In this interview, supplied by ISH Digital, Lawyer Jens J. Wischmann, Managing Director of the Association of the German Sanitary Industry (VDS) and joint founder of the trend platform Pop up my Bathroom, sets out the three most important trends in bathroom design. Wischman also discusses the coming surge in renovation for private bathrooms, and what he hopes ISH digital 2021 will bring. 

ID: How do you view the current economic situation in the sanitary industry?

Jens J. Wischmann: For self-evident reasons, the home is now the focal point of our lives. Even if living and where we live formed a major topic before the pandemic, now it has gained in importance again: people are investing in their homes, renovating them, working at do-it-yourself, creating a fine living space. The bathroom is becoming an increasing object of attraction. More and more, it is seen as a fully recreational room – with all associated expectations by way of aesthetic design and convenient fittings and furnishings.

ID: You use Pop up my Bathroom at ISH to pick on the relevant bathroom trends. So has a lot happened over the last two years?

Jens J. Wischmann: Of course we want to reflect current trends in style and to promote new developments, but our priority aim has always been to identify and spotlight longer-term developments early on. And yes, a lot has happened over the last two years. These are exciting times and sanitary businesses need to respond to social changes and general conditions – for instance in the form of new products and concepts. Through Pop up my Bathroom we are attempting to launch incentives and to shift the focus onto major developments in the bathroom. In this process a number of trends are intertwined. One result of this, for instance, is the private spa – a major trend, which we analysed, designated and communicated twelve years ago at ISH 2009. 

ID: In Pop up my Bathroom how do you estimate current trends, and what messages do you have for the industry and for the general public?

Jens J. Wischmann: At the moment we are seeing three dominant bathroom trends and two trend drivers. .Green Bathroom, .Smart Bathroom and .Living Bathroom – they determine the design and equipment of the bathroom of the future, because in the first place consumers want to invest in an environmentally-aware way, secondly smart technology is setting new standards in hygiene, convenience and the nature of the bathroom experience, and thirdly people have higher quality expectations which a bathroom must fulfil as a place to spend time in and higher expectations of its potential uses, as a relaxing private spa and healthcare zone.

ID: At the last ISH the trend forum Pop up my Bathroom attempted to win the industry over to the rising topic of a more daring coloration – and was very successful in doing so. What motto have you taken as your prime statement this year?

Jens J. Wischmann: We are taking up a development which is attractive both to the trade and to consumers – especially to clients who want renovation. Actually this development is not new, but rather in the last few years it has been working unobtrusively in the background and is now having a major impact on the layout of bathrooms and on product design: Increasingly, “front of wall” products are undergoing a symbiosis with “rear of wall” products – we call it “inside | outside.” Using this motto we shall also be showcasing the three bathroom trends at ISH digital 2021. For this subject is not only becoming more and more important for the development of the industry, but it also shows how closely design and trade businesses, lifestyle and technology go hand in hand.   

ID:What motivation do apartment or house owners have in renovating their bathrooms?

Jens J. Wischmann: Builders’ clients who for nearly 20 years have scarcely invested any capital in their own bathrooms are benefiting now from the enormous technological development in sanitary products which has taken place over the last few years. In such a renovation process these properties will therefore not only come to participate in the modern standard of a lifestyle-based bathroom architecture; they will also be able to enjoy innovative bathroom products – such as shower WCs, or a spacious, floor-level shower. The concrete added value which this work brings can certainly contribute to an increase in the property’s value. 

ID: The VDS is calling for a new approach to severely outmoded bathrooms on the part of the decision-makers, housing associations and landlords. What do you mean by that?

Jens J. Wischmann: In rented properties bathroom renovations frequently cover only what is absolutely necessary. Often the landlords are put off by the capital-investment costs or potential loss of rents. Yet a bathroom renovation represents financial input to the maintenance of a property’s value like no other modernisation measure.

But it is not just in private bathrooms that renovation would need to come. Parents of schoolchildren will be glad to see that the VDS is also calling for the modernisation of toilets in educational institutions.

Jens J. Wischmann: Going to the toilet, and then washing your hands, is a basic human need, which we in our highly developed industrial country must also recognise. Some of the conditions in German schools, kindergartens and universities are dreadful. A change of course on the part of those responsible is absolutely necessary.

What is your assessment of the coming ISH digital 2021?

Jens J. Wischmann: Digital formats cannot replace physical experience in the long run. After a year or more, with no actual exhibitor presence at trade fairs, we can see that already. I think it is important, despite the pandemic, to stick to this year’s fair date – after all, ISH is not only a national event; it is a leading international trade fair. Here, for more than 60 years, a whole industry meets to do business, to provide mutual inspiration, to fix benchmarks, and to supply further training. A trade fair’s digital platform will certainly not be able to reproduce completely all functions, but in the history of ISH we shall be quite definitely experiencing the evolutionary launch of a new generation of trade fair. Both Messe Frankfurt and the industry will benefit from this experience, and over the next few years ISH will undergo a transformation, becoming an innovative hybrid leading international trade fair: wholly to the advantage of visitors and exhibitors.    

Are you satisfied with the level of registrations by your partners from the bathroom-experience world for ISH digital 2021?

Jens J. Wischmann: No, there could certainly be more. Some market players will not be there, unfortunately. Even if the economic situation for many German sanitary brands is positive due to an increased demand in the home market, a commitment as an exhibitor to ISH digital 2021 is linked with numerous benefits.

Moreover ISH digital 2021 is a clear investment in confirming ISH as a leading international trade fair. German sanitary brands benefit from the location and the reputation of ISH over the whole world. Without ISH as a shop window, many German companies would not be where they are now: ISH as a trade fair, and a presence there even if it is “only” being held digitally, is thus also an expression of the leading role performed by a whole industry. But I can also understand that individual reasons are involved in rejecting attendance. Shortly however we shall be seeing that the level of registrations is increasing from day to day – the opportunity to visit at short notice is definitely one of the advantages of the digital format.