Sunday conversation starter: the history of the American bathroom


We photograph a lot of interiors and one of our favorite rooms to photograph are large, luxurious bathrooms. They can be both a challenge and a delight.

Tina and I dream of having a home with a larger master bath. We own a condo with two bathrooms (a his and hers), which, yes, is a luxury by many standards. Tina’s bathroom is fairly standard, but her bathtub isn’t deep enough to cover our legs when full, so the occasional bath is about as fun as sitting in a puddle on the street.

My bathroom is an addition to the space and VERY small. New Yorkian if you will. I have to step inside and turn sideways to shut the door. I have to duck my head to get into the shower. I turn off the shower to wash myself (which is probably environmentally a good idea anyway). It’s just a small space. While it’s nice to have, I’d love to have more space. Even the French with their water closet separated from their shower/sink space would be awesome for our lifestyle.

So when I saw this article about this history of the American washroom, I read over it a few times. I found it fascinating.

The article is: The Rise of the Luxurious Suburban Master Bathroom; How a utilitarian room turned into a pleasure palace.

A snip:

Bathrooms haven’t changed much since indoor plumbing became a standard feature in newly built homes at the turn of the 20th century.  This, coupled with changing societal expectations regarding the frequency of bathing and new technology such as the flush toilet, swiftly ushered in the era of the modern bathroom.

Indoor plumbing coincided with the discovery of germ theory—the idea that disease is spread by germs. More importantly, germ theory linked cleanliness to the prevention of illness.  The intersection of science, technology, and societal pressures for cleanliness ultimately led to the development of the “hygienic” bathroom—one clad in tile and other hard surfaces, absent of carpet, heavy drapery, or other porous soft goods thought to be good places for germs to fester. The easier a bathroom was to clean, the more proper, safe, and sanitary it (and the people who used it) was.

Read the rest. You’ll LOVE it.

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