Snapshot 11: Quality, Style and Function

Quality, Style and Function
In Japan after a hot humid day, or even at the end of a bitterly cold day, most people will look forward to a bath.  The custom is to wash thoroughly from head to foot, to rinse off all the soap and then to get into the deep hot water of the bath.  After lowering yourself gently into the steaming water and sitting down, it is so relaxing to just sit and allow the water to soothe away the cares of the day.  With the water up to your chin, it is natural to let your head rest on the edge of the bath and to look up.  If you did so in this bathroom then you would see this wonderful ventilated ceiling.  Fitted in what was the guest bathroom, it is in a building dating from the beginning of the 20th century.  It is made of a wood callled Hiba Arbor-vitae (Thujopsis dolabrata), and finished with several layers of true lacquer.  To my mind, seeing it would be reason enough to take a bath!

The width of the bathroom is only a little over a metre and the “wall” along one long side of the space is actually a series of frosted glass screens with wood panelling from below waist height.  Despite the high degree of respect which the Japanese tend to afford each other, I can’t help but think that the shadowy form of a naked bather seen through the frosted glass might well have caused some merriment.  Or have the screens replaced a real wall?

This wonderful piece of carpentry also prompts me to think, why are we so obsessed with white or light colours for a bathroom and toilet facilities?  Is it simply because white will show any dirt and then it can be sanitised?

When I worked in an interior design studio in London many years ago, we fitted out a bathroom-cum-dressing room.  it had replaceable fabric covered floor panels and the same dark brown fabric on the walls.  There were also bright red panels with widely spaced stainless steel embossed tiles on them hanging on the walls, and the bath stood on a dais at one end of the room.  It was not a wet bathroom and with the addition of a comfortable chair and dramatic lighting it had an air of luxury that few of us could justify.

Nevertheless, even a small bathroom could be fitted with something as grand and as inspiring as a pyramidal, ventilated wooden ceiling like the one pictured.  Time to get out the drawing board!

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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