Object of Desire

What’s black and white and grows in the bathroom

‘Your bath looks wonderful’ said a friend. ‘It’s as if it grew there’

The bathroom is finally coming together exactly as I had planned, dominated by the roll top bath. I was unreasonably thrilled when the plumber confirmed that I could have my first bath today – nearly two years after buying the house

And yet, as it approached 8pm I realised that I had been finding things to do and putting off filling the tub. I had really stuck my neck out by insisting on a roll top bath and it had caused a lot of effort for everyone. Supposing I didn’t like it? I was even obsessing over the idea that it would not take the weight of the 120kg tub full of water and me, and that it would fall through the floor, leaving me cold, naked and alone in the hallway downstairs

But it looked so inviting, and I was filthy

Yes, I had to improvise a bath mat (today’s dirty T-shirt) and my toiletries were balanced on the taps, but I was so euphoric after finally taking the plunge that I composed an Oscar-type thank you speech in my head as I bathed. ‘Thank you Baz for believing in me when I bought this house and this bath back in 2015, and for allowing me to fritter away war could have been our pension fund. Thank you to the Smiley Plumbers for doing what I asked, even though you thought it was wrong. Yes, you did. And thank you to the bloke on Ebay who was chucking away the bath of my dreams,’ etc …

Afterwards I ran downstairs to check that water was not pouring into the hallway. (Oh, me of little faith!)

I texted people to tell them ‘I’ve had a bath’

I called Baz, still full of enthusiasm. After all these years he still just laughs and says ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy’

The guy’s a saint

This gorgeous bath, including the taps and shower thing, came out of a house three miles from us in the UK, where developers had gone in :(. The site manager just wanted a few notes and collection within 24 hours. Two years on, it has found its homeIMG_4386

Why do people choose acrylic baths over cast iron? Enamelled cast iron looks wonderful. The smoothness of enamel is calming, cosy and warm, like a big cuddle. It’s huge. It cleans down so easily. Oh, someone stop me here! I have spent the last forty-odd years since my childhood dreaming of another cast iron bath while everyone else has moved into the acrylic future

What am I missing?

Love in the time of avocado suites

tube-lined tile from Conway Road
tube-lined tile from Conway Road

This is one of my most cherished items. The Edwardian tiled bathroom in our family home fell victim to an avocado bathroom suite in the early 1970s, complete with blue and purple floral vinyl on the walls. Prior to this there were a mixture of highly glazed white and green tiles, and a cast iron bath, installed when the house was built as a show home in 1911. The standout tiles for me then and still now were these colourful tubelined ones just below border level and I was completely fascinated by them. Some of the glazing was crazed, some were chipped or broken and I had my favourites which I used to run my fingers over as I was towelling off. Yet this bathroom was designated for destruction. The chipped and stained bath with its loudly gurgling plumbing was in need of replacement, and we all wanted a bath with a shower rather than the miserable rubbery hose-thing that fit onto the taps. I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the broken and perished brown lino which disguised the frequent movement of large spiders across the floor, and the single-glazed window with its emergency winter plastic sheeting held in place by drawing pins was by no means warm. The only thing I couldn’t accept as a small child was the loss of all these sumptuous comforting tiles with their stunning colours which I drank in on a daily basis. Life was about to change – the 70s had arrived

When the tiles were removed I begged my parents to save me at least one of them, and I have kept this – the only complete one we salvaged – ever since. I have this tile on display, and as a single tube-lined tile it remains elegant, fluid and organic, a thing of great beauty. As a part of a complete scheme it was hugely stylish and gorgeous

The tile still fascinates and inspires me, and is a design that I haven’t seen since. That bathroom is a constant source of inspiration. It’s not that ours was any more beautiful than anyone else’s bathroom, but it was cosy and homely in a way that bathrooms used to be, with its Lloyd Loom-style linen basket and red spotty curtains. The backlash to the 1970s bathroom suites is the current tasteful trend for clean functional lines and beige tiles. There is nothing wrong with that of course, and I admit that I succumbed to it at home when we replaced our existing 1980s pale pink suite, but our bathroom in France has to be the perfect place to indulge myself with beautiful tiles and a roll top bath. I actually hope it gurgles when it empties!