HEWI / Knowledge

New comfort in the bathroom of the future

The word ‘wellness’ has become a popular marketing term, loosely used and not well defined. We are influenced to believe that it is about health, or mental balance, or just feeling good. I think it is just a misapplied word for what we are really looking for: a greater sense of well-being.

Bennett Friedman

“Our cultural education and fears of aging drive us away from facing the obvious and planning our spaces for the future.”

There is no better place to achieve that total sense of well-being than our in bathrooms. Yes, our bathrooms are the most intimate place in our home. It is a place of sanctuary and repose. A celebration of the human spirit and condition. A place of ritual, comfort and meditation, intertwined with our necessities. It is in our bathrooms that we awaken our sense of being. Our retreat for life’s most basic functions. Often in a state of full or partial nakedness, we are confronted by our own selves, vulnerable and real. We stand by a mirror to self-inspect for that new wrinkle or gray hair. We bathe and shower to renew our physicality. We grab something to read on the toilet to escape. In the bathroom we feel human, body and mind: we think; we do; we cleanse; we dream; we plot & scheme; we meditate; we resolve; we forget; we ARE. Intimate and precious, these moments make us feel complete and help us achieve a personal sense of well-being.

The lock on the bathroom door is more to keep ourselves in, rather than to lock someone else out. In our own privacy, we come to grips with our life experience. My young granddaughter approached me a short time ago to announce to me that she was growing and that her bones are growing. And, sometimes her growing bones hurt, but that was all part of the Life Experience. There is no place we live the Life Experience more than in our bathrooms.

Our bathrooms should be beautiful. They should be inspiring. They should emotionally and intellectually affect us by the use of materials & colors, the application of luxury & comfort. But our bathrooms must also be safe and functional. There is no well-being amongst risk and hazard. There is no glamour if it doesn’t meet our essential needs. After a year of a pandemic and being stuck in our personal caves, we are forced to reflect on our personal space. The concept of Living in Place began to make sense to us.

Nobody likes to admit their flaws and nothing is more inherent to our human condition than the ‘flaw’ of aging. The passing of time is inevitable and true. In our quest for wellbeing, we often ignore this reality, prefer to think that we will never change, that we will never succumb to an accident or unplanned condition. Our cultural education and fears of aging drive us away from facing the obvious and planning our spaces for the future.

We erroneously associate grab bars and special equipment with hospitals and nursing homes. Rather than symbols of an unpleasant end, they should represent our freedom and independence. It is about ‘Living for Life’. It is about wisely constructing our spaces to be functional for all our stages. It is about a sports injury or chronic back pain, a sudden slip or simple distraction. It is about the creation of an architectural space both inspirational and functional. It is about design that aids us, allow us to be independent and mobile, and truly respects the Life Experience.


Bennett Friedman is the Principal and Design Director at AF New York. For more than 30 years AF New York has served as the premier source of kitchen, bath, tile and architectural hardware to the architecture and design community.

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