The Throne at Home

| illustration by Charles Marsh | 

As many of you are aware, the last couple of magazine issues have focused on the “Home of Dreams.” Now, I would love to be able to own something like that, but because the oil business ain't been that great, that home doesn't look like it's in my future. As a matter of fact, I just took out a second mortgage on the place I live just to pay off some bills and fix my car. And that really upset my landlord.

But I still enjoy walking through a new home and seeing the latest innovations and technology. And reputable new homebuilders are shifting their floor plans to accommodate public demands. They will then concentrate on the most popular areas of the house to make them more appealing to buyers. A recent article I read about the housing industry listed the 15 most popular rooms in a home. The first one is the kitchen, unless your in-laws happen to be in there. But the second one might surprise you. It's the bathroom. Of course, bathrooms have been getting a bunch of publicity lately, but not for that reason. As I understand it, some people want you to be able to use the bathroom that you identify with. I don't know if I like that idea. I'd always have to use the one that was broken.

So how did the bathroom gradually move ahead of all the other rooms in stature? Well, it was a long time coming. Although there was an actual public toilet system as early as 1500 B.C. in Asia, private bathrooms didn't take off that quickly and for good reason. That's because before they invented stairs, people sat around for hundreds of years and wondered how to get up to the second floor, which just happened to be where the bathroom was located. In fact, our modern concept of privacy when using the toilet is relatively new. Back in the Roman Empire, almost all aspects of life were commonly shared in the community multi-seat bathrooms, where people sat side by side on benches. Bonds and friendships were developed as well as the sharing of ideas on complex social issues. These discussions could be long or very brief, depending on whether someone had polished off some bad fish the night before.

By the late 1700s, community bathrooms were slowly disappearing, but most of the activities we take care of in the bathroom today were being performed in the bedroom. Washbasins and makeup tables were very common in a corner of the bedroom. The development of indoor plumbing finally came along in the 1800s, but by the time the Civil War was over, only about 5 percent of American homes had running water. Baths consisted of occasional dips in some pond or stream. Although Benjamin Franklin imported the first bathtub to America, tub bathing didn't really take off until the 1890s. Just a few years before, a town like Tucson, Arizona, had a population of 3,000, a newspaper, a bunch of saloons and one bathtub. True story.     

So who gets credit for the sudden explosion of the popularity of today's bathrooms? Women. Throughout the last 60 years, it has become a source of pride for them. It has become the No. 1 place in the home to relax, escape when they’re mad, and most importantly, take selfies. And they all want their own. That's why more than half of the homes constructed these days have three or more bathrooms. And check out the amenities that some bathrooms now offer. Light sensors, multiple shower heads with programmable temperatures, streaming music, flat screen televisions, steam-free mirrors and refrigerated medicine cabinets. Small wonder why not many are big fans of public restrooms. These days hygiene is everything. That's why many of them don't like road trips. According to some women I know, they live in fear of the day they become physically unable to hover over a gas station toilet.

Yep, the bathroom has become a very important room. And as I've gotten older, I notice that I spend a lot more time in there. Mainly looking for the remote.