Luxury in the bathroom: The Chinese designer Steve Leung let the bathroom ceramic by Villeroy & Boch seductively sparkle with Swarovski crystals.

In Conversation: Steve Leung
Crystal clear luxury

Steve Leung has decorated the products "Octagon" and "Squaro Prestige" by Villeroy & Boch with thousands of Swarovski crystals. The Chinese designer explains how he came up with the idea and how bathroom culture differs from Asia to Europe​.

Mr. Leung, leather in the bathroom, that is pretty unusual is it not? Why did you choose leather to clad the “Squaro Crystals Edition”?

Steve Leung: Leather is a rich natural material, soft to the touch and with a beautiful grained texture. This tactile element brings a sense of warmth, juxtaposed with the smooth precise Titan Ceram and Quaryl surfaces that exist on the inner surfaces of the basin and bathtub.

Can someone actually use the bathtub, or is it simply to be admired?

Steve Leung: This bathtub can be admired and used. My vision was to create a functional art piece central to the overall ambience of a luxurious bathing experience. In this rare collaboration, it was about delivering something truly special. Visually stimulating, you can derive great enjoyment from admiring or touching the surfaces. When indulging in a bath, you can relax and appreciate the comfort brought by this beautiful piece. The Crystals are very attractive at night as they sparkle.

"When I design a bathroom, the most important element is to create a relaxing experience", says Steve Leung.

"When I design a bathroom, the most important element is to create a relaxing experience", says Steve Leung.

How to imagine your bathroom, what was key to your design?

Steve Leung: When I design a bathroom, the most important element is to create a relaxing experience. This is the fundamental purpose of the bathroom - to provide a private space that feels comfortable, spacious yet intimate. This can be achieved through studying the layout carefully, and determining how you will use the space. Selecting sanitary ware products that are functional yet beautiful will give you a timeless design and years of enjoyment.

The bathroom as a place of regeneration is apparently becoming immensely important, is that your impression, too?

Steve Leung: Absolutely, as our working lives become increasingly intense. The value of sanctuary and the need for relaxation has become very important. Being able to have a calming experience that provides the opportunity for regeneration is a global issue, and designers are helping to solve this every day.

How does the new appreciation of the bathroom influence your designs for sanitary products?

Steve Leung: Aside from the footprint of the bathroom, which is often your main constraint, sanitary ware products are one of the best ways to improve your experience at home. The design of sanitary ware products must project timelessness and be functional – I am quite pragmatic in my approach. Space is a luxury so good proportion and balance of products will provide comfort and visual attraction, ensuring a heightened sense of relaxation.

Elegant base: As a contrasting base for the ornament, Steve Leung designed a cover fashioned from dark leather for the bathtub and washbasin.
Tradition and craftsmanship: For the arrangement of the Swarovski crystals, he was inspired by the mountain silhouettes of shan shui Chinese landscape paintings.

You are active internationally: How does the bathroom culture differ from Asia to Europe? And how does this impact on the fit-out of the spaces?

Steve Leung: One of the quite distinctive differences between the East and the West is that Asians tend to shower at night whereas westerns shower or bath in the morning. The differences in the shower time and the way - bath vs shower - also affect our approach and styling when creating a relaxing and personal bathroom for each individual. That said, as people travel more, we are becoming more interconnected and the bathroom culture is becoming much more homogenized around the world - partly due to the influence of hospitality design. As hotel rooms become more of a place to relax and unwind, there has been a subtle increase in the proportion of bathroom vs bedroom space – whilst the overall guestroom size is becoming a little smaller.

For the “Crystals Edition” Swarovski stones of different sizes have been inserted such that refined mountain silhouettes arise. You were inspired here by shan shui Chinese landscape painting. And what does Shan shui have to do with bathrooms?

Steve Leung: shan shui paintings traditionally depict tranquil, natural scenery with mountains and water. I wanted to create an artwork that is gently flowing around the bath and basin, whereby the imagery is intended to enhance not only the luxurious statement of the products, but also provide a visually calming natural relaxation.

Piece by piece: About 5,000 crystals were placed individually by hand for the "Squaro Crystals Edition" bathtub.