Washroom countertops: top 4 surface materials for your high-end office

From marble, through Corian, all the way to concrete, washroom countertops are an essential ingredient for a high-end office washroom that wants to impress.

Choosing the right countertop for your office washroom can be daunting and the abundance of choice doesn't help matters.

How do you stand out in a sea of options? What surface will best tell your story? Is Corian tougher than natural stone? And what about concrete?

Before we go into detail about which surface materials are best suited to your commercial washroom, ask yourself why? Why do you want to upgrade your current washroom? What needs to be improved and what is the end-goal? Are you looking to increase the property value of your office? Is your objective to impress prospects and stand out from the crowd? What are your aesthetic aspirations and practical needs?

luxury washroom in Melbourne office
High-end washroom inside PDG's Melbourne head office, by Studio Tate

Now that you have your 'why', let's find your 'how'. How is upgrading your office washroom going to help your business? If it's about property value, how can you turn your office into a Class A office space, complete with top notch fixtures and amenities? How can you convey luxury?

When designing a commercial bathroom, functionality and style go hand in hand. And although there is a lot more to a washroom than the countertop, the latter remains an integral component that will often tie the various elements together.

Here's a closer look at the top 4 surface materials for your office washroom countertops.

1. Marble

marble countertops in New York washroom
Marble countertops at 222 East 41st Offices, New York City. Photographer: Ricardo Parra

Long-associated with wealth and elegance, marble is a top choice for premium office washrooms. With its hard, crystalline surface and characteristic swirls and veins, marble will certainly meet both your functional and aesthetic needs.

Pros:

  • Long-lasting and resistant to most dents.
  • The abundance of colours and varieties make it a very adaptable material.
  • Can be polished or honed, depending on the desired look. Bare in mind honed marble resists scratches better because it lacks the gloss that polished marble has.

Cons:

  • A high price to pay for luxury.
  • Higher maintenance.
  • Marble is more porous than other surfaces which makes it prone to stains and scratches from acidic substances.

2. Corian

white washroom with corian countertops
Glacier White Corian® counters inside the White Grotto washroom, designed by Ida & Billy

Solid-surface materials such as Corian are made of minerals and acrylic which creates a stone-hard surface, designed to last a lifetime. What's more, despite its hard nature, Corian can be formed into almost any shape.

Pros:

  • Extreme durability and great resistance to water and bacteria.
  • Virtually seamless.
  • Its realistic flecks and streaks can be highlighted with colour inlays and lighting effects.

Cons:

  • You will need to seek professional help to install.
  • Darker colours reveal wear and tear more than lighter shades.
  • Intense heat or dropped objects can damage the surface, although neither of these this should not be an issue in commercial washrooms.

3. Concrete

concrete washroom basin
Customised concrete countertop with embedded copper flakes, by Lampe Concrete Studio in CA, United States

No longer synonymous with industrial, cold looks, concrete countertops can be moulded in one seamless piece, making your bathroom countertop a visually striking feature.

Pros:

  • Appealing organic material that can mimic the look of natural stone achieved through acid staining.
  • Ceramic, glass or stone tiles can be embedded in the concrete and the surface can be etched to give it a pattern or texture. Customised colours and decorative inlays are also in store.
  • Can be cast in any shape and virtually any size.
  • Extremely durable.

Cons:

  • Just like Corian, professional installation is recommended.
  • If not waxed and sealed regularly, concrete counters will be prone to stains. Avoid this by sealing your countertop at the beginning, then every 1-3 years.

4. Glass

office washroom with glass countertops
Minimalist glass countertop set against a concrete wall. Photo credit: Iconoclassst

Sleek, modern and well-suited to high-end corporate businesses, glass countertops come in all shapes and forms and boast a range of textures, finishes and colours.

Pros:

  • Design flexibility. Bespoke applications are almost limitless.
  • Since glass is non-porous, it will not harbour germs and bacteria.
  • The ability to light up glass makes it a distinctive advantage for those who wish to impress. The translucency of glass also helps make a small bathroom look larger.

Cons:

  • Less resistant that natural stone or granite, although it is useful to remember, the thicker the glass, the stronger it is. For a stronger surface, you can also opt for tempered glass.
  • Just like marble, acidic substances can damage the glass surface.

