Bathrooms that include the needs of older people usually put the focus on safety and sterility. This project set out to explore how the mirror and washbasin could create a sense of indulgence and luxury in grooming.
Bathrooms for older people typically focus on creating a safe, sterile environment where grab rails and anti-slip materials are prevalent. Far less attention is paid to achieving a sense of luxury or indulgence that is rejuvenating. The bathroom is a space where we all beautify ourselves regardless of age or gender. The washbasin and mirror area needs to perform beyond the functionality of hygiene to become the arena where we can transform ourselves and create the image we want show to the rest of the world.
For consumers over 50, who typically hold more disposable income than any other age group and are a burgeoning market for bathroom manufacturers, the desire to pamper and groom becomes increasingly important. This is true for both men and women, whether living alone or in a relationship, working or retired. There are few washbasin solutions that fully integrate lighting, water, storage and the mirror, and fewer still that address our aspirations as we age. This project with Ideal Standard looked at the furniture in the bathroom in the context of 'beauty pampering' for an ageing consumer demographic.
History of grooming
Early research looked at how we use the bathroom and at the ergonomics of washing, reaching and relaxing. The history of grooming and beauty, and related product typologies such as the bedroom dressing table, were investigated. New production technologies and materials were studied and observational research at a beauty spa looked at grooming in a professional context.
Eleven people representing a mix of age, gender, ethnicity, personal circumstance and family structure were selected as core users to inform and inspire the design approach. They were filmed and interviewed in their own space or home. All had a distinctive relationship with the subject - the group included a dancer and an actress who have a professional obligation to beauty and appearance and could be described as expert or 'extreme' users.
Five key areas for design innovation emerged from the user research. As well as demanding improvements in terms of lighting, storage and the mirror, because we all like to look at ourselves from different angles, users also commented that they wanted a design that gives a feeling of permanence and structure to their routine and enhances their relationship with water.
Floating from wall
The final concept incorporates a sculptural basin, three mirrors, appropriate lighting, seating and storage. The basin 'floats' away from the wall, removing the need for mastic. The main mirror incorporates a soft, glowing band of light that 'washes' an equal amount of light across the face. A handheld mirror detaches from this, allowing the back and side of the head to be seen. An adjustable tap allows users to wash their hair. The shape of the basin includes a horizontal surface to place things on, as well as pullout storage. The stool incorporates a digital weighing scale that gives a readout on the mirror when this feature is switched on.
The study resulted in a full-sized prototype that is both indulgent and functional, and inclusive of older people rather than exclusively for them. The prototype is set to be unveiled by Ideal Standard this autumn at a special press event at the 100 per cent Design show in London.