Long gone are the days when bathrooms were seen simply as a functional room where daily cleansing would take place on the grounds of hygiene. Today, bathrooms have become more of a sanctuary where relaxation reigns supreme. They are a place that we can retreat to when we feel in need of revitalisation, a retreat where we can take time for ourselves and undergo some much needed pampering. Bathrooms today have taken on a spa-like identity reminiscent of those typically found in high-end hotels and luxury resorts. This new role for the bathroom obviously means that we tend to spend far more time in this room and we are also likely to want to fill it with more luxurious and sophisticated equipment and more interesting and unusual sanitaryware.

Designers are therefore being called upon to come up with more innovative and inspiring designs for our increasingly sumptuous sanctuaries. Sanitaryware is no longer just a functional piece of apparatus, but a statement piece that will really enhance the space in which it is placed.

Two designers who really excel in this domain are Sandro Meneghello and Marco Paolelli. This Italian design duo graduated in Design from the Politecnico di Milano in 2004. Since starting their own design studio in Milan in 2006, they have collaborated with several Italian and foreign companies including Antonio Lupi, Art Ceram, Fima Frattini, and Hidra. During their five years of collaboration, they have received international recognition for their work, including three Red Dot Design Awards, three Young Design awards, and two Design Plus awards.

Here at Freshome we were lucky enough to catch up with the dynamic duo to quiz them about their success in the design of sanitaryware and we asked them how they go about bringing more creativity into the bathroom. Here is what they had to say:

You have done a lot of work in the bathroom sector, designing sanitaryware in particular. How did you get started?

MP. Everything started by chance in 2004, when our final project at the University was actually a washbasin. This was due to the fact that our tutor at the time was Roberto Palomba who was doing a lot of work in the bathroom sector. That product was manufactured by Antonio Lupi and from that moment on we were introduced to the sector and got to know the products, companies and materials.

You have worked with some big names in the bathroom sector from Antonio Lupi, Fima Frattini and Hidra to Artceram. How do you go about finding new clients to work with in the bathroom sector?

MP. It is mainly through word of mouth. Five years ago, we focused on this sector and since then we made contact with a lot of people in that area: sales managers, agents, distributors, journalists, and so on. After a few years, and once our designs had gone into production, we started to become more well known.

The designs that you have created for your bathroom clients range from the elegant and graceful to the more unusual and eye-catching. Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

MP. Design for us is not just about the designer’s style. Of course we have a way of dealing with forms and surfaces, but at the end we need to do what is right for the company at that time: what the company needs. That is why our designs feature different styles and different typologies.

Many of the products you have designed, in particular for Hidra and Art Ceram, are vastly different from the sanitaryware we are used to seeing in the bathroom. Why did you decide to take such a different approach to the design of sanitaryware?

MP. Hidra, and especially Art Ceram, are small companies that manufacture top level design products: they cannot compete with big companies such as Ideal Standard, Roca, Duravit etc. That’s why design is so important for them and it is what they ask for, even though they still produce more “standard” series. From the design point of view, we have more freedom on top level design projects, and it is more fun. But designing “standard” products is also interesting and perhaps more difficult because we have a lot of limits in term of costs, market, usability and production.

Your designs often look more like sculptures than sanitaryware. Is this intentional?

MP. I think that is true especially with objects like freestanding washbasins, where the basin is indeed something special, that should be seen as a piece of art. They are very expensive and exclusive products so they must be unconventional.

How did you convince the likes of Hidra and Art Ceram that these ambitious and creative designs would be a success?

MP. We are lucky to be working with two companies that have a good vision of the future and the will to innovate. It is not always that simple. Sometimes we deal with companies that want something new and innovative without taking the risk of doing something too different. No decisions are 100% safe but, like in every field, if you want to win you need to risk. The more you risk the more you might win (or lose). If you wait for a formula that gives you the 100% safe victory you will wait forever!

How popular are these ranges and do they sell well?

MP. Cow, Cup and Wire are too new for us to be able to tell if they are selling well.  They have only recently been introduced to the market. But Sharp, for example, gave us a lot of satisfaction!

Who are the kinds of people who tend to buy your more creative and adventurous designs?

MP. That’s a good question. I would say architects, but I’m not sure. We don’t have a report of the buyers, so it is really difficult for us to answer to this question.

Not everybody can afford to buy beautiful, sculptural sanitaryware like yours for their bathroom. How can Freshome readers who have a limited budget transform their bathrooms into a creative and eye-catching oasis?

MP. If you stop seeing the bathroom like a toilet and look at it with different eyes, a lot of things would come into your mind. Bring in something from the living room or from the bedroom or why not from the kitchen!