Whether it's compact or colossal, there's one sure-fire way to make your kitchen or bathroom as exciting as any on the cover of a glossy magazine – introducing unexpected materials.
Traditionally, the kitchen or bathroom was a purely practical space. We chose the materials for them on the basis of how easy they were to clean or how much they showed fingerprints. However, recent years have seen an influx of materials that previously wouldn't have been suitable for a hot and humid environment.
Often drawn from other areas of the home, the trend for unusual materials shows no sign of slowing down. Get ready to embrace the most tactile and luxurious of materials in the most surprising of places.
New and noteworthy in kitchens
You can't have missed the trend for marble in interior design but in recent years, there's been a big demand for marble worktops. It's understandable – the stone has a crisp look and is easy to sculpt into edges. However, it's marble's softness and porosity that makes it at risk of stains from acids and damage. Fortunately, tailor-made sealants help to make it a bit more practical, suspending liquid on the surface of the stone can be wiped away, but it still may not be able to cope with lemon juice or curry. The best option is to use trivets and chopping boards and accept that the odd mark is inevitable – a small price to pay for the elegant look of this honed Carrara marble worktop.
Image source: deVOL
The only metals that used to be standard in kitchen design were stainless steel and chrome but now there's plenty of others on offer, from bronze, copper, iron, zinc and aluminium sprayed-on coatings to solid sheets. While less suitable than steel for worktops, they work well as cabinetry cladding, bringing a unique patina to the design. Again, they'll need some protection, such as lacquering, to prevent tarnishing. This Bert & May kitchen combines reclaimed timber with brass and marble.
Image source: Bert & May
Bringing brutalism into the kitchen, concrete is also making inroads into design. A variety of tinted or decorative mixtures are turning up as poured flooring, a thin textured layer applied to units, and again, as worktops. These will require sealing to prevent heat damage and stains, and sometimes reinforcement for the units to cope with the weight.
Special surfaces in bathrooms
The backlash against visually sterile surfaces being the only option is beginning. Keen to inject colour and texture into the bathroom, Bette's steel and enamel bath is wrapped in cushioned woven fabric by Jab Anstoetz. While it sounds impractical, it's actually a water, mould and climate-resistant fabric, more commonly used for outdoor furniture. While currently still a concept, the company hopes to launch products next year.
Image source: Bette
Vanity units have also had a luxurious makeover with not just one or two eye-catching materials being used but multiple. While marble has been a perennial choice for high-end bathrooms, now you can expect to see a variety of stones, brass, mother of pearl, mirror and deeply grained timbers, all carved, etched and beautifully finished. This vanity unit by Justin Van Breda for C. P. Hart features Art Deco-style metal handles with bevelled mirror panels and wooden beading.
Image source: C. P. Hart
As well as taps in on-trend copper and brass, there's also a huge array of finishes as standard that only a few years ago would have been one-offs. Rose gold, shimmering metallic black, brilliant white, Champagne and even colours are available to give your bathroom an upmarket look. But for something even more unusual, try a tap with a glass or porcelain spout, such as these Axor Starck V mixer taps.
Image source: Ripples