If ever there was a reason to keep one’s bathrooms and ensuite in tip top condition, the sudden arrival of the neighbour to look at your layout is it. We had this somewhat humilitating experience recently. Knowing our neighbour was seeing her architect about an extension project, we’d mentioned how our washrooms had been updated a few years ago and extended an invite to ‘pop round any time’ to look. . . . Well they did just that and of course, the house, particularly those very washrooms, was in dismally grubby and untidy! Anyway, tactfully not noticing this, our neighbour was in raptures at our still truly fab designs. The ultra slim but essential counter tops with inset basins and beautiful wooden cabinetry were very much in their plans – the walls and floors are fully stone tiled and my double shower unit is ultra spacious but not cumbersome. The shower themselves are operated by illuminated on/off push button and have separate pumps in the loft. It’s some years since our upgrade but it’s still a joy every single day we live here!
One of the soul destroying things about living in houses built on mass production basis – everything bought in bulk, so my house was originally exactly the same as two thirds of the rest of this estate. Immediately after a major upheaval some four years after moving in, two events converged . Firstly, stuck in traffic on my drive to work, I spotted massive Sale signs in a very smart bathroom/kitchen showroom. Intrigued, I strode along that lunchtime to investigate – instantly falling in love with fabulous gleaming white and shiny chrome . . . Spacious modernity captured me forever! Then the same week, my ensuite shower packed up and I knew not how to fix. I called a family acquaintance plumber/bathroom installer for advice. He came, inspected and having temporarily fixed the shower, asked if I’d thought about updating . . . I told him about my sorti to the bathroom shop and it went from there – I’ve been the constantly thrilled user of my own two cathedrals of sanitary splendour. The best investment I’ve made so far!
It’s funny how every few years there’s a very strong sea change when it comes to decorative themes and schemes promoted by the big diy superstores and magazines. I was looking at my long subscribed family orientated magazine and yes, they too are featuring a newly refurbished family bathroom with refreshingly bright and cheerful spring look. I note they all show romantic pstel and floral colour ways for walls, tiles and accessories. This is a most welcome change from years of hard chrome / grey / black and stark white clinical sanitary ware on offer. True the pure white porcelain does always look clean and safe, but it can be cold and utterly characterless. Adding an attractive set of cherry blossom patterned accessories instantly brings it to life. I note also that all the bathrooms feature a welcome trend towards smaller modern style baths – thus introducing the idea of cutting water consumption without shouting about it. Very clever and to be applauded!
It always seems strange when I enter a bathroom and find we’re back in the dark ages with separate taps and no mixer. It’s impossible to get one stream of perfectly temperatured water for starters. If you try to run your fingers under the hot tap for a quick rinse, they get scalded and it’s hopeless trying to rinse your hair under a two tap system is the shower isn’t working! Getting the bathrooms and ensuites updated with modern sanitary ware must be one of the priorities when anyone moves into a property. Obviously when you’ve fought to get that mortgage and eventually once everything has been searched and signed, the joy of moving can take up so much energy that you don’t really appreciate how ghastly are those bathroom taps! Checking out bathroom supply sites will give a good indication of how much a small make over will be and if planned for, can be achieved in a very short time. Making the entrance into the new house that little bit less of a hassle.
It’s really not easy to get excited about bathrooms at this time of year. It’s the festive season which takes a lot of energy and concentration to get all those activities running smoothly – food and drinkies coming very close after the supply of presents. . . . Then there’s the weather – it’s usually cold in the winter and these days we keep a weather eye out for snow. They tend to threaten activity but on a long string so you’re never safe until the start of summer! So spending a lot of time up on the bathroom or ensuite does not take priority. However, one direct result of it being Christmas time is the arrival of at least two really superb gift sets – very prettily packaged and fabulously smelling bath and shower products are now displayed around the bath and shower cubicle. The widow sill is laden with similarly smelling delights – candles and pot pouri spill out from baskets and ornamental carryng devices. I find that soaking in a hot bubbly bath does take my mind off the fact that the nice shiny towel rail is not quite as efficient at filling the cokckles of my heart as the bath bombs are!
The fashions in bathroom and washroom facilities don’t have a lot of opportunity to change in the grand scheme of things. It takes a while for new ideas to filter through and in all honesty, today’s schemes are very much geared to saving water and not wasting as much as we do. I have very modern push button showers that warm upreally quickly so I don’t waste so much water getting to the point where I can jump in the cubicle. I don’t have to take a chance – as soon as I press On, the button edge is illuminated in flashing blue, becoming static once at my required temperature. I’ve had these nearly 15 years and they’re so easy to use that when I go away in hotels or on a cruise, I have to ask the steward how to use any other design. I did have to have a new pump fitted last year and the technician informed me that the new generation design of my shower now has statutory eco operation to use far less water pressure and thus less water.
I was staying over in a hotel recently – one of those positioned in the budge friendly end of the market. I only paid a small amount for the room because I had loyalty points to use up. On the whole it was a splendid room, considering we were right in the city centre and had absolutely everything we could need right at our feet. The bathroom facilities were excellent in that the taps all worked first time and did not drip at all when shut off. The shower was large – the entire width of the bathroom – and it had a really easy to operate shower. This is one thing that always worries me when i try to shower anywhere that isn’t my home. Because my eyesight is appalling without specs on, and my hands are very arthritic, I struggle with controls that have to be turned on and off and if I can’t work out how to adjust the temperature, or even get water at all, then it’s just not enjoyable or relaxing.
I’m always fascinated by the family bathrooms and master ensuites that they feature on the US version of property programmes. They make our little washrooms look so squat and impractical. I have a lovely ensuite bedroom and the washroom element was updated only a few short years ago. I don’t have twin basins or massive shower cubicle that could hold the england rugby team in one go. However, it does have very practical cupboards and an attractive counter top. Because it’s a bathroom setting, the lighting had to be installed by an expert and double isolated to stop any possible problem with water ingress from the basin or shower. The extractor fan is operated as soon as I put the lights on – however on musty days I also open the window. Modern facilities are so much nicer when they hide all the bathroom gubbins away!
When we were small there was no such thing as bathroom design or specialist washroom features. It was exciting to visit a house that had hot running water just on tap, without having to light up the rather terrifying Ascot water heater that sat over the sink and the even more frightening big one in Nan’s bathroom. They both used to hiss and gush out hot water that was boiling, and you had to ensure there was plenty of cold water in the basin or bath first. We didn’t have central heating either until I was in my mid teens – so our bathrooms were always very cold. I don’t recall luxuriating for any moments with divine bath toiletries in those days. In fact, in one house we had the bath in the kitchen and it had a Heath Robinson worktop and cabinet contraption on the top so you could use the worktop bit when not bathing . . . . . . Oh how fab the bathroom features and decor are today.
I don’t think we really appreciate just how fantastic our plumbing and water supplies are over here in little old blighty. I have been abroad of course, not to many places it’s true, but I well remember our horror many years ago on a camping holiday in europe when faced with some village toilets – in a domestic complex. The ones in the village itself were too awful to contemplate. I have also been caught in a predicament when travelling around in the med, a certain little island very poplar with british ex pats. Lots of them have a strange plumbing system in their houses, if it was installed by native workforce. Fortunately when I stay anywhere now, it’s generally with family and I am assured the very best of plumbing and washroom service being available. We have fantastic plumbers here and our bathrooms are a wonder to be envied and adored from afar!