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!
I am not the tidiest person to own a house. I admit that I struggle in the putting stuff away department and as a consequence, my original bathroom and ensuite rapidly took on a more care worn appearance than was good for my image . . . . . How to cure this problem is difficult – apart from sharing with a partner who is the opposite and helps to keep the discipline going. Anyway, when the original shower head and hose broke in my ensuite, I wasn’t sure how best to fix, so I called the son of a good colleague. He being a plumber. . . within a one hour visit, I’d signed up to have the bathroom and ensuite completely modernised with easy to use taps, modern electronic push button showers and easy access cubicles. I also selected a whirlpool bath with optional shower tap for hair washing. These were all fab ideas but even more spectacular – cabinets above and below; smart counter tops and the button operated toilets with both cisterns hidden behind them all – absolute joy!
I can’t say I’ve ever really been bothered by not having a twin basin counter top in my bathrooms or ensuite. Over here it’s not really a major consideration unless you have the size of bathroom befitting a top quality hotel or spa. Unlike in Canada and the US, where it matters greatly that you have two in the main bathroom and preferrably in each jack and jill bathroom. I do prefer the style of american shower cubicles though. That’s one area that seems better organised. They have fixed upper and low rails into which are placed sliding doors instead of a shower screen that moves forward or back on a pivot. Easier to close and clean too, that I can confirm – Actually the shared, interjoining bathrooms between pairs of lower ranking bedrooms are a good way of several folk having access to washroom facilities without having built, maintainand clean separate units.
i am always intrigued when watching property transformation programmes – the difference between the finishes when a set of chaps do the bathrooms and ensuites, and when a woman is involved. Whether chap just never sees the big picture or it just comes down to price, is not clear. When a lady has a hand in the redesign, there will generally be cabinets to store the many bottles and cartons and good, easy to operate and clean showers. I had my bathrooms and ensuite completely stripped out and remodelled by a professional bathroom fitter. He was brilliant – suggested various options to aid my mobility issues; he gave me options to visit showrooms to choose fittings and made a fantastic job. Very modern and still truly functional even after 13 years! I still feel a thrill when I attend to my ablutions – better than any hotel. It was worth every penny of that investment to get it done well, safely and on time.
I help out at a very well known heritage property, a small country house – with attitude and history. It’s been owned by three families. But the most interesting person living there was a tenant who was the doyenne of all things decorating and gardening. She featured regularly in countrylife magazine and really put this otherwise ordinary palladian pile truly on the map. What is all the more remarkable is that this american heiress was the first to introduce central heating . . . . and running hot and cold water. She also had several more bathrooms installed so that her 24 guest bedrooms could offer something modern and akin to the luxury she had left behind in Virginia. The bathrooms remain – very much of the late 1920s. The rooms are not used though and it’s such a shame – plans to open the top storey of the house move apace, so we may see them enjoyed again once more.
One of the things that a relative of mine has to consider in her house move shortly, is making the bathroom, ensuite and downstairs cloakroom as disabled friendly as possible. Her partner was injured in a car accident some 15 years ago and has gradually lost more mobility as the years have gone by. They are now about to move to a 1990s designed family home – for the big garden and driveway. However, unlike today’s houses, it doesn’t have a wide staircase in readiness for a stairlift. It doesn’t have a spacious downstairs cloakroom – again designed for future wheelchair use. The upstairs bathrooms have tiny shower cubicles that need to have a strong wall aside, to allow installation of a flip down stool. The bath too need to have space for strong grab handles for support.
All these things can be built in to their home when they have the place refurbished. A good bathroom installer will know how to help them.
I had the most glorious time this last Christmas holiday. Being invited to spend a whole week with a family who own a historic cottage with origins that can be traced back four hundred years. I have to say I was slightly anxious about my habit of knocking things over and my general lack of co-ordination when thinking about joining this family. I know them to be very kind and thoughful – and not in the slightest bit clumsy.
I was shown round the cottage by the youngest member of the clan. With immense pride I had the guided tour, which incuded a very old bathroom – now just for show. Happily the cottage included a super duper bathroom and my bedroom had a small ensuite. Neithern detracted from the cottages’ heritage and beauty one iota. The mix of old and new was carried through by absolute craftsmen – a fantastic job all round.
Gosh how this family would miss having our large well appointed bathroom and a certain couple would hate to have to dispense with their modern sate of the art ensuite facility in their bedroom. The very thought of going back to sharing one bathroom between 5 or 6 every morning does seem unbelievably chaotic in this day and age. Yet it isn’t all that long ago tha we did all gratefully share one bathroom. This was in itself a great improvement on our grand paretns’ days when they would have been grateful to enjoy an indoor toilet, and utter bewilderment would have ensued if anyone had push the average grandfather into an upstairs bathroom with running hot and cold water AND a flushing toilet!
Today we can enjoy such wonderful luxury in the bathroom department. Fitted cabinets to hide the junk, all kinds of shower designs including wetrooms with no cubicles for the shower. Sheer magic!