Karl Smith

Not to come across as crude, but I spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Odds are, so do you.

Whether it’s executing a rigorous skincare routine, shaving, showering, slipping into a hot bath or anything else one might do within the confines of this sacred space, it’s safe to say that this is where the magic happens. Or, if not the magic itself, then at least the magical mundane; the seemingly banal everyday regimens that, all added up, make us into who we are — a shape fit to be presented to the world. 

Surely then, if our bathrooms are so important to our lives — and I think we can all agree they are — then we owe them at least as much respect as we give to the other more auspicious rooms of our homes. The bathroom should have parity with the living room, the dining room, the kitchen — even the bedroom. 

Why, then, is this so rarely the case? Why — compared to those other spaces and the home at large — does it seem that our bathrooms are still the proverbial outhouse? When homes are getting smarter by the day in ways entirely affordable to the mainstream consumer, how is it that the bathroom — which ought in many ways to be considered the nerve centre of the home — is still so underdeveloped by comparison? 

The most likely answer, as is so often the case when any kind of question is asked, is a wholly unsatisfying one. That is to say: as a society we are still minded to think of the bathroom as a primarily functional space, even though we have — as the booming cosmetics and home spa product industries can attest — moved on, if not in our needs then certainly in our wants. 

There are, however, ways to counteract this unnecessarily vestigial approach to this most diverse or spaces. You can, with minimal effort — and, if you like, with minimal spend — not so much turn a bathroom into something special as give your bathroom the attention, the respect, that it deserves for all the good work it does. 

And, really, isn’t that all any of us want?

First things first: an attitude adjustment. Nothing else you do will make a single bit of difference if you don’t change the way you think about your bathroom. Tidy up. Make sure everything has its place and everything is in its place. Buy a nice candle (don’t fall asleep in the bath with it still burning, please). Do everything you can possibly do to make the space into something you feel inclined to level-up. 

Okay, now we have a blank yet appealing canvas to work with. “What would a spa do next?” you ask.

Well, that’s easy. After all, what spa experience is ever complete without a relaxing soundtrack? And, while you don’t necessarily have to listen to panpipes in your own home – unless, of course, you want to – but a water-resistant speaker is a small touch of sonic class that changes everything.

Of course, music – while essential – is a very abstract addition to any room, and there are more concrete (albeit less simple) changes to be made before we get onto ambience. 

For example, a bathroom without a mirror is a depressing and highly impractical thing. If you don’t have one, get one: it’s essential. But, even then, there’s more to life than just the basics. Mirrors may not have a mind of their own, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be smart. Consider upping your reflective game and picking up something that changes in the space with more than just its presence: a mirror with ambient lighting, with heated demisting, perhaps even one that connects to your other smart devices. Looking at yourself is great, but why not ask for more?

Okay, so: things are shaping up nicely. But there’s something we have to talk about. You know what it is. I know what it is. The porcelain elephant in the room. You know the old joke: “When’s a door not a door?” “When it’s a jar.” Well, think of it like this: “When’s a toilet not a toilet?” – when it’s a smart toilet, of course. 

Whether you’ve been to Japan or not, I can’t imagine any scenario in which a person living right now hasn’t seen – either in real life or on-screen – the advances in toilet technology that make our bathrooms here in the West look like caves. 

But, while they may be considerably more commonplace there, smart toilets aren’t actually exclusive to East Asia: if you want a seat that lifts and closes automatically and warms your cheeks when you need it most, jets that do the business comfortably and efficiently, and – perhaps most importantly – a toilet that cleans itself to a standard you could only dream of achieving, then you can have it. 

To summarise, all this is to say that a bathroom is more than just a room with a bath. It’s room for relaxation, for self-reflection and for decompression; escape from the rest of the world. It should be treated that way.