and family while you’re in the bath or shower without the need for strategically placed bubbles.
So, whether your bathroom becomes the spa-like sanctuary where you can forget about your busy life or it transforms into a hub of technology and social media, our home washrooms are destined to continue to evolve and catch up with the advancements of the rest of the house – the avocado suite will be a long-forgotten mistake!