Last column I wrote about a bathroom rework that became truly useful after the bathtub was removed.
It’s not a popular idea — especially at this time of year — to question the need for the traditional, lie-down bathtub. The mere thought of sinking into a luxurious bubble bath is the only thing that gets some of us through another miserable commute. However, few of us actually bother with the bath. I confirmed this by polling a few friends on how frequently they take baths (they’re quite used to my odd line of questioning) and the majority reported “not very often.”
Most said they go through the ritual once or twice a month and some admitted they only have baths when they stay at hotels where the tubs are gleaming (unlike their own) and where someone else will clean up their soap ring.
This is one of those examples of habitual thinking about the North American home. We balk at the idea of living without a bathtub, yet we’re all about the shower. We wouldn’t feel that bath-entitlement if we lived in, say, urban Japan, where the relaxing bath traditionally happens at the neighbourhood “sento” (community bath-house), leaving the daily scrub-and-rinse action for home, followed perhaps by a post-scrub plunge into an “ofuro” sitting tub the size of a half-rainbarrel. Now that more of us here on the other side of the Pacific Rim are living in smaller homes, we’re forced to rethink the sprawling North American traditions for more efficient and useful ways of living.
Real life does have an effect on home-reno trends, evident in magazine spreads featuring generously sized walk-in showers replacing the typical modular bath/shower. I love the idea of an open-concept, all-tile bathroom with glass walls enclosing a generoussized shower area, complete with a low shower nozzle for washing while seated at a small bamboo bench (not to mention washing the dog). The gain in square-footage can be dedicated to other amenities, like a heated towel rack or open shelving.
In the end, it may be water-conserving regulations that kick our perceived tub need. The average bath requires much more water than the average shower and paying according to our usage is in our imminent future. I look forward to the day when modern, water-saving (read: money-saving) features like a spa-style shower will actually increase the value of a home more than the ho-hum tub.
Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business, Home Reworks (www.homereworks.com). She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.