Digitalisation of the bathroom: An interview with Dornbracht

The world of bathroom and spas is ever growing, and with designers and suppliers seeing more of a demand for high technology, Yachting Pages spoke to Matthias Voit, key account manager of Elite Interiors at Dornbracht, to find out how they are meeting demand.

When was your business founded? 

Dornbracht, a manufacturer of high-quality design fittings and accessories for the bathroom and the kitchen, was founded in 1950 by Aloys F.  Dornbracht and his son Helmut in Iserlohn, Germany.

The Dornbracht success story begins with the company's first patent, developed by Aloys F. Dornbracht and his son Helmut during long evenings spent at the workbench: a retractable outlet, originally designed for use in the kitchen – often the only water fixture in the house in the 1950s. The bathroom, intended as a separate room, still did not exist, as the washtub was positioned in the kitchen.

Today, Helmut Dornbracht’s sons, Andreas and Matthias Dornbracht, head up this company, which is now in its third generation.

In your own words how would you describe your business? 

Dornbracht is a family-owned manufacturer of high-end taps, fixtures and shower systems. As a partner in both the design community and the international spa industry, it builds on the ideas and needs of professionals involved in designing spas and bathrooms. The result is a range of premium products in terms of both their function and their finish.

Dornbracht set a milestone in 2003 with ‘MEM’. By this point, design had become a fundamental component in bathroom culture, together with function and technology. With MEM, the company established a new, individualised aesthetics of fittings, one that placed the focus on individual needs in the bathroom.

Since 1998, Dornbracht has invested in the area of kitchen furnishings, and in 2005 launched a series of dedicated fittings especially designed for the kitchen. In 2007 a completely new concept for domestic kitchens, The Water Zones programme, was launched, allowing for the first time, the spatial separation of different water-related tasks in the domestic kitchen.

In 2010 Dornbracht presented the Ambiance Tuning Technique (ATT), a new technology that uses water to create unique scenarios and allows a variety of water jets to be combined in pre-programmed choreographies of water temperature and volume. The introduction of the digital control technology Smart Water opens numerous possibilities of digitalisation in the bathroom and kitchen. The Smart Tools are control elements that can be used to provide precision control of temperature and water flow, and to call up helpful pre-set settings for everyday applications and even complex choreographies with multiple outlets.

What makes you different from your competitors? 

Dornbracht is still family-run, now in its third generation, by the two brothers Andreas and Matthias Dornbracht. It is still one of the few companies in the sanitation industry where production is entirely ‘Made in Germany’. 90% of Dornbracht’s suppliers are from Germany, and over 70% of them from the Southern Westphalia region. Dornbracht provides and sustains high standards, delivering manufacturing quality at the highest level with the company paying particular attention to its innovation in production.

It also has a dedicated division specialising in spa operations and design. Dornbracht‘s goal is to assist with new ideas, while enhancing existing applications like the Horizontal Shower – its reinterpretation of a Vichy treatment or Sensory Sky, a shower system with complex scenarios of rain, fog, light and fragrance.

Are you working on any new developments at the moment?

Dornbracht is working on a new development in line with its Transforming Water philosophy, this is all we can tell you right now. At ISH in Frankfurt, from March 10th to 14th, 2015 we will launch some new products, also in regards to new Smart water applications.

Is there anything that people don’t know that you would like to announce?

There will be lots of surprises at ISH in Frankfurt.

Who is your key target audience?

Architects, interior designers, interior outfitters and builders

What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?

Certainly, there is no time to pose less challenges than any other. We are Dornbracht, and therefore always embrace challenge, and nothing major has changed, as far as the outer circumstances are concerned.

 How is business?  How have you been effected by the recession?

Of course, like any other manufacturer, Dornbracht, has felt the decline of the past years to a certain extent. However, with our product being an integral part of the yachts interior, and due to the fact, that large scale projects mean a long-term investment, the decline in total was not that grave.

What are your top tips in your industry?

As far as bathrooms, both on yachts and airplanes, are concerned, the one thing we always found of being top value, has been an uncompromising quality level. No matter how good looking and striking a design may be, a bathroom fixture will always be first and formost a mechanical element to provide a client with flowing water of different applications. Once this fails, and even worse should this happen on the high sea, the appreciation of design will certainly faulter.

What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?

So far all enquiries luckily remain on the interesting side. We are, however, still Dornbracht, so in case there is a seamingly bizarre request hidden in someones desk, we will be most interested in a discussion.

What are the current trends in your sector at the moment?

From our point of view there are major trends which are going to determine the bathroom sector in the future.

The biggest trend is certainly the digitalisation. The digital age has begun, and will enter the bathroom in not only the water volume and temperature regulation in faucets, but also a holistic approach including the ambiance.

The digitalisation of the applications in the bathroom offers exciting possibilities for product and interior design and at Dornbracht we are exploring these further under our Smart Water technology. In this way the Dornbracht brand remains a source of inspiration, but also provides orientation.

The digital age is also giving birth to another mega trend. Health, wellness and well being are fast becoming priorities as individuals seek solace from their supercharged digital worlds and healthcare reform increases demand for preventative care. In the context of healthiness and prevention there is a great potential of innovations for self-experience through special treatments, which impact on body, mind and soul.

Who would be your dream client?

 A dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. That’s why we have always found the best fun in working with designers that have high potential for dreaming, but manage to keep their feet on the ground.

For more informatino, visit Dornbracht or alternatively search other bathroom and spa experts

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