People have been taking washing seriously for about 3000 years, when people started building ablution facilities into their homes. For much of ancient history, bathing was often a less domestic affair, with public baths like the ones that the Romans are famous for. The well-appointed domestic bathroom is something many did not enjoy until very recently, but it’s now something no-one can do without.
The bathroom has been on the up and up for a long time. Gone are the days of a large tub in the kitchen that would be filled with water boiled in numerous pots on the kitchen range. Also gone are outdoor lavatories that are still within living memory, along with the freezing dash outdoors in midwinter. The alternative, the china chamber pot and the slops bucket, are also a thing of the past.
All the other accessories of the days before the handy indoor bathroom have gone too, except as antiques and collectibles. There is still something appealing about the arrangements the Victorians would have. Typical essentials were a marble-topped bedroom washstand, perhaps with art nouveau tiles, with a pitcher and basin on top. Rather less appealing is the commode chair, from a pre-bathroom era where basic functions barely required leaving the room.
Pretty though a washstand and wash set are, they are no competition for the modern solution to keeping clean: the en suite bathroom, fully equipped with the latest technology, all just a step or two away. In the last fifty years the bathroom has not only moved indoors, but has had a makeover in its formerly humble (or even unmentionable) status. In a strange way it’s almost returned to its original function of ritual cleansing, except we need to wash away our stress rather than our sins.
A bathroom has to be functional, but it’s no longer just a room for ablutions. It used to be that bathroom furniture consisted of little more than a medicine cabinet, a towel rail, a toothbrush shelf and a classic woven laundry basket. The bathroom has turned into a sacred private haven for washing away stress and chilling out in luxury. A modern bathroom is more likely to have marble floors than linoleum, plus a designer sofa, and it’s all about high end style and the latest gadgets for relaxation.
Some of us are lucky to have high tech toilets, Jacuzzis and other top bathroom toys, but most of us have to settle for something a little less Hollywood. The country look is popular, with wicker a good choice for furnishings ranging from cabinets to laundry bins because of its resistance to moisture and enduring style. We may take the modern bathroom for granted, but one thing is for sure, it’s come a long way in a hundred years.