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A BOLD NEW WORLD - BATH DESIGN TRENDS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
By Payal Uttam
A few years ago, if you were flipping through a design magazine in Singapore, you would be hard-pressed to find an editorial featuring a bathroom. “Ultimately, it’s considered the most private of spaces. You might see a lot of images of a person’s home but only a glimpse of their bathroom says Robert Cheng Founder and Creative Principal of Singapore-based architecture and interior design firm Brewin Design Office. “Usually, it was just an afterthought.”
Today the equation has changed. Designers across Southeast Asia are turning their attention to bathroom design and creating stylish sanctuaries worthy of the limelight. Even developers behind luxury condominiums in the region are placing increasing emphasis on bathrooms to set their properties apart.
“More than just creating a room that is aesthetically pleasing, many people are now almost reprogramming the space,” says Cheng. “Rather than really segregating it only as a wet room, they are designing them to be large enough so that you can really lounge inside them.” He gives an example of a home where he designed an airy master bathroom that was an extension of the clients’ walk-in wardrobe. While this type of layout may be prevalent in North America, it was relatively uncommon in Southeast Asia until recently.
“While normally you would see stone or tile in bathrooms, you're also beginning to see a trend of exploring more non-traditional materials like timber,” adds Cheng who recently completed a sleek bathroom with a dark wood-clad vanity resting on brushed oak flooring leading to a lavish marble-clad space with a freestanding tub under a brass and porcelain chandelier. He used accents throughout the space including chrome tapware housed in a base made with a contrasting natural material. “So, it was almost like considering the faucets to be a set of [distinctive] furniture pieces,” he says of the striking design.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend of experimenting with materials and finishes in bathrooms across the region. “In Indonesia, people used to play it safe and choose basic finishes for fixtures but now they want to escalate the feeling of luxury in the bathrooms,” says Jakarta-based interior designer Francine Denise. While clients were once worried that certain finishes may be difficult to maintain due to extreme humidity, they are now prepared to try higher-quality finishes such as rose gold, brass, and gunmetal, she says. Some even add precious metals or semi-precious stones to fittings.
Denise has also observed that clients are particularly daring when it comes to designing powder rooms. “Most of them are looking for something very dramatic and different from the whole ambiance of the house,” she says, explaining that a sense of glamor and luxury are key. Aside from playing with different types of marble, she often uses Venetian wall plastering or works with artists who create customized paintings to set the space apart.
In primary bathrooms, Denise has observed that transitional design—bridging a sleek, minimalist approach with classic, traditional elements—has become popular. Meanwhile, in Singapore and Bali, some homeowners are opting for verdant, open-air bathrooms evocative of tropical resorts. Cheng has also noticed that many clients look to Japanese contemporary aesthetics for inspiration, often incorporating soaking tubs into their bathrooms.
“Overall, in Southeast Asia, owners are becoming more savvy about what kind of design they want,” says Cheng. Once a utilitarian space relegated to the bottom of people’s list of priorities, the bathroom has become a key part of homes’ design narrative. Beyond serving a practical function, they have become spaces that celebrate indulgence, luxury, and style.
1. Interior by Robert Cheng, Brewin Design Office, Singapore
2, GRAFF’s Sublime sink and deep-soaking Musa tub from the Desideri Collection with MOD+ sink, tub, and shower fixtures
3. GRAFF’s MOD+ Collection in Onyx PVD finish with 24K Brushed Gold handle insert finish
4. GRAFF’s MOD+ Collection in 24K Polished Gold Finish with Architectural White handle insert finish