Property: Splashing out on heavy metal in the bathroom

Domestic fashion victims with deep pockets are turning to the institutionalised stainless steel look, says Rosalind Russell

Bad news for all the rich pop stars, City share dealers and upmarket hairdressers who shelled out pounds 9,000-plus for the first of the fashionable stainless steel baths: the second wave of industrial-style baths has just hit the shore at a fraction of that price.

With Edwardian and Victorian pastiche bathroom suites receding rapidly into the mass market, industrial designs are establishing themselves in the top end, where prices are quoted exclusive of VAT so as not to scare people off until they're hooked.

"People are becoming braver," says Max Pike, a leading light in dramatic decor, "and this has led to the development of funkier design."

You might think throwing out a perfectly serviceable bathroom suite and spending pounds 10,000 on a new, trendier one just for the sake of fashion is a nonsense. But compare it to changing your car every couple of years and it doesn't sound quite so extravagant.

Max Pike has just launched the new Kan Collection, a range of seamless stainless steel bathroom furniture which wouldn't look out of place in a correctional institution. But, as people are now living in buildings converted from redundant work houses, orphanages and hospitals, the range sits perfectly in its surroundings.

"The early stainless steel baths cost as much as pounds 9,000," says Max Pike, "which was just too expensive for most tastes. The Kan bath starts at pounds 1,500." That price, of course, does not include VAT.

The collection, which is made in the UK, includes the Kan Cage, a circular construction of stainless steel tubes with an overhead watering can showerhead with chain pull.

It is designed to sit in its own room so the water can drain away from the floor and has horizontal showering tubes to provide a car-wash style all- over blast - just the sort of water guzzling luxury politicians would like to see taxed.

Fortunately, as yet, they are not allowed free access into our bathrooms. The Cage costs pounds 3,500 plus VAT - and of course, you'd have to have a shower room specially built. The Kan stainless steel loo takes as its inspiration the vandal-proof institutional loo, with the pipes enclosed within the bucket shape. A seat can be fitted on request if stainless steel sounds too spartan. Prices from pounds 980.

Some of the Avilion shower range from Perrin & Rowe also has its pipework concealed. The showers look like the ones seen in very expensive hotels and are most effective against a background of marble or slate.

They have dual controls for flow and temperature and the shower valve is designed to shut off in case of cold water supply failure so no-one should have to leap out like a scalded cat. There is also a pre-set temperature- limiting device for added safety. The shower mixer, riser, hand shower and hose and rose cost pounds 964 plus VAT.

Colourwash Bathrooms also sells industrial-type ranges to suit contemporary homes. Its Saturn wall-mounted bowl costs pounds 928.25 - this time including VAT - in stainless steel, or pounds 658 in chrome.

If you still want contemporary but steel does not appeal, Villeroy & Boch has produced a top-of-the-range collection called New Haven. The sanitaryware all sits on larchwood frames. A basin in either Alpine or Star White costs from pounds 1,750, including VAT.

Max Pike Bathrooms 0171-730 7216; Avilion 01708 526361; Villeroy & Boch 0181-871 4028; Colourwash Bathrooms 0181 459 8918.

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