We have examined luxury bathrooms of the last century in order to glean the most outstanding and enduring features of archetypal bathrooms of exquisite taste. Here the provided amenities and luxury bathroom products expected in high-end hotels and private luxury bathrooms are discussed and the preferred interior decor of renowned hotels such as The Goring are looked at more closely to help us identify what is still regarded as luxurious in our day and how this compares to the baroque era. So what are the characteristics of luxury bathrooms today as in times past? Come and see if you agree with the following ten features of luxury bathrooms that have stood the test of time…
1. Amenities for Pampering
One of the main features of luxury bathrooms are available amenities such as lusciously soft towels and a generous supply of high quality products. I remember my first experience of such amenities when I visited the Schlosshotel Kronberg in Hesse, Germany, which the Royal Family stays at when secretly visiting their Teutonic relations. The glistening marble floors and gilded mirrors weren’t the only features that made an indelible impression on me; I distinctly remember the brilliant white, individually rolled up hand towels that looked like scroll-shaped tubes. All this stirred a pampered feeling in me, amplified by the scented soap and lotion ornately presented in porcelain dispensers and laid out on the glistening marble surfaces.
What are the detailed features that impress most on us in a four or five star hotel? Well, it is all about those all-important additions for one´s comfort like available high-end shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and hand cream in the way of toiletries as well as other beauty gadgets such as cotton wool buds, cotton balls and a shower cap. Having such amenities at one´s disposal is an essential feature of luxury bathrooms, because it makes us feel pampered and taken care of.
2. Solidity and Quality
The most outstanding feature all luxury bathrooms have in common is their flair of solidity and quality. This is primarily reflected by the building materials used such as marble, granite and luxurious quartz crystal floor tiles. Quartz truly is quintessentially luxurious, as it is a natural product with a natural glint which is also very hard-wearing, as it is scratch-resistant. This crystal is often used in kitchens and bathrooms as a nonporous material that is very hard and shiny. An added advantage is that a quartz surface sparkles even without polish and the plethora of different colours reflected in this beautiful mineral will act as an all pervasive gemstone reflecting the light in the room. Marble columns and wood panelling are other favourites denoting solidity and quality, because these add grandeur to the whole room, giving it structural support and added depth. In Greek architecture there are five types of column orders to choose from, all of which would suitably enhance a large enough classic bathroom. The Ionic order for example is a good choice for creating a more delicate form. This column style is best suited to interiors and has decorative volutes on its capital which are more understated compared to its more elaborate Corinthian counterpart.
3. Luxurious Beauty Products
Displaying luxurious beauty products such as Kiel soap and lotions from Bronnley, Yardley or Molton Brown that have royal warrants of appointment will clearly be associated with lavish style. Bronnley is a favourite, because it is a well-established English brand that collaborates with The Royal Horticultural Society, using the finest natural ingredients and costly essential oils. Molton Brown has carefully blended scents with detailed notes from plant extracts. Yardley is another top-tier name which goes back to 1770 and is still associated with bathroom luxury now. This is just the kind of extravagance one would expect in a luxury bathroom, because it demonstrates lavish expenditure and pampering, which ordinary products don´t achieve. This is because luxurious toiletries make the consumer feel special and indulgent.
4. Sophisticated Design
A well-thought-out design is a further hallmark of high-quality bathrooms. A luxurious flair is the end-result of a stylistically harmonious room with good alignment which can be seen as soon as one enters the room, especially when the bathroom furniture has been carefully selected to establish an elegant atmosphere. In the bathroom of the Royal Suite of the quintessentially royal luxury hotel The Goring, where the Duchess of Cambridge spent the night on the eve of her wedding, a portrait of Queen Victoria hangs behind a glass wall –inside the shower. Alongside such opulence, the artistic arrangement of beams and cornices enrich large bathrooms. These stylistic devices cleverly affect the eyes, as they stimulate multi-layered perspectives, embellishing the bathroom with depth and a multidimensional quality. These stylistic devices were perfected during the baroque era, when baroque artists tried to harmonise their chaotic world by using shapes in nature such as leaves and shells and employing parallax to improve the room´s vista. This sophisticated design brought forth a luxurious dynamic in the room, which is still copied today. The view from the bathroom can be a further sophisticated design feature, because it extends the space of the room and can help reflect more fully the light that falls onto for example a marble-clad bathroom.
5. Free Standing Bathtub
When one sees antique bath tubs in Roman gardens or in old mansions, the design of free standing baths hasn´t changed in essentials. The shape of the freestanding bathtub has been maintained for hundreds of years, because it is a classic shape whose dimensions serve the same purpose today as in times past. Antique and contemporary free standing bath tubs are characteristically oval and decorative and can therefore be positioned in the centre of a bathroom – almost like a sculpture to be shown off to its best advantage. Ornamental free standing baths deserve to be put centre stage in the heart of a luxurious bathroom. Many of these are adorned with an eye-catching plinth, which conveniently also hides unsightly pipework.
