apple Cast iron, acrylic, porcelain, claw foot, marble, walk-in, Jacuzzi, freestanding, soaking, hot tub, hot tub for two – this thing of buying a new bathtub, much less renovating the bathroom, is making me crazy.

I mean, thanks, but I did California in the 1970s and once was enough; I do not want a hot tub for two (or three), I do not want a Jacuzzi (not even one that insures bacteria does not collect!).

Unlike my best friend, I do not want a step-down sunken tub big enough for two made of jasmine onyx marble with an orchid jungle and a waterfall. And, what’s more, I most passionately do not want a bathtub that resembles a washing- up bowl or a giant’s teacup. If I wanted to bathe in a teacup, I’d drop through a rabbit hole. I mean, this is really getting to be a kind of Reggie Through The Looking Glass and, speaking of mirrors, the one I really love costs about four grand and is only big enough for a mouse to look at himself in.

And what about the plumbing? Say I did spend 10,000 bucks on a tub? When I mention all this to my plumber, who earns a lot more than I do, his eyebrows pop up with a dismaying sound to hit his hard hat. And that’s before he sets to work flooding the downstairs apartment. There are so many variables out there – talking toilets, Victorian washstands, Finnish saunas – that I bounce fretfully from choice to choice as if I were on crack. One week I want a lot of fabulous luxe, all marble and Roman columns, and perhaps a few British actors to play bath attendants – as in a 1950s movie epic about Cleopatra and her pals.

The next week I’m on to minimalism, all slatted cedar floors and opaque glass doors and cement walls. I like mini- malism, but I always think: where do you throw your dirty socks? It is said that many people now spend more on renovating their bathrooms than on any other part of the house. You see them in magazines, these fantasy bath salons, usually with a freestanding tub and an open fire and a chaise longue. Trouble is, I live in an apartment. My bathroom has no window. My bathroom is big enough for me, it’s just not large enough to accommodate a handful of British actors swanning around playing at being bath attendants. I’m going crazy here. I mean, sinks are pedestal or not, vintage or not, sunken, semi-sunken, raised, or made to re- semble a fruit bowl perched on top of a cabinet. No, no, no. No fruit bowls, no bidets (I’m an American, after all), none of that weird foreign stuff.

The greatest bathroom I’ve ever been in was at Claridge’s, a proper art deco bathroom with the requisite supply of gleaming chrome fixtures, blue-and- white tiles, soft, warm, worn mahogany, a bath the size of the Titanic, elegant period sinks, mirrors in the right size, enough shelves for your stuff. It was not effortful. It did not aspire to be a Hawaiian spa, or an Etruscan palace, or anything other than a deliciously comfy sanctuary for bathing and the rest of it. From all this I have reduced my bathroom issues to a very few.

A hundred times I have written out my new and simple rules of bathroom renovation. A bathroom should be white, tub, toilet, sink, walls; a few black-and-white tiles on the floor are OK. I will not be swayed by the builder who’s pushing colour, because last week he was pushing gold taps. What’s his problem? Is his brother in the paint business? The gold- tap trade? No, and no Venetian plaster, either, or hand-laid tiles. The tub will be big enough for me to lie in, sit in, read in, and it will have space for the things I want with me, soap, shampoo, book, champagne, rubber ducky, and that’s it. Plenty of heated towel rails will accommodate lots of thick, white, juicy towels. OK, and a deep sink, and plenty of shelves and a medicine cabinet that does not resemble something in a hospital. And that’s about it. No big deal, right? But, oh God, I’ve just been diverted by some astonishing green glass tiles, and a walk-in shower fit for the gods, and then there’s that very Philippe Starck bath- room in some restaurant where you can see out and no one can see in, and what about some red lacquer on the walls? And a designer tub, which promises me salