The Bathroom History
The bathroom as we know it is still a relatively new invention – only about 100 years old – with a simple purpose; providing a private, indoor space to clean, wash and expel waste. However, bathrooms in the literal sense of a ‘room with a bath’ have been around for thousands of years. Bathhouses of the past existed as a way to relax, revitalize and socialize and it didn’t take long for the very rich to start building private baths in their own homes.
Bathrooms fell in and out of favor over the following centuries as hygiene issues were hotly debated and individual features (mirrors, bathtubs, sinks) were often incorporated into other rooms such as the main living space or a dressing room.
When Thomas Crapper developed the first indoor toilets in the late Victorian era, many people were shocked and even disgusted at the thought of having such a foul feature within one’s home! However, the progress in indoor plumbing and industrialization both aided the bathrooms’ rise to popularity. Indoor bathrooms and toilets became the norm in new builds around the 1920s – although toilets were usually built separately from the bathroom. It was not until much later, after the World Wars that outdoor toilets died out and bathrooms evolved into the rooms we know today.
Basic Bathroom Furnishings
Assuming you are furnishing the average family bathroom, the following basic elements need to be considered – don’t forget to think of style and color as well as practicality.
- Toilet (style, color, lever, or button flush)
- Shower (above the bath, separate cubicle)
- Bath (freestanding or built-in, style, size)
- Mirror (shaving, make-up)
- Storage (for hygiene materials, toilet paper rolls, toilet cleaning)
- Small but practical furnishing (towel and toilet roll holders, shower curtain rail)
- Extraction and heating (fans, windows, radiators)
A small bathroom will often contain a rectangular bath built into one corner with an overhead shower, a toilet, a sink, and a wall-mounted bathroom cabinet above the sink with an integrated bathroom mirror. A very small bathroom may just have a walk-in shower instead of a bathtub.
If you have a larger space to play with, different features can be considered including luxurious corner or freestanding bathtubs and walk-in showers. Larger mirrors can be wall-mounted above the sink and more storage can be added elsewhere in the bathroom. Less common elements such as bidets can be incorporated as can items such as waterproof chairs (to avoid sitting on the toilet seat when sat talking to someone in the shower!).
For non-family bathrooms, such as en-suites, you may choose to incorporate more features. A family bathroom often needs to be accessible by three or more people, and no one wants a queue to form! For other bathrooms, elements such as dressing tables, foot spas, and hair styling areas can be added to create more of a ‘beauty room’.
Making Good Use of Limited Space
When decorating a bathroom, limited space is often an issue. There is a fine balance between a bare and clinical bathroom and a cluttered one. Here are some tips on making the best use of your limited space:
- Mirror-fronted cabinets make good use of wall space, combining a mirror with storage.
- Swap your radiator for a heated towel rail.
- Choose a ‘floating’ sink to make room for storage below. Alternatively, it is possible to buy storage racks that follow the shape of the base of a pedestal sink.
- Choosing space-saving storage options such as corner storage baskets for shower products.
- When decorating, choose one color (such as blue or pink) and pick out a few features in this color (towels, a bathroom rug, the toilet seat) whilst keeping the rest of the room neutral. This will add interest to the room and stop it from appearing clinical, whilst not over-cluttering the room.
- Larger bathrooms and mirrors give the illusion of extra light and space.
- Don’t overdo it on the decorations – one ornament or a small plant is enough.
How you use your bathroom can help with space too. Don’t leave toilet paper rolls in their packaging, as they often take up a lot of space. Instead, keep two or three rolls at a time in a cupboard and leave the rest of the pack in another room. Shower curtains can look quite imposing in a small room, so tie them back as soon as they have dried out, each time they are used.
The lighting you use in your bathroom is very important for creating the right atmosphere. If you have a small bathroom, you’ll want a lot of nice, bright lighting to increase the feeling of space, whilst a large, luxurious bathroom may benefit from some warm, atmospheric lighting.
Ceiling spotlights can be set up so that they are controlled in pairs, meaning you can save energy by only using the lighting you need, whilst illuminated mirrors and cabinets can create a more intense light in one area of the room. Adjustable lights can be useful to make sure light is directed effectively across the bathroom. Make sure you don’t forget practical features such as a shaving light over the sink.
If you enjoy a nice, relaxing bath, you may wish to consider ‘fake’ or electric candles. These battery-operated candles provide a similar atmosphere to candlelight but are much safer. Consider having a water-proofed light switch or a light pull near the bath in case the battery goes whilst you are still bathing to avoid accidents in the dark.