Material gains

Sarah Holey of Laufen

Sarah Holey of Laufen

With flexibility being the key to successful bathroom design,writes Laufen’s marketing and communications manager Sarah Holey, particularly in these modern times when the demands placed on this space, whether large or small, are ever-growing, manufacturers have had to raise their game in terms of the materials they use in order to meet the needs of designers and homeowners.

Just as life would be boring if we were all the same size and shape, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for bathroom design either. Whether domestically or commercially, designers will be challenged by some of the spaces they have to work with and being able to choose between a variety of materials, all of which have their own merits, will mean they can more than meet these challenges head on.

One material that is fast winning the hearts and minds of many in the bathroom world is solid surface. Laufen recently introduced its first solid surface bath into its Palomba Collection and as well as offering a whole new world of comfort to the bather, this material also has many aesthetic and practical benefits that acrylic alone simply can’t match.

Due to its thermal insulation qualities, the water in a solid surface bath stays hotter for longer. Solid surface also has a lower sound transmission than with cast iron or acrylic, a particular selling point in open-plan bathrooms where there will be less disturbance to others from the noise of the bath being filled.

Ceramic’s edge

For washbasins though, ceramic still has the edge over solid surface in terms of practicality, in many instances, not least as it offers very high scratch, chemical and heat resistance. And as it can be manufactured in various colour finishes including warm grey and black, ceramic enables designers to experiment with colour in the bathroom too.

Just as the bathroom has evolved from being a purely functional space to one of relaxation and tranquility, so ceramic too is evolving. Laufen is pioneering a new ceramic material, SaphirKeramik, which is 40 per cent lighter than fine fireclay, and produces a distinctive brilliant white finish.

Previously manufacturers had the choice of vitreous china and fine fireclay. Vitreous china excels due to the waterproof qualities of the surface – water absorption is virtually zero – and it therefore meets the highest hygiene requirements for WCs and urinals.

Flowing shapes

Soft, round and flowing shapes can be readily achieved with this material as long as the manufacturer knows what they are doing. However, the arbitrary shrinkage of the material during the drying and firing stage means the manufacturing process is difficult to control.

Fireclay has until now been the ceramic of choice for manufacturing very large ceramic pieces, which of course is a key trend in contemporary bathroom design. Here, the classic ceramic mass (slurry) is stabilised with the addition of pre-fired clay (chamotte) which enables large ceramic pieces such as double washbasins or floorstanding washbasin pedestals to be produced.

SaphirKeramik from Laufen also allows much finer and sharper edges to be created and blurs the aesthetic lines between ceramic and solid surfaces. Able to achieve edge radii of just 1-2 millimetres, compared to the normal 7-8mm possible with conventional ceramic, SaphirKeramik brings a whole new level of luxury and cutting edge design to the bathroom at a time when it is very much needed. The formula of the basic material mix on which the new ceramic is based permits more precise contours and smooth lavish surfaces.

Just as manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of production, so designers too have a huge amount to gain from experimenting with a mixture of materials in order to create that dream bathroom.

For more information on Laufen products call 01530 510007 or visit



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