It’s 6.30am and your morning alarm goes off. It catches you off-guard but you reach your arm out from under the covers and hit snooze. The alarm goes off again in 10 minutes. Snooze. Another 10 minutes pass. Snooze.
Eventually you wake up on your own terms feeling rested and smug, until you check the time and realise you’re running late.
You jump out of bed and bolt for the shower. A shower means business: water blasts on your face, you’re forced to stand up, and usually there’s someone on the other side of the bathroom door waiting to use it next. The bath, however, is different. It forces you to relax, recalibrate and rejuvenate.
“The bath is all about soaking and taking time out of your busy day to immerse yourself in the present,” says interior designer Mardi Doherty of Doherty Design Studio.
“The emphasis of bathrooms now has headed towards a wellness space where people want to spend more time in them.”
This sentiment is also shared by Alexandra Donohoe Church, founder of Decus Interiors, who says we all seek moments of solitude in today’s busy world. “Finding these calming moments can be hard to achieve but I think the bath is one of the last bastions of pure solitude.”
Both Doherty and Donohoe Church’s interior practices make a case for the bath. For them the bath is not just another functional element of a bathroom, it’s an object in its own right, and sometimes it even lives outside of the bathroom.
Connecting the bath to nature and the outdoors is one way to elevate its presence. “We always think about the position of the bath first and try to have the garden as its backdrop,” says Doherty, who suggests extending existing bathroom windows from the floor to the ceiling.
“It’s a really lovely way of enhancing this idea of retreat and introducing it into the home.”
For her studio’s Church Residence they took the bath out of the traditional bathroom context by creating an outdoor bathing zone. The bath is positioned centrally on the first floor of a three-storey converted church and is visible from all levels of the house.
Doherty says while technically outside, the bathing zone integrates with its interiors. “It connects to the house and almost feels like you’re still inside, even though there’s no roof.” The bath in this way is functional and when not being used becomes a sculptural object.
Decus Interiors thinks about materiality first when designing baths – for them a bath is always a feature that should demand attention. For their Woollahra House project they combined contrasting materials to clad the bath in a unique rose onyx.
“We purposefully mixed opposite materials to achieve unexpected results,” says Donohoe Church. “For this bath the onyx felt luxe while the concrete fairly industry, so we paired them together and that’s how the bathroom evolved and the bath became its hero.”
While fibreglass, acrylic and porcelain on steel have long held the top spot for most commonly used bath materials, Donohoe Church has observed more recently a push towards more luxe materials. “We’re seeing a lot more baths carved out of stone, and Corian because it’s malleable and you can do so many things with it.”
Doherty is also open to new styles emerging and incorporating them in upcoming projects. “Different materials play on the actual feel of the bath, its comfort and how it retains heat,” she says.
The natural stone plunge bath, fully tiled Japanese-inspired baths and contemporary interpretations of beautiful Victorian-era free-standing baths are also really making a splash.