With emotional wellbeing in the spotlight, the bathroom is increasingly being seen as a place of sanctuary. As part of our Design Update #4 Wellness Issue we spoke to Arik Levy about our collaboration on the Voyage range – a new collection for a more personalised kind of bathroom that prioritises self-care and relaxation.
New studies from Japan and Germany suggest that time spent immersed in a warm bath is particularly effective for boosting mood. What’s your personal take on why bathroom time might be so important to mental wellbeing?
A warm bath for many of us is a place to relax and refresh and take a moment to reconnect with what’s important. We’re all different, but I do believe that humans share an instinctive joy in contact with water and the sensation of immersion.
You’ve said that a design driver for Voyage was celebrating time spent in the bathroom immersed in daily rituals of self-care – a sort of ‘slow bathing’ movement. In what ways does the collection encourage taking time in the bathroom?
It’s all about being able to create less rigid and formulaic spaces and a more personalised environment where we can be ourselves in our own time. The surfaces and volumes of the sanitaryware are designed to be choreographed into one continuous visual movement, working in relationship to one another and in harmony with the more architectural planes of the counters, storage units and shelving. All the elements work together on an almost subconscious level; they can be grouped in more conventional or more unexpected configurations, depending on how the user wants to experience their bathroom.
Earlier in your career you spent time working and living in Japan. How has the Voyage collection been influenced by this experience?
Experiencing Japan’s communal bathhouses – sentō – first-hand while living in that country has undoubtedly influenced my design. The ritual of taking a bath – or rather, I should say, the process of purification – can be elevated to an almost spiritual experience. Washing away the literal and metaphorical sweat of the day, and along with it any residual bad vibes; eliminating physical and mental pollution is very much part of the picture. I know that the precious time I spend every evening absorbed in my bathing rituals influences me and informs my approach to design.
In some ways Voyage is an endlessly flexible kit of parts for the bathroom. What was your inspiration for this approach?
It’s a toolkit that people can play with – interior architects, designers, consumers – with almost endless variables for creating a personalised bathroom space. With Voyage I thought of the bathroom walls as the canvas and the elements of the collection – the basins, cabinets, wall boxes, horizontal and vertical storage units and accessories – as paintbrush and colours.
The introduction of a supporting palette of storage and cabinetry in nature-inspired colours is a striking characteristic of Voyage. Do you think the clinical bathroom aesthetic is a thing of the past?
The collection offers a way out from the era of the clinical bathroom. I wanted Voyage to be a shift – to generate a new visual vocabulary and new ways of thinking about the bathroom and how we use that space; what it means to us. The idea is that the bathroom can be massively enriched with personal thoughts and experiences; that it’s no longer about rigid and fixed, one-size-fits-all elements.
To what extent was awareness of cultural differences relating to bathing rituals – and the different ways bathroom spaces are perceived and used in societies – something that influenced the design of the collection?
It was an exciting challenge at the very heart of Voyage. Thinking about the different ways people inhabit their bathrooms – not just for cultural reasons but also because of personal choice – was a driver that we tuned into again and again throughout the design development process. So, the collection is much more than just another set of static bathroom forms to either like or not as a passive observer – instead it’s a sort of DNA of the bathroom. Through it we can voyage to the centre of our souls!
What do you think might be the single biggest impact of Covid–19 on spatial design?
For the first time in my life we’ve been in a situation where most people have spent over 90 days at home – not going to offices, restaurants, galleries, theatres, gyms or any of those places we might usually go. I think many of us will see our domestic spaces differently now. With all that time spent in just one environment, perhaps we will see how little details and elements in our living spaces can change our mood, and also influence our feelings and perceptions. I think we have all been compelled by recent circumstances to focus more on the relationships between our body and the objects around us.
View the Voyage range
Design Update #4 focuses on the theme of Wellness, a subject that has remained top of the agenda following the outbreak of Covid-19. Contributors including Sadie Morgan OBE and Charles Holland share their thoughts on incorporating wellness into architecture and product design. Read the full publication here.