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!
I had been helping a very elderly lady with her poorly son – he had multiple illnesses over the years and was awaiting another major operation. I had spent many days nursing him and keeping him as clean and dry as possible. This involved visiting their shared bathroom. Huh – such horrors should not be seen by any one not of a strong constitution. It was so ghastly – lots of pots and potions, half used containers spilling over. Grime everywhere and hard water deposits gumming up the shower and generally unhygienic and unappealing. Once the patient was in hospital I managed to pursuade his mum to allow an age charity to send in a hit squad to rip out their old bathroom and replace with huge walk in shower with push button controls, easy to clean plain tiles, raised toilet and a heated towel rail. Oh the difference these have made !
It can be all too easy to get a bit carried away when we start the annual spring clean that so often drifts into a decorating frenzy. Usually something will have been broken during the preceding 12 months and when a full inspection of the area needing decorating takes place, these irritating little problems manifest themselves. My own magnificent bathroom and ensuite rebuild was triggered by one shower head splitting and me not getting the correct sized replacement – simple as. In frustration I rang the son in law of a pal, a known plumber. It went from there. Instead of just fixing the shower, he pursuaded me to look at modernising the whole bangshoot. My arthritis had been the cause of the broken shower, so he showed me new push button shower operations, easy to clean cubicles, whirlpool baths and wonderful lever operated taps. My joy is unending even years after his spectacular designs came to life!
Whilst away on my summer holiday travels I found myself watching a particular lifestyle tv show from Canada. A couple of brothers come in and do up a family home to raise it’s sales value so the family can move on up the chain. The formula is much the same – the property is unbelievably crowded with furniture and toys; the decor is sadly mismatched etc. etc. The brothers do of course bring the place up to very modern and fabulous standard — particularly the washrooms. I am fascinated why in the US and Canada, they have two wash basins in a cabinet with worktops – it’s called a ‘vanity’ over there. I do have very modern bathroom and ensuite in my house, having seen a fabulous showroom near my office. I have loved the transformation every time I use either off them and love showing them off to visitors. Kitchen and reception rooms next!
I have a chum who is about to buy her first house after many years of sharing with relatives. She’s not a youngster by any means but has a private income and a small fortune set aside for this very task. I’m not sure what has now prompted her to take the leap of faith, maybe realising that she needs to gain independence from a group of family members who never let her think for herself! Anyway I went with her to look at bathroom cabinets and towels etc. It was fabulous fun. We then stopped in a traffic queue right outside a premier bathroom showroom – that was it. Of we had to toddle, round to see the most exsquisite bathroom settings – fabulous basins and taps set into neat but functional cabinets with worktops aside. Shower cubicles that can be opened and closed with the tip of a finger. Electronic showers . . . . . . absolute luxury.
In this extreme heatwave we are experiencing, it can be very tempting to use water for all the things we think are very important. I know someone up the road who, despite their protestations, must be watering their front lawn – it is an unreasonably bright shade of green when absolutely everybody else’s is brown bald and dead. It now sticks out like a sore thumb and the neighbour is feeling smug – until she notices that even her best pals are shunning her. soetimes vanity gets in the way of common sense. I also know a couple of pensioners who won’t hear of having a shower installed. They have always had baths and won’t be changing to these new fangled things. I cannot get through to them how much easier getting clean is with a walk in shower, than clambering up over the side of a bath. And the water savings alone make your eyes water!
I’ve been assisting the volunteer team at a small country house near me. The house itself has been open a long, long time and it offers a rather snug but attractive reception rooms aswell as the bedroom of the last totally independent and very gracious tenant. I was lucky enough to be invited to pop up for a quick glance round the other week – as I’d arrived for duty earlier than planned. I was greeted with a rather under-whelming display of mirrored cabinets and doors, behind which were the bathroom fitments of the said gracious and immensely rich American tenant. I was really surprised at the lack of elegance – it wasn’t ugly but not at all the beautifully luxurious set up I had expected to reflect her handiwork downstairs and which allowed her to become known as a Doyenne of the English Country House style of home decor! Time for a bathroom studio refurb me thinks.