An Unlikely Sanctuary1 Jul 2012
Bathroom, water closet, toilet, lavatory, rest room, washroom, loo—all words to describe what must surely be the most important room in any house or building. But for all its significance, in the past very little was done to make it an attractive, conducive place to conduct one’s daily routine. You went in, did the business and exited pronto.
Everything about the bathrooms of yore screamed mediocre from the clinical wall-to floor white tiles, pink / peach ceramic sink with dinky tap and limp shower curtain to the uninviting bathtub and black-seated toilet. Combined with ubiquitous details soap scum stains and that permeating dank toilet smell, and the bathroom was seriously the least popular room on the block.
The Evolution of Bathroom Design
To get a clearer picture of the evolution of bathroom design, a history lesson is in order. The concept of the bathroom can be traced as far back as 2000 BC. Personal hygiene is one the cornerstones of empire building, perhaps not in so many words, but there has been proof of bathing facilities found in ancient Cretan palaces; and there is even artistic evidence that the Ancient Greeks used some form of shower.
Then those innovative and extravagant Romans came along and took bathing to a whole new level. The rich had fancy bathrooms installed in their villas with rooms for warm and cold baths. This was also the era of the ‘thermae’ or public baths which can be compared to the facilities of a present-day country club with changing rooms, steam rooms, and an elaborate system of hot and cold baths. These baths were not just to clean dirty Roman citizens, but were a centre of social interaction. They even had public toilets with standing and sitting access built over running water.
Fast forward a couple of millennia and the bathroom finally became a permanent fixture in many European and American homes by the 1930s, which was around the time indoor plumbing became the norm. And where once one bathroom serviced several households, it is now quite typical to have a bathroom for every bedroom, particularly here in Malaysia. The evolution of the bathroom is based on not only the basic necessity of personal hygiene, but as importantly geography, culture, wealth, design and engineering.
Beyond the Outhouse
The modern bathroom has become a sanctuary within the home, and thankfully bathroom design has arrived. Why not make the room where all manner of intimacies occurs chic, pristine and just pleasant to be in? Alyssa Mazlan, director and principal designer of Island & Republik Interiors, a bespoke interior design company, made a very valid comment when she said that with the modern couple’s busy lifestyles; sometimes the only place to have a decent conversation was in the bathroom!
She also reiterated that the bathroom was definitely the new ‘it’ room of the home and that more thought should be put into designing a multi-purpose space where one could conduct daily ablutions (that’s just fancy talk for washing), and also relax, chat or just to spend some alone time.
We all love going to fancy hotels and holiday villas and checking out their amazing bathrooms, so why not make the effort to make your own as attractive? It is interesting to note that we spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom, and to prove this study have been made to calculate the average time spent with women coming in at just over one and a half years, and men spending a month less.
What makes a Bathroom an ‘It’ Room?
It’s not always about how much you spend although it does help if you set aside enough to make enhance your bathroom. Alyssa has some worthy advice about transforming this once utilitarian room into your sanctuary.
If you have the advantage of a high ceiling, install a fan. This helps with drying the persistent dampness prevalent in the tropics and helps tremendously in ridding the room of those unwanted smells. If you are renovating, large windows look better and give the room a light, airy feel.
Don’t be tempted to overdose on tiles from the floor up. Stick to tiling the wet areas like shower stalls, and three-quarters up the wall while making use of colour and texture (wallpaper, timber) to enhance the design. Alcoves are a discreet storage option for toiletries especially in the shower stall.
Install a cement bench in the shower stall so you can sit down and scrub your feet / shave your legs / indulge in a tête à tête with your partner.
Lighting is important and an easy way of making the bathroom more personal. Those blinding fluorescent bulbs aren’t flattering and won’t get you in the mood for anything! Have controlled lighting emitting a warm, complimentary glow.
For the technologically inclined moisture resistant iPod docking stations and TVs are the way to go.
Put thought into soft furnishings like lush rugs; and invoke the scent of exotic destinations with candles and fragrant oil burners.
If space allows, get a multi-purpose bench which can serve as storage for towels and as a seat.
With renowned names like Philippe Starck, Jean-Marie Massaud and Patricia Urquiola designing for prominent brands like Hans Grohe, Agape and Duravit; it is safe to say that the once sorely neglected bathroom has finally become a room of decadence, pleasure and escapism.