It is hard to imagine a home without a bathroom these days, but few people realise that the room we are so accustomed to today actually has a rather short history. Until 100 years ago, in fact, the British aristocracy was still relying on its legion of servants to carry bucketsful of boiling water around the house just to fill up a bath, while according to the 1951 census, more than 37 per cent of Britons didn’t even have a plumbed-in bath in their homes.
Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then, and from a privy in the backyard with bits of bumf (useless scraps of paper used for wiping) tied to a piece of string, the bathroom has now become a fully-fledged room that can be adorned with marble, Jacuzzis and – for the very rich – solid gold taps and toilet seats.
Of course, that is all very 1990s and for anyone who has been following the news these past couple of years, a solid gold toilet seat conjures up images of fallen dictatorships and thousands of rebels running amok. Why? Because while the functionality of this essential room is not discriminatory, its décor says a lot about the person it belongs to.
Indeed, it is no surprise that Queen Elizabeth I had a fully functioning flushing toilet installed at Richmond Palace back in 1596, or that James Bond is often pictured in ultra-luxurious bathrooms as tacky as the dialogues that ensued. Bathrooms, like our kitchens and bedrooms, are the materialisation of our ideologies and of our tastes.
Tastes change with the times, however. Although the all-white bathroom is still a classic, the plethora of bathroom-ware available to the modern man has literally gone to the dark side as black has become the new favourite colour to use and abuse this year.
From statement black baths that catch the eye, to black faucets that set a stylish tone, to subtleties including black stand lamps, towels and mats, black is the colour that pretends to be inconspicuous but beckons to be noticed.
What’s special about it is that it’s light years away from the patterned, Victorian suite and the mind-set attached to it. The new bathroom with pops of black offers those using it a stylish retreat from everyday life in one of only rooms around the house that still has a lock. On top of all that, the colour makes for a unique and fun alternative to the common bathroom, while its neutrality allows you to play around with other colours and showcase your personality to guests.
Glossy is also being slowly replaced by matte this season, with neutral, powdery and textured tiles fast becoming the latest contenders for the ultimate in bathroom chic.
From gunpowder grey to off-black, these come in a variety of shades and can be found both in an underfoot range or as wall tiles. They are somewhat reminiscent of pre-glazed pottery and give the bathroom a rustic-yet-modern finish that is hardly clinical. In fact, there seems to be a shift towards more natural materials this year, with living walls becoming the signature of any bathroom connoisseur.
These living walls do exactly what they say on the tin, with plants potted vertically in specially designed walls, kept alive by special, computerised watering systems. This is undoubtedly somewhat eccentric, but these living walls surely add a unique and trendy factor to the room; one which helps you bring the outside, inside.
Bathrooms, like our kitchens and bedrooms, are the materialisation of our ideologies and of our tastes
As a matter of fact, the bathroom this year is moving away from the idea that it needs to be a contained space, and even the era of feeling boxed in the shower cubicle is being ushered out by curb-less showers and full on wet rooms. These, conjoined with larger and more powerful showerheads, give the bather the sense of being in an exotic resort and a sense of freedom like never before. Philosophically, they also cater for our lust for escapism.
Truthfully, however, it’s not all high-tech feng shui this season, with designers finally appreciating the purposes of built-in ledges next to baths, showers and vanities. This has probably been one of the most welcome trends as the average size of a room keeps shrinking year after year.
To maximise on space, some designers have even included built-in cabinets in these ledges, while others are simply using them as shelving for the myriad of products and accessories modern lifestyle commands we must have.
To continue this spatial revolution, dressing tables have now lost their legs and are being fixed to the wall or replaced completely with the aforementioned ledges. This is a great solution for those wishing to show off their tiling or those who could do with some extra storage space to stow away towels and all the rest of the bathroom paraphernalia.
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