In Waterloo, behind a busy building site, under the arches, is an Aladdin’s cave: CP Hart’s magical showroom. CP Hart is the purveyor of the most fantastic, cutting edge, elegant, high end, exclusive bathrooms. Each featured bathroom is styled and lit to exquisite perfection, you can’t help but take delight in the style, the quality and the design details. It’s the stuff of dreams, not just aspiration. CP Hart have dedicated their showrooms to allow you to delight in design… there’s even a luxurious meeting area for designers, clients and architects to meet and spin their multimillion pound dreams.
Then come the two dirty words: AGE. DISABLED.
Thoughts of blue and white plastic bring my luxury bathroom dreams back down to earth with a bump.
Until… I walked past the freestanding baths, glistening in the spotlights- one wrapped in copper, one in pony skin …and the myriad of heavily chromed bath taps. I’ve turned the corner and walked into a modern bathroom set up: restrained, clean lines, beautiful surfaces, quality chrome and clever design details. HEWI. Bathrooms fit for the disabled.
I’ve been intrigued by HEWI ever since I spotted them a couple of years ago at CP Hart. Who on earth is this bathroom manufacturer that no-one has heard of but features in all the best hotels and retirement homes in the world?
Last week at CP Hart’s showrooms, I met with Stephen Maley HEWI’s UK Sales Director to find out bit more about the thinking behind the brand. Stephen is a qualified occupational therapist who used to work with prosthetics and their design and he is typical of the HEWI ethos.
The HEWI Ethos
They are a family firm who really want to understand what people need and what they want. A German family firm established by Henry Wilke in 1900s and today employ 600 people worldwide. What started in 1969 as a company making architect designed and loved nylon coated steel core lever handles, in bright colours- green, blue, red has become a company offering accessibility bathrooms for the trade, hotels, care villages and retirement apartments. HEWI products are engineered to last, using high grade materials and finishes combined with thoughtful and considerd design developed with input from occupational therapists, users and designers.
The colourful nylon door handles that were the height of fashion in the 1980s had a lot more to them than I realised. High quality materials and vibrant dyes meant that these funky items were often seen in public buildings and high traffic areas and standing up to the use.
What I didn’t realise is that these were clever designs – the door handles were easy to use for weakened grip, the smooth warm finish perfect for rheumatoid arthritis affected hands and when added to a white door had 30 point light reflective values. They could be seen in low light and environments such as in smoke filled rooms.
Design …‘my disabled dream bathroom’
He lost his leg but not his style, I found this You Tube video of Grenadier Guard Scott
‘its exactly what I need everything seems to be so much easier’
To design for disability you have to understand the physical as well as the emotional needs.
In this video Ed Warner Motion Founder sums up the use of good design
if you get the environment right for people you can improve both their cognitive and their physical health
Most of the customers are architects and specifiers. These are usually youthful, energetic, enthusiastic design professionals. Quite far away from a young person facing life with an amputated limb, a stroke victim facing disability, a grandparent with reducing mobility. HEWI take it upon themselves to take part in disability awareness training for retailers, RIBA CPD core learning programmes with groups of architects or specifiers. I was fascinated to hear that HEWI have an ageing suit. At their talks one of the group is invited to step into the world of increased body weight and limited mobility and weekend grip, macular degeneration glasses or even pebbles in your shoes so that you get the idea that standing even for a short time is excruciating for some people.
This bit’s easy: brick walls or marine ply affixed to 2 x 2 frame, just imagine, one day you may want to bolt everything to the wall. There is no point having a wet room when you can’t hold on to anything.
Disabled and Reduced Mobility
My favourite item is the washbasin.
Sleek and fun… the flannel rack doubles up as a grab and hand rails – sneaky! Loads of flat space around the sink for all your bits and pieces and plenty of space underneath for your knees when you sit down or pull in to the sink in your wheelchair
The shower has so many clever features too a strong grab bar disguised as a shower rail. A tip up shower seat that hooks on a rail an dcomes as a small hard seat or a padded one suitable for anyone with inflamed joints or nerves.
The grab rails are shaped so that you can comfortably pull yourself forward as well as pushing up
I Not only are the grab rails built with a steel core but the third one down looks like chrome but has a nylon layer so that its always warm to touch- a real boon for arthritis sufferers whose hands are sensitised to the cold.
Colour and Fun
There’s a rhyme that its used by therapists that blue is for loo and a theory that blue is the last colour in the spectrum that people can distinguish. Is that why so many nasty disabled bathroom accessories are white and blue? If its contrast that we’re looking for, HEWI explore black and you can see that in the photo above, its used with pleasing forms and looks really stylish, modern and sleek.
Colour is also used for zoning in public spaces and this year HEWI have introduced 16 co – ordinating colours in the nylon coated range, about time that accessibility products can be modern and fun.
Red is action. Sterling University DNRC. the HEWI dementia range uses colour therapy and colour triggers for people with dementia. Using red for action they circle the bowl of the wash basin.
There’s an interview with architect Dr.Birgit Dietz who worked with HEWI researching this range and the use of red.
On the one hand this facilitates the dementia sufferer’s perception of the washbasin within the room and on other the other hand it helps them to understand how to use it. This promotes functional independence in the bathroom. The markings are red. Qualitative studies show that the colour read is most easily perceived by dementia sufferers. Red is also the most easily registered colour for people with age-related impaired vision or inoperable eye diseases, for example, macular degeneration. The dementia washbasin is therefore also suitable for people whose vision decreases with age.
Add to this a choice of non-reflective surfaces. As you lose perspective, the reflection of your outstretched hand can be confusing and make it harder to grab a rail or reach for the handle to flush the loo.
HEWI sales advisors are trained to explain to specifiers to think about the end users. Mirrors – open the door to the bathroom basin and get spooked by your own reflection in the mirror. Anyone who gets up to use the bathroom in the night can image the fright that you could get from that.
Cross Generation- now you see it now you don’t
Designed to be rock solid when in place but with the use of superbly engineered spring loaded clips the grab bars are designed to be removed when not needed. This is a feature that works brilliantly in retirement apartments where the architect designs a future proofing bathroom but would work really well in a domestic situation – if you have anyone elderly or disabled staying over regularly. Remove the grab rail and chrome plates cover the mechanism leaving everything looking sleek modern and rail free.
Don’t buy in haste. If you rush into buying accessibility products for the bathroom it takes time to get it right and its worth making a bathroom that you can enjoy because it serves your needs and its the sanctuary you want it to be. Have a look at my wet room suggestions as well, click this link and don’t forget to think about colour schemes as suggested by my post with Marianne Shillingford here.