HEWI MAG / Knowledge

The rebirth of the bathroom

A guest article by Oona Horx-Strathern | Trend and Futurologist in Vienna

The evolution of the bathroom is the result of a design success story. But also the power of megatrends. Our homes are both: an expression of socio-cultural changes and a manifestation of our particular identities, needs and aspirations.

There is no doubt that the bathroom is the space that has changed and developed the most in these forces. In recent decades, the bathroom has transformed from a rather sterile and neglected functional space to a design space for our well-being, our "selfness".

More individuality in the bathroom

Bathrooms are now rooms in which we spend far more time. Multifunctional, multitalented and now also multigenerational - bathrooms now have many different roles to fulfil. The drivers behind this change are trends such as the megatrends of health, "silver society" and individualisation.

Today, the bathroom plays a central role not only in our physical health, but also in our mental health. Where once it stood only for functional cleaning, today it also offers a relaxing welcome space where we not only strive for cleanliness, but also "cocoon" - seek comfort, peace and vitality.

"Home" - the house or flat - is more than just protection today. It is the centre of our gravity. Our personal spaces, the objects and furniture we welcome into our lives speak volumes about us - not only about our State of Mind, but also about the life we want to live in the future. "Home" is the place where we want to express our individuality, where we remember who we are.

Individuality means that we can express ourselves and these needs, through our design choices. In this age of design democracy, good design is no longer seen as elitist or exclusive, but as a basis of human necessity. 

What requirements should the bathroom fulfil in the future?

One of the biggest processes of social change is the "Ageing Society" - the fact that we are living longer than ever before. What we call the "Silver Society" megatrend shows that we are going through a "downageing" process as our lifespan expands - to stay young longer.

The expectations and needs of the baby boomers - the generation that grew up in the 1960s and 1970s - are about freedom, individuality and independence. This is the generation that is now experiencing the choices and challenges of old age. And would like to remain all the more independent.

She has a keen eye for good design and enjoys a quality of life in terms of health and wealth that her parents and grandparents could only dream of. If bathrooms are to play a key role as a place to invest in these values, they need to be designed for a lifetime rather than a period of life.

We also see these new needs in the trend towards more open, colourful, warmer bathrooms that can resemble salons, boudoirs or even second living rooms. The bathroom is a place where we are not only free to move at any age, but also want to express ourselves at every stage of life.

In a world where health is the new wealth, the bathroom plays a key role. We are not only investing in a "bathroom", but in a long quality of life. 



Oona Horx-Strathern is a trend expert for future forms of living in our society. The human geographer (Bristol University) has 25 years of experience in the trend and consulting business and has published the annual HOME REPORT of the Zukunftsinstitut since 2019. The report highlights the most important developments for the living of the future as well as for the construction and architecture industry. As a testimonial, she lives in the "Future Evolution House" on the outskirts of Vienna, which she helped design and build.
(Photo: Klaus Vyhnalek)

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