Saturday, January 23, 2010

The English Bath

Imagine for a moment that you are in London. The air is crisp and a cloak of ethereal fog hovers over Portobello Road. You are a guest of Lady Diana Cooper at her Gower Street home and have just awoken from a peaceful slumber. After slipping on a pair of cashmere ballet slippers, you walk to the window and see a flock of schoolgirls dressed in plaid skirts and navy blazers as they walk down the narrow street. Entering the bathroom, you cannot help but be awestruck by its faded, bohemian elegance. The faces of British aristocracy peer at you from within gilded frames and porcelain lamps adorned with painted roses illuminate your morning routine. As you draw a warm bath, you think to yourself that there is nothing quite like an English bath.

(Lady Diana Cooper's bath. Photo by Derry Moore for Rooms.)

Nancy Lancaster was one of the first proponents, in Britain, of making the bathroom as comfortable as any other room in the home. Debo, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, who was a frequent visitor at Nancy’s Ditchley Park home, remarked that her friend changed English baths from spaces that were icy cold and furnished in linoleum to ‘little works of art.’ The walls of the baths at Ditchley were hung with paintings and prints and oriental rugs were put down. Chests of drawers and comfortable arm chairs made the spaces seem more like plush, glamorous dressing rooms than utilitarian baths.

(Botanical prints adorn the walls of Nancy's bath. Photo by Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.)

(I love the idea of incorporating family photos in the bath. They are most appropiate for such a personal space. Photo by Andreas von Einsiedel. The English House.)

(Celebrated anglophile and designer Michael Smith found inspiration for his combination bath/dressing room at Claridge's hotel in London. Photo by Lisa Romerein. Michael S. Smith Houses.)

(A masculine take on a Scottish bath. Photo by Ryland Peters and Small. Colefax and Fowler Interior Inspirations.)

While researching this post, I began to think about today’s popular trend to have a beautifully outfitted closet. Although these spaces garner much admiration, with custom islands and Gracie wallpaper, most of us cannot afford such extravagance. If a fully outfitted closet is out of reach, why not give your bath a dressing room feel? If your space can accommodate furniture, add an antique chest of drawers or petite armchair. In a smaller bath, this same level of aristocratic chic can be achieved by adding a small oriental rug or oil painting. We all deserve to wake up feeling like a duchess, don’t we?

(Nina Campbell has cleverly combined aspects of the dressing room into her bath. The vanity was a 1930's buffet that was adapted. Photo by Paul Ryan. Nina Campbell Elements of Design.)

(The portrait of Nina's daughter, former Domino magazine editor Rita Konig, provides the bath with a lovely, personal touch. Photo by Paul Ryan.)

(A modern interpretation of an English bath hung with original artwork. Veere Grenney's London apartment. Photo by Fritz von der Schulenburg for World of Interiors.)

(My mom's chic bathroom. The portrait is of her at age eighteen. She added the mirrored dresser to make the bathroom seem like a luxurious dressing room.)


  1. Heavenly photos. Your post has prompted me to think of a few, luxury touches for my bathroom such as a rug or small bench. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Kim,

    Thank you for reading! I am so glad that the post inspired you. A beautifully adorned bath is the perfect place to start the day!

    The Peacock Salon