6. Luxury Underfoot
In ancient Rome artistic mosaics embellished the floors of Roman baths. In modern times we decorate and improve our luxury bathrooms with floor lights, floor heating and underfloor LED lighting. This is, after all, a very pleasant warmth, because you can feel the warmth directly underfoot. An added advantage of illuminated floors is that the senses are more subtly engaged by light that shines from below. In ancient Rome the floors were heated with the hypocaust, an ancient Roman floor heating system. This Roman heating system was a large heater through which hot air was funnelled. With this heating system the ancient Romans were able heat their baths as well as large seating benches and walls. Today radiant heat is used, which is installed into the floors and walls internally behind floor-to-ceiling wall panels and allows for the bathroom to look more chic and clear-cut while providing even and dust-free heat.
7. Noble Ambiance
A luxurious ambiance can be achieved through a well-designed room that is inviting. In antiquity mural art and aesthetic sculptures were used to create an interesting and entertaining ambiance for visitors. This isn´t so different today, although modern technology enables us to install invisible in-wall speakers, CD-players, televisions and server systems storing and streaming video and audio content to televisions around the house and into bathrooms; these can even be integrated into mirrors to enhance the feeling of luxury. Other methods of creating a comfortable and practical ambiance are utilizing wall alcoves, sunken bath tubs and seat niches. Luxury bathrooms are usually spacious enough to accommodate more cumbersome luxury furniture, too. A beautiful divan is just the ticket for a spacious luxury bathroom. Bernini was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese to create a similar piece of art for the Villa Borghese, in order to exhibit the sleeping Hermaphrodite. The buttoned mattress Bernini created is chiselled so skilfully and making this piece of art so lifelike that visitors are inclined to sit down on it even today. The beautiful body of this subject in her idle pose heightens the noble ambiance of the room.
8. Elaborate Lighting
In the past oil lamps, candles and torches were used for lighting. Since the 19th century we have electric light and since 1962 we even have coloured LED light, which is often used in modern luxury designer bathrooms for accentuating floor tiles, flowing water and fluorescence in showers. Innovative light can instantly spark a feeling of luxury; this is why it is strategically placed in the room as another feature of the luxury bathroom. As daylight is the most natural source of light, it is used most effectively as coming from above – as showcased by the Pantheon in Rome. For this architectural feat to be achieved, a square sunken panel was used in a series, which would also decorate the ceiling nicely, but, more importantly, lend stability to the large dome. This coffering technique uses many thin, square and sunken panels assembled next to each other, so as to give the dome its stability and light weight. Several architectural techniques were used to give the Pantheon its iconic oculus. Ingeniously, the tiles just below the oculus are punctured to allow rainwater to pass through them into the ductwork.
9. Costly Scent
To cater to all senses, scent is often used in luxury bathrooms in order to create a pampering atmosphere and mood. Essential oils were a particularly luxurious commodity in the middle ages in Europe, because these were rare and expensive goods. Many luxurious bathrooms are furnished with moisturizing hand lotion so that guests can treat their cleansed hands to luxurious hand cream. Naturally the hand cream is presented in an ornate dispenser to amplify the sumptuous experience. Even today pure essential oils are rather costly – their usage is diverse, as the range of available scents is as abundant as botany itself and these precious oils can be used in various ways, such as in soaps, lotions, bath oils or in diffusers. As these deluxe oils are very highly concentrated, they must be diluted, and when used in water or water based lotions they are best used with vegetable glycerine, which is a natural emulsifier. Diffusers look nice and are also available with certain essential oils that have a stimulating effect on body, mind and spirit.
Sculptures, stained glass windows and artistically ingenious architectural techniques, mosaics, frescoes, plastering and columns are still being used today to beautify luxurious bathrooms. One wonders why antique objects of art and classical architectural techniques are still being used for luxury bathrooms today. The reason is that ionic, Corinthian and Doric columns, sculptures, etc. are still regarded as timeless, decorative and luxurious and the reason why this hasen´t changed lies in the fact that our association of harmony and beauty also known as the golden ratio or golden section is reflected in these harmonious pieces of art.
When the laws of harmony are adhered to in the interior design of the bathroom, the well-proportioned arrangement will naturally enhance the room luxuriously. Bernini – a renowned baroque artist – mastered this principle and used it as the foundation of his famous Scala Regia. Originally this impressive staircase inside the Vatican was uneven and inconspicuous. Nevertheless, Bernini knew how to ingeniously transform this formerly unobtrusive space into an architectural masterpiece. Incorporating alcoves, columns and extra windows for more light and arranging the columns strategically, Bernini was able to transform the former cave-like staircase into a majestic Scala, befitting its purpose.