Loos with views: the smallest rooms with the grandest vistas

They may be small, but their importance isn't to be underestimated, for loos with views can lead to increased property value. 

washroom over glass floor
Toilet perched over a disused 15-story elevator shaft, Mexico 

Whether it be in the workplace, retail or hospitality, washrooms are a key expression of the company values. Organisations that value and understand the power of first impressions will go above and beyond to impress. High-end washroom countertops, top-notch fixtures and spectacular views all show your attention to detail and highlight your level of commitment. Believe it or not, loos with views command higher rent too. 

 

To inspire and convince you, here is a roundup of some of the most unusual of toilets, boasting the most striking of views. Be it in an office building, a public facilities, or a seemingly inconspicuous coffee shops, loos with views are there to steal the show. 

We have a personal preference (hint, it involves two-way mirrors), but what is yours? Share your favourite on our Twitter page.

washroom-in-the-shard-with-view-over-london
The toilets inside The Shard boast stunning views of London
urinals inside the Shard
Because it wouldn't be fair, the gents at the Shard enjoy similar London views as the ladies
loos with views inside commerzbank HQ
Commerzbank headquarters: urinals with a view over Frankfurt
urinal with a view in Japan
The JR Tower in Japan is equipped with panoramic urinals
washroom in aquarium
Mumin Papa café - the women's bathroom is built into an aquarium, Akashi, Japan. 
two-mirror public toilet
Don't Miss A Sec', two-way mirror glass public toilet in London, Monica Bonvicini
Inside a two-way mirror toilet
Don't Miss A Sec', two-way mirror glass public toilet in London, Monica Bonvicini

Mosaicomicro – eco glass tiles for your washroom

100% recycled glass tiles have never looked so sleek.

Choosing tiles for your office bathroom is as difficult as deciding which surface material is right for your washroom countertops. With the panoply of sleek, high-end washroom tiles available on the market, you might find yourself at a loss.

We think eco glass tiles Mosaicomicro may well be what you've been looking for. 

Produced in Italy and made from old discarded glass from TV and PC monitors, these 100% recycled glass tiles are then transformed into powder mixed with water – the only glue – and modelled into micro mosaic tiles. 

Thanks to the nature of the recycled glass, each micro-chip differs from the last, and the special production process allows for different textures to coexist on one sheet: shiny, matte, velvety, smooth and textured micro-chips thus appear to give life to the chosen surface.

Colour is another variable that adds to the unique, handcrafted feel of MM. The glass tiles come in varying shades of reds or blues, greys and blacks and this rich dynamic makes for a much more variegated, less clinical look. When put together, the mosaic sheets can cover planar as well as curved spaces. They are suitable for both indoor and outdoor washrooms.

Individual tiles are 6x6mm x3mm thick, supplied on sheets of 300x300mm.

Creative restroom signage goes a long way

Restroom signage is a great opportunity to break away from traditional communication tools and convey individuality.

Wayfinding is crucial in public spaces - not only does it help users navigate through the built environment, it also gives the latter meaning. A successful wayfinding system relies on human behaviour and as such, particular attention should always be paid to restroom signage.

There are several reasons why universal toilet signs are not always the go-to choice for offices, restaurants or hotels.  

flamingo restaurant in Istanbul

Indeed, brands that opt for creative toilet signage are given a great opportunity to convey character and individuality. Likewise, landlords looking to up the value of their commercial property can rely on well thought-out restroom signage to stand out from the market. 

Photo source

In the design world, everything is in the details and smart commercial interiors have proven how critical those small, ostensibly insignificant design choices are.

In commercial real estate more than anywhere else, the magnitude of a well-kept restroom is not to be underestimated and a well-designed washroom goes hand in hand with a creative toilet sign. 

To prove it, here are several more images where restroom signage has been taken to a whole new level.

Mulini Beach, Studio 3HLD. Photo by Joao Morgado
Photo source
Novotel Hotel, Paris by Christophe Remy
PHOS Edelstahl Design
The Working Capitol, by Foreign Policy

Does your office washroom reflect your business?

How much influence can a space as small as a washroom have? After all, clients don’t come to your office to visit the restroom, they come to seal a deal. So why should landlords and tenants care about the quality of such an insignificant space? Because it is everything but insignificant.

 

When a potential prospect visits your business, the washroom may well be the first space they discover after the reception area. So why should clients feel respected if your washroom is neglected?

