This is My Day, These are my Realities

A bathroom is where we go through our daily acts of cleansing, both externally and internally. Habitually, it is the most private and intimate space in any building and deeply rooted in our human needs. Second, to the kitchen, the bathroom has more recently become one of the most designed spaces in the home. Due to its need for special fittings that often attract the best designers and bigger budgets, the bathroom has moved from being a hidden space with a basic functionality to become a demonstration of the owners’ sophistication.

If the kitchen has become the area where high-end fittings and equipment are installed even though they are unlikely to ever reach their intended intensity of use, then the bathroom has become a space of denial. The basic human needs served by the bathroom have become distractions to creating a clean and crisp living area that avoids reference to the messiness associated with washing and cleansing.

The trouble with being a (good) designer is that you must be intimate and honest with your client if you are to
achieve a successful outcome for them and the space they will have to use everyday. A few years ago, a client who was refurbishing their house and adding a new master bedroom and bathroom impressed me by bringing a collection of reference images that they had collated to discuss the type of design they were thinking of. This is always a good start.

They had within this, a set of bathroom images that picked up the ongoing trend, often seen in hotels; glass partitions and open connections between the bathroom and adjoining bedrooms. This has many advantages, such as: bringing in more light, making smaller spaces feel larger and less closed in. It is easy to be won over by the design and desirability of such images. So, I had to raise, rather delicately but directly, the issue of their relationship with each other when it came to the bathroom and their cleansing. Do you share your bathroom? Are there times you want to be private in the bathroom, or do you share everything?

Different people have different habits and whilst not going into too many detailed specifics, the designer needs to
know them. The clients looked at each other and after a few comments realised that maybe the glass wall and lack
of a door wasn’t such a good idea. Again as a designer you need to avoid swinging to opposite extremes so by the time the design was finished it had a balance of transparency and solidity and a sliding door that gave flexibility to the openness or privacy of the bathroom. A few months ago, a newspaper article commented on the new difficulties
contemporary hotels were having with their cool design.

Some guests were demanding to be moved to a room with a separate bathroom and not a glazed screen. When it was clear all the rooms were the same they checked out and moved hotels. Again this reminds us that not everyone is the same and we shouldn’t design as if they were. What works for the lifestyle of one person may not suit another, especially when it comes to the more intimate areas of our lives.

Good design is a balance between function, aesthetics and cost where each element can be compromised in certain
proportions in relation to the others and to meet the specific demands of the users. Being aware of the issues that may arise by making particular choices is the only way to get this right. Having experience and a good understanding of this will support the decision process. Most of us will only re-fit our bathrooms once or twice, whereas an interior designer would have done it dozens of times and learnt from each iteration. There are things that are not really considered when looking at a beautiful sink only to be annoyed by them a few months later but finding ourselves unable to change them. Of course, if you have someone to clean for you, that changes your relationship with things.

Glass sinks came into fashion but faded quickly when people realised they rarely looked as clean and shiny as the
photos unless they were cleaned every time they were used.

Another client insisted on the best tap available, at a cost higher than the expensive sink, because years of interacting constantly with bad taps had made him realize the value of a high-quality product when it is used so often during the day. He still thinks it is the best investment he made in the bathroom and was glad he compromised elsewhere.

So to summarise today’s piece, be honest with your self and the other occupiers of the places you inhabit and match
your dreams with your reality. Balance the quality and the frequency of use with the investment you make in any part since you will be spending years using it either happily or wishing you had made a better decision.

By Titi Ogufere

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