Take a bath!

By Caitlin Kelly


After 20 years with a nasty, shallow old tub, the new one arrives -- Jan. 2009
After 20 years with a nasty, shallow old tub, the new one arrives — Jan. 2009

Some people — really?! — only take showers.

These are not my people.

Loved this recent piece from my favorite weekend read, the Weekend FT:

The difference between showers and baths is both temporal and temperamental. Who has time for a bath? Fast, convenient, economic: showers have a utilitarian purposefulness that befits our productivity-obsessed contemporary mode. A quick once-over and out you jump, ready for the day.

Baths, on the other hand, are a positively analogue way of scrubbing up. They are slow and contemplative. All that time spent waiting for the tub to fill, then the meditative lolling, the body scrubs and face masks and, if advertising is to be believed, the accompanying soft music, chocolate and candlelight.

Short of this legendary 1793 portrait of the French revolutionary Leader Jean-Paul Marat slumped, dead, in his bathtub, we generally think of the bath as a place to lounge and relax.

And think of all the gorgeous art of women bathing — is there a famous image (other than the film Psycho?) of a woman — or man — in the shower?

(I admit, I love a rainhead shower and a huge, spotless stall, as some good hotels now offer.)

And for those of us in Canada and the U.S. suffering this brutally cold winter — weeks of temperatures of below zero with wind chill — few things can melt your bones and soften your chapped skin like a long, warm, oil-filled bath.

Maybe my deep and fervent desire for a bathtub that is deep, private and mineallmine! is a holdover from my childhood and teen years attending boarding school and summer camp.

At boarding school, a favorite way to torture someone you didn’t like much — and that was sometimes me — was when someone would lob into the tub, over the wooden partition that didn’t reach the ceiling, whatever was handy.

You’d be alone, finally, basking in the brief, coveted breath of privacy. Then — wham! splash! shit!

It was often a bit of your precious store of food. Oranges, for example. Nothing quite so calming after a long day of school and study than bits of citrus bobbing around you.

Summer camp, eight weeks every summer, meant only showers. Or very cold lake water.

I designed a broad ledge of marble to allow for comfortable seating
I designed a broad ledge of marble to allow for comfortable seating

So when it finally became possible for us to renovate our one tiny — 5 by 7 feet — apartment bathroom — the biggest and deepest tub was a no-brainer. Ours is fiberglass and 21 inches deep, which, I admit, makes it difficult to clean. I almost fall in each time!

In the photos here, you don’t see the glass swinging door we later added for the shower; I loathe shower curtains — clingy, clammy, mildewy.

We spent some serious coin on this space, about the cost of a quite-nice new car; priced per square foot, it’s gob-smacking. But every minute I spend in there, which is of course quite a bit, makes me and my husband happy. So, the hell with it. Even our high-end contractor’s workmen loved my design and said I should go into business. (Not yet, maybe someday. If you click this link to his website, you’ll see he’s posted my kitchen, which I also designed.)

I also hope to stay in this apartment for a while longer; having studied and written about “aging in place” and the interior design that accommodates it beautifully, I specified a wide, comfortable bullnose edge to allow me to sit and, if needed, spin in place atop it. In February 2012, I needed full left hip replacement — my design worked perfectly!

I created a small wall niche for bath products, currently holding some of my favorites from Roger & Gallet, Penhaligon and Fresh’s Hesperides.


My favorite, which my late grandmother used to use, is a delicious deep blue gel called Algemarin. None of this “shower gel” nonsense. This is serious stuff! Pour a bunch into your tub and you get deeply blue tinted water, lots of bubbles and a delicious scent. Capri, here I come!

And because I am a Francophile everywhere, those little mosaic tiles we bought in Paris and shipped home
And because I am a Francophile everywhere, those little mosaic tiles we bought in Paris and shipped home

23 thoughts on “Take a bath!

  1. That bathtub looks brilliant! I have to admit that I only like taking baths in nicer bathtubs, so the tiny one we have in our apartment is not the most relaxing experience… but if I end up in a nice hotel I always make a point of using the big bathtub and fluffy robes!

  2. I so appreciate this post. Gorgeous tub!
    The recent trend is to install enormous showers, always larger than my garden shed. I must admit, I’m curious as to what the heck people are doing in their roomy showers…I’d never have one. I’d much rather have that space for storage.
    Anyway, I’m a bather. I love a bath before bed. I luxuriate. I don’t need to wash my hair every day, so bathing fits my lifestyle quite nicely.
    I’d never live in a place without a tub. No way.

    1. Yup!

      If you have a HUGE house, then I guess you also have room for a huge shower. I live near NYC where some people live in an apt. the size of our suburban (apt.) living room, 250 square feet.

      But a bath is just luxurious, esp. if your feet and legs are also tired and sore.

    1. I can honestly say the pleasure it gives me is huge, far beyond its fiscal cost. I considered installing a sitting tub, Japanese style, with a large shower, but we live in the ‘burbs and I doubted a buyer would “get” it. I am eager to visit Kyoto!

  3. rich

    I am not much of a bath guy. That being said, reading in the bathtub is a very pleasurable experience. In addition, showers don’t have to be quick necessarily. I read somewhere where a book author stayed an extra ten minutes in the shower as he would let his mind wander under the hot shower and this served as his stimulus for book ideas. He was a very clean book author I must imagine.

  4. Oh, I love the indulgence here. From my parents’ bath (shared with seven other people in my family) to the tiny studio apartment bath to my larger one now–I have always been a bath person. Love that you are. I hope that ledge holds wine, hot chocolate, a good book, scented candle–whatever delights you.

    1. Why am I not surprised to hear this? 🙂

      I sometimes read in the bath.

      I was once (yup) attacked in the middle of a bath while living in a ground-floor apartment in Toronto when I was 19, and a man leaned in my window. Horror movie moment. I dropped the (library) book in the water — Naked Lunch. So a totally private 6th floor bathtub with no window is also appealing!

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