Often overlooked, commercial washrooms are increasingly becoming a benchmark for offices. Designed to create a positive first impression and reflect the values of the company, they are a valuable marketing asset for landlords and developers. “The world is full of people who’ll judge how good a place is by the toilet” says Argent’s Phil Harrison for the RIBA. In order to do business, developers have to understand how influential commercial washrooms are.

Leadenhall building high-spec office washroom

Washrooms in the Leadenhall  Building, by RSHP. Credit: Paul Raftery

Inside RSHP’s Leadenhall Building, otherwise known as “The Cheesegrater”, everything has been thought-out, right down to the bespoke, cheesegrater-shaped basins in the washroom. The latter also feature RSHP trademark cadmium yellow steelwork, a finish which, coupled with Domus porcelain tiles on the floor and bespoke iGuzzini shades, helps create a high-specification space.

Specifying prestige materials and finishes in your washroom can not only increase the marketability of the overall space but also help sublimate the image of a cold, corporate restroom. Such materials include laminated glass, natural stones such as granite, marble or Corian, stainless or textured steel, cast acrylic and even unusual wood veneers for a warmer look. “Washrooms are becoming a key expression of the building aesthetic” says RIBA journalist Pamela Buxton. As such, a washroom which boasts higher-quality materials will stand for the value and potential of a business.

In the heart of Mayfair, at 54 Brooks Mews, the award for most striking space would undoubtedly go to the washroom. According to developers Enstar Capital, the 6,000 square foot space is London’s most expensive office space and the luxurious washrooms could well be the reason why.

London's most expensive office with luxurious washroom

Gold-plated mosaics and marble in London's most expensive office, by Einstar Capital. Photo source

Lined in a floor-to-ceiling, gold-plated mosaic, the washroom and toilets are more reminiscent of a five-star hotel than an executive office washroom. The mirrored washbasins with integrated water, soap and hand-drying facilities also feature iconic logos designed to echo the luxurious atmosphere of Milan’s Armani Hotel. “People spend a third of their lives at work, so this is why we have fitted these premises out to a luxury-residential finish” says Enstar Capital’s Simon Lyons.

As expectations are rising, new trends are emerging within the office sector. Are superloos becoming an alternative to traditional commercial washrooms? Reminiscent of a superhero name, superloos have their own special powers. These space-saving, single units, complete with a toilet, vanity and washbasin offer a way to increase rentable space while also saving on the cost of separate male and female facilities.

What image do superloos convey of a company and how can businesses profit from this trend? Should all commercial washrooms be unisex or are conventional layouts more functional? Are superloos beginning to change our perceptions of commercial washrooms as we know them?

"Feedback is really mixed on whether people prefer a superloo or a more conventional arrangement. I do think that women in particular want loos badged male or female," says Argent’s Phil Harrison.

Can superloos help developers increase the value of an office? The potential cannot be overlooked but the question remains open for debate...

In my experience, if you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, it’s modern architecture. Nancy Bank-Smith

Wallpaper Games – transform the common areas of your office

Have you ever sat in a room, trying to fight boredom? Your clients probably have too. 

Design can fix boredom. This is the premise behind Wallpaper Games – an ingenious concept that promises to change the way we see the wallpaper.

Forget aesthetics, geometric patterns and colour combinations. Instead, choose a partner and play a game of tic-tac-toe on the wall of your reception area or waiting room. Take your pen on a journey across thousand-and-one pathways and try to exit the labyrinth covering the walls of your washroom office. Spend some time searching for words among a grid of jumbled letters in your office breakout area.

Aptly named, Wallpaper Games provides an ever-changing playground where interaction fights the stillness of your average wall-covering surface. The interactive range of wallpapers was designed by Paris-based 5.5 Design Studio for spaces where boredom may strike (think washrooms) but we think Wallpaper Games would also be welcomed in collaborative spaces such as office breakout areas and informal meeting rooms.

Far more than a wall covering surface, Wallpaper Games acts as a bridge between design and its users, encouraging people to interact with each other as well as with their surroundings. It is less about choosing a pattern and more about creating your own. 

Wallpaper Games is available in three designs – tic tac toe, maze and word search – all three of which are to be purchased blank, and it is only with time and several contributions that various patterns start taking shape. It is no doubt that such creative design solution would set you up as a progressive business.

Photo credits: 5.5 Design Studio