Saturday, January 20, 2007

When Home Baths Became Spas

Do you remember a time when the bathrooms at the Hearst Castle were considered opulent? That was the thing most people remembered about the house tour. People walked out of there exclaiming over the size and number of the bathrooms in that house. Now, middle-class homes have caught up with and perhaps even surpassed the Hearst Castle.

Even Sunset Magazine, has an article about creating your own spa bath. The bathrooms in that article put the Hearst Castle to shame. Sigh. I remember reading Sunset to learn how to make my own bath sink from a copper bowl from the housewares department.

My favorite architecture critic, Witold Rybczynski, recently wrote a slide-show essay about America's growing obsession with bathrooms. The only thing I would add to his comments is to think about how one would clean and maintain all the fancy finishes in these baths. Is there a connection between our high maintenance homes and our insatiable need for low-cost household labor?

Rybczynski also wrote about the design trend in the location of bathrooms in new construction over a decade ago. That deserves its own post another time. Right now, we need to head out the door to Descanso Gardens to see the camellia forest in bloom.

Links: I explained how Rybczynski became my favorite architecture critic in Recurring Themes.
Thanks to Dynamist for the heads up on the slide show essay.

That's all folks.


  1. Anonymous14:36

    When we were shopping for a house, my wife and I started using the term "the cult of the bathroom". Modern houses, and recently made-over older houses, have huge bathrooms, and great quantities of them: many modern houses have more bathrooms than bedrooms! Way I always thought of it is, there are just a couple little tasks I need to attend to in the bathroom each day, and then I'm on my way. I find the fixation with the bathroom sort of creepy.

  2. Anonymous10:32

    My husband and I are also perplexed by this trend. We are two people living in a not quite 1400-square 1957 house with a bath & three-quarters. There is no way to expand the bathrooms without also expanding the house by adding a second story -- which ain't going to happen while we own it. So we have cosmetically refurbished the bathrooms, but they are what they are: small, especially the three-quarters "master," which has no tub, just a shower that even I -- a small person -- find cramped. We are keenly aware that if we ever try to sell this house, the bathrooms alone are going to make it a tough sell, given this bizarre trend. We, too, use the bathroom just for necessary functions, and as quickly as possible. Who wants to spend a lot of time in a bathroom, no matter how nice?! I guess that lifestyle is going the way of us baby boomers...


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