The idea of a room in a home dedicated to personal hygiene and grooming is, strictly speaking, a recent one. For the most part, houses built much before the turn of the century didn’t have bathrooms. So, in the span of about 100 years, the modern bathroom has evolved from a novelty into an almost-universal residential fixture.
Historicaly, bathrooms were quite elaborate.
Evidence of sophisticated bathing facilities dating back to 2000 B.C. have been found in the palaces of Knossos and Phaistos on the island of Crete. Hittite houses in Anatolia (c. 1400 B.C.) contained paved washrooms with clay baths. The Greek cities of Pylos and Tiryns had bathrooms with water supply and drainage systems, and later Greek vase paintings indicate that the Greeks used showers. Bathhouses in India, common in palaces, monasteries, and some wealthy homes as early as 200 B.C., contained steam rooms, sitting areas, and swimming pools.
Bright colored bathrooms make me happy
The first indoor bathrooms that were made possible by the refinement of the toilet were communal affairs shared by many people. Previously, water closets were portable, so a dedicated space for their use wasn’t necessary. More elaborate residences might have had a dedicated dressing room that contained a water closet, a moveable tin or iron bath, and a washstand, but this type of centralized “bathroom” didn’t become widespread until indoor plumbing and permanent water closets gained acceptance toward the end of the 19th century. Within a few short decades, the toilet became a permanent fixture as bathrooms proliferated and portable washstands and baths gave way to dedicated spaces.
Who would have thought that matching toilets
to the tile and wallpaper would have been so popular?
Ming Green was the name of this color in American Standard’s early color repertoire.
It made a bold Art Deco statement when paired with mauve and peach tiles,
as in this advertisement from the early 1930s.
The Streamline era ushered in some of the most modern toilets ever created.
This pale blue design by Briggs remains highly collectible today -
although the 1936 ad copy exclaiming,
“As easy to clean as a Porcelain Platter” might give folks some pause.
By 1940, close-coupled toilets in bright colors were the norm,
like this outstanding bathroom suite in baby blue.
The early 1950s saw an explosion of bathrooms with pink
toilets, tubs, and sinks and walls tiled in shades of gray—
like this textbook example.
At the end of the 1950s, colors became richer, like this striking teal,
and the latest innovation involved toilets bolted to the wall—
technology that claimed to make cleaning easier
(note the mop beneath the toilet at right). :)
A 1960s grooviness (as well as an updated edgy design for toilets)
is evident in the turquoise fixtures of this American Standard ad from 1968,
billed as the height of bathroom fashions at the time.
While it’s hard to imagine this color combination being well-received today,
Kohler’s pairing of acid green, lime yellow, and cherry red
in this 1970s-era advertisement was considered cutting-edge at the time.
If we think of the bathroom as simply a response to the practical need to manage human waste, then bathrooms have a pretty short 100-year or so history. But bathrooms of some sort existed long before the invention of the modern flushable toilet. Early on, man recognized the personal benefits of a cleansing soak in warm water. And in any society where people live in close proximity, personal hygiene is more than an issue of vanity.