Q&A with Michael Seum, Grohe

The Essence range of classically elegant mixers has always been a hallmark of pure and modern design. They were redesigned last year and recently they have been upgraded with a wider choice of deluxe colours and state-of-the-art finishes. The re-designed mixers offer a whole new set of options for the design community, giving them the chance to create their own individual look and feel. We spoke to Michael Seum, Vice President of Design at GROHE, about renewing a classic.

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Industrial designer Michael Seum is GROHE’s Vice President of Design. Born in America, he is an award-winning designer with an international design career spanning large corporations, acclaimed design studios and entrepreneurial brands. At GROHE, Michael is responsible for delivering insight-driven, meaningful solutions that capture the spirit and imagination of GROHE consumers throughout the world.

What’s the enduring appeal of Essence? 

First let me make it clear that we have remained absolutely faithful to the original product philosophy of minimalist shape and purity of design. For many years, the Essence range has given architects and interior designers a classic design with simple and understated geometry. It is these cherished ideals that enables Essence to complement almost any bathroom style – and therefore, makes it the architects’ first choice.

So, what does Essence Colours bring that is new?

Our interactions with design-thought leaders across the world, showed us that there was a growing need for more individuality and personalisation in bathroom design. That’s why we have expanded our range to include 8 new options. With these new options we have created an incredibly rich toolbox for the creative mind allowing tremendous flexibility.

This approach has had an immediate impact and has been extremely well received by the global design community. For example, our Hard Graphite in both polished and brushed finishes beautifully complement a huge range or interiors. From marble and pure white bathrooms, light wood tones as well as concrete and dark matte tiles, we find this finish is so versatile it will enable interior designers to create their dream bathroom whatever the style.


What about the design itself?

The new Essence design that we launched has the same traditional delicate transitions and understated geometry of the classic Essence range but with a slightly softened and more humanised approach. This becomes especially apparent in the mixer lever: We have included a very slight taper on the handle, which gives the user a sensual experience of precision control. So there is now more choice in the Essence range but we made sure that we’re retaining the same instantly recognisable iconic look and feel of classic simplicity. There is a strong undercurrent of consistency!

You mentioned the reaction of the design community. How was Essence received?

In one word: excitement. The last few months I’ve been globetrotting with samples of Essence and in all honesty I was very pleasantly shocked at the huge positivity and enthusiasm of designers across the world. In Europe, for example, one interior design team immediately embraced the idea of working with our new colours and finishes, giving them much more freedom to coordinate them with their overall vision. A recent conversation in Tokyo with a prominent designer evoked a similar response. It’s been exciting to see the powerful enthusiasm for Essence.

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You say that Essence was prompted by changing needs in design. What are these? 

Before starting any new design – and certainly before we put pen to paper in the studio – we look at what’s going on around us. Not only in terms of trends, but also in the more fundamental, global changes that take place. We consult with leading analysts, social commentators and futurologists. And obviously, we use my own experiences and observations.

On this occasion, everyone seemed to agree that for billions of people the digital revolution has dramatically changed how they live their lives. Everything is going at hyper speed. So sometimes, people want a moment of escape. Especially in the bathroom, the traditional oasis of individual serenity and relaxation. They crave an environment that is a break from the predictable uniformity of the digital age.

How is the Essence a response to that?

For one, there are the slightly softened and humanised transitions and geometry of the Essence range. Another is the extensive choice of colours and finishes. People want the familiarity of iconic classic design, but they also want to be pampered with an individualistic look and feel.

This level of personalisation really elevates the Essence line to a bespoke experience. It also gives interior designers and consumers the opportunity to bring new and luxurious emotional connections to bathroom designs. I believe that this act of establishing connections is the true role of product designers like us. Ultimately, as designers, we must make an emotional difference to people’s lives.

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And what are the main benefits for architects and interior designers? 

There are three main benefits. Firstly, Essence gives designers more options than ever to express their creativity – and from what I’ve already seen the results are truly exciting. Secondly, this classic design will easily translate into almost any bathroom style – so architects and designers now have a short-cut to specification whatever project they are working on. The third benefit is cost-efficiency.

The Essence series has always represented affordable classic design with a long durability, and Essence can still be part of proposals that require an element of cost-competitiveness.

Finally, what else have you planned for this versatile series? 

Well, we are interacting with and listening to designers more and more, and they are flooding us with ideas on how and where we can take Essence. And we will, of course, take action on this creative thinking. But for now, we just want to open the floodgates of the options we have developed. I am genuinely excited to be part of what will be a true celebration of creativity in the next few years.

This wonderful product will be showcased at the BCFA OPEN SPRING DESIGN exhibition on 28th & 29th March in London. Get your ticket here.


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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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