the social bathroom

ross mcleod


In 2016 a group of RMIT Interior Design students were set the challenge to reconsider the role of the bathroom in our homes. The project, commissioned by the Reece Bathrooms, asked the students to consider the bathroom as a social space. This required the team to imagine the bathroom, not as an isolated tiled room for bathing and cleansing that sits distinct and separated from the the rest of the house, but as a space, or series of spaces, that were integrated seamlessly into the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the home.

With this premise driving the creative direction of the project, the students formed into teams and began to explore the role of the bathroom in relation to its users. To do this, each team researched a range of specific demographic groups and defined their lifestyles and needs in terms of their daily bathing rituals. As the project developed, the teams devised innovative approaches toward the idea of a ‘bathroom’ within the home and sought to dissolve the boundaries between living spaces and bathing spaces. The removal of the idea that such spaces needed to be housed within a specific room liberated the students thinking around the subject and generated original design solutions that reconstituted the way we may think, not only about the bathroom but also the entire house and the complex set of relationships that occur between its inhabitants.



The recent proliferation of micro-living apartment developments within cities around the world prompted a brief that asked how small can a bathroom be? Taking cues from the capsule like bathing spaces found in Japan and the compact approaches to toilets on aeroplanes and boats, the design team set themselves the challenge to see if they could fit all the functions of a bathroom and toilet into a 1200 x 900 millimetre space. Within this tiny space the design managed to integrate shower, vanity, storage and an Asian-style squat toilet that is concealed underneath a timber floor grate. The design acts as a provocative gesture that suggests that a waterproof multifunction closet-like space could provide all the basic needs of a bathroom through the clever compaction, integration and overlaying of its separate functions.




Rather than seek a compact solution to the confines of a contemporary studio-style singles apartment, this design questioned the need for the different facilities of the bathroom to be centralised in the one location. The design reimagined the elements of the bathroom as distinct spatial moments within the layout of the whole apartment. The feature of this design is the positioning of the shower and vanity zone adjacent to the glass sliding doors of the balcony and the kitchen living space, while the laundry and toilet are integrated within the walk in robe/change room. Approaching the design of the studio apartment in this way recognises the fact that its inhabitants spend much of their daily living and socialising within the universities, workplaces, cafes and bars of the city while the apartment space functions as changing rooms and private havens.



The idea of a young couple coming together and merging their lives became the driving concept behind this design. This thinking enabled the design team to address the zoning of the areas of the apartment as a contunious series of subtle changes from public to private. The semi-private area was referred to as a "fusion space" where public and private meet and merge, communicating and affecting each other. The design direction for the fusion space focused on integration using seamless organic lines to convey a fluid merging space without any walls or doors as an approach to the future design of bathrooms.




This design scheme celebrated the idea of the family by blurring the boundaries between adult and child. The design played with the idea of nostalgia, where as the child grows, the bathroom would adapt to fulfil their needs, whilst still leaving traces of their early childhood experiences within the bathroom. The design challenged the idea of bathroom being isolated from the rest of the house by adopting an open plan layout which blended with the rest of the spaces of the house. The space featured an eclectic mix of textures and styles throughout to create a minimal but timeless bathroom to last a lifetime.




Specifically targeted towards teenage girls, this design proposal focused on the aspirations of a young, bold and self-obsessed individual. From the daily make-up regime, to getting ready for a girls night out, the design catered for all aspects of a young girls life. A large mirror,stretching from wall to wall, takes centre stage as the main protagonist of the design. It’s role was to assist girls in getting ready and to provide adequate lighting with the high-tech light ring built-in to the mirror. The recessed ceiling acting as a supporting role with hidden down lights creating a dramatic mood and atmosphere. With sleek storage solutions within an open plan space with minimal obstructing walls, the personal care space allows for multiple activites and occupants. This design is aimed to inspire girls to be the best version of their physical self.



The design of this bathroom can be seen to embody the idea of the stages of life. The design features a series of different zones which accommodate for large families at every life stage, whether this be grandparents or grandkids. Zoning in this space allows for each family member to use the bathroom at once in peak times of the day, but also allows for a sense of retreat in a chaotic household. By creating a layered program with concealed doors in each partition, the space becomes one that is flexible and can be altered to be more private or open, acting as an extension of the living space.


This design embraced the concept of the bathroom as a retreat, an escape from the daily grind. The space was designed for ultimate indulgence and luxurious living. Focusing on the relationship between the interior and exterior, the design sought to create the bedroom as a resort suite, a living and social space in which lounge and bedroom spaces sat comfortably adjacent to a decadent bathing space and 'his and hers' showers and toilets.



This design viewed the ensuite bathroom as a private parents sanctuary, the ultimate addition to the house which adds prestige and value to the property. Taking up a large part of the house and enhancing the lifetstyle attributes of the residence. The bedroom ensuite was viewed as a world in itself, both private and intimate. Within this intimate world the design played upon ideas of the framed view and discrete moments of voyeurism. The entry is framed by a moveable wardrobe corridor that creates a flexible barrier bewteen the bedroom and the bathing areas. The bathing areas employ levels in the space to celebrate each daily routine. The shower is on an elevated stage prominent from all angles within the room while the vanity, bath and toilet area steps down to create a private sanctuary in which the occupants can dissappear and enjoy the sunlight streaming through picture windows and skylights.


The intention of this design was to address the issues of ageing and disability in a dignified manner, by making access and support elements of the bathroom/ bedroom intrinsically integrated into the design layout. In this scheme the bedroom and bathroom becomes a large and flexible area that flows seamlessly off the rest of the house. The design features in-built handrails in walls and counters, sensor activated taps, shower and toilet fittings, and automatic toilet doors. These features are incorporated into a curvaceous plan that offers accessibility and privacy within the bathroom without the need for doors.


This design is based on the idea that in the future sustainability will move past just energy efficiency and will expand to encompass householders personal ethics. This philosophy would include the use of local products that are created using energy efficient practices that also benefit local communities and economies. The design celebrates energy efficiency by exposing the systems and pipework that help a home reach its energy usage goals. The second floor loft bathroom incorporates green walls and views to the outside garden so users always have a sightline to nature. The warm design of the bathroom shows off systems in an elegant way and demonstrates that sustainability does not need to be hidden behind walls but can be integrated into the homes aesthetic through beautiful and purposeful design.



The design focuses on providing the user a convenient experience through artificial intelligence. The bathroom is lined with sheets of glass that provides the user a personal profile function panel. This panel would follow the user as he/she walks from the shower to the basin. The panel would adapt to the amenity being used. For example, the shower would already know the users desired water temperature, lighting and entertainment previously watched. It would automatically display the personalised panel on the walls ready for the user.