The future is egg-shaped

The Victorian roll-top bath is now as passé as the infamous avocado bathroom suite. Rosalind Russell dips a toe into the latest bathroom designs
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The Independent Online

Planning to change your bathroom? Think Egg. Or possibly even Spoon. Nothing to do with school sports-day races, everything to do with the changing shape of bathroom suites. The egg and spoon are among the new shapes of contemporary bathroom interior design, consigning the "Victorian" roll-top bath to history, along with whisper-peach suites and fluffy pedestal mats.

Planning to change your bathroom? Think Egg. Or possibly even Spoon. Nothing to do with school sports-day races, everything to do with the changing shape of bathroom suites. The egg and spoon are among the new shapes of contemporary bathroom interior design, consigning the "Victorian" roll-top bath to history, along with whisper-peach suites and fluffy pedestal mats.

As nine and a half million of us are planning to renovate at least part of our homes in the next six months, according to a new survey by the Bradford & Bingley, this sudden sea change could be vital to the future value of your property.

Bob Cooney, an Area Director for the B&B estate-agency chain says, "If someone was looking round a house and didn't like the bathroom suite, it wouldn't mean the difference between buying and not buying, but a good bathroom gives you a better chance of the getting the asking price."

Almost half the people responding to the survey said they were going to renovate rather than move. Sadly for his own publicity machine, the Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen factor can't claim as much credit as the current economic situation. High stamp duty and cheap remortgaging deals are powerful motives for staying put.

But when you can buy an acceptable bathroom suite from B&Q for under £1,000, why would you splash out 10 times that, for a just a bath? The Aveo bath, just launched this week and designed by Conran & Partners for Villeroy and Boch, is no ordinary bath. Sitting in its smooth, high curved shape, you'd feel like a newly hatched chick. Of course, Sebastian Conran puts it rather more artistically: "Like so much of our design work, the ceramics are based on natural forms, such as eggs... shells... the bathroom should be an oasis of calm, a sanctuary where you are in your soft, natural state, surround by soft, natural forms."

More yolk than chick then, perhaps. The bath is lit by interior lighting - an actor's dream - and has matching loo and basin (not illuminated). Prices start at around £2,000, rising to £4,500 for a bath with all the extras. Some pieces may not be available until May/June.

Even more expensive is the Boffi Po bath, designed by Claudio Silvestrin, which starts at £16,409. The matching basin costs £2,624. Also shaped like an egg, or a nutshell cut in half longitudinally, and made from a single block of stone, it couldn't be more minimalist if it had a lion stamped on its well-buffed rump. Even more egg-like is the Boffi Adda basin, which is in two parts, divided by a thick wooden shelf which conceals the pipework. Also designed by Silvestrin, it'll sell for £575, plus £1,940 for the veneer plywood platform, through Alternative Plans, based in London.

And so to the cutlery; the Italian-designed Agape Spoon bath - also available through the same company - looks like the bowl of a dessert spoon and costs £5,074. Don't forget the freestanding tap support, which costs an extra £1,040.

It is very easy to overlook the extras in the excitement of renovating a home, as former Merrill Lynch banker Robert Butler knows only too well. Now escaped from the City and living in Italy, he is selling his three-bedroom, two-bathroom Chelsea house for £1.995m. Turning a fourth bedroom into a minimalist main bachelor-pad bathroom cost him almost £40,000. "It did cost a lot more than I originally thought," he admits. "I exceeded my budget. But I wanted this large, circular bath from Hoesch and the walls, floor and bath sides all tiled. I looked at dozens of tile companies before I found the Turkish mosaic tiles - the most expensive on my shortlist - which were laid in strips, but individually grouted. The tiles alone cost £15,000. With my Glaswegian background, it made me feel very guilty." Pricey, but the bathroom has drawn admiring comments from everyone who has viewed the house. Even showers are going egg-shaped. Another Italian company, Ceramica Tecla, has produced "Dish", a circular fireclay shower tray with an optional slatted-wood platform. Including the duckboarding, it costs £1,009 through Original Bathrooms.

But all is not egg-and-spoon in the en suite. Glass- sided baths like the Leon whirlpool spa bath from Swiss company Laufen can make the room look bigger. They feature built-in pillows, can maintain a selected temperature, keep you as fizzy as an Alkaseltzer with 12 whirlpool jets and come with in-bath lighting in five different colours, which can be set to rotate or to pulse in time with your CD. Prices start at £1,700, rising to £6,350 for the full monty. More restrained is the Igloo Bath, made entirely in glass, with a chaise longue-shaped interior, obviously designed for people who are not well upholstered, £5,640 from Alternative Plans.

This epidemic of contemporary chic must be disheartening for lovers of frills, fantasy and flowery towels. One house in London's SW1, currently on the market at £7.5m, newly renovated and interior-designed throughout, has gone for the desert- oasis look in the Jacuzzi pool. An elaborate Arabian Nights trompe l'oeil depicts striped Bedouin tent hangings, a shoreline, ocean, a caravan of camels, palm trees and distant mountains. Not an egg in sight. Says selling agent David Forbes of Chesterfield: "If you are paying £7.5m for a house, you expect the main bathroom to be out of this world. Ironically, while buyers at the top end of the market expect state-of-the-art bathrooms, more often than not, the same bathroom will be out on the skip before they have even moved in. However grand the bathroom fittings might be, people buying at this level want everything to be brand, spanking new."

For stockists of Villeroy and Boch baths, call 01625 525202. Alternative Plans (for the Igloo bath, Agape, Boffi), call 020-228 6460. For Laufen, call 01386 422768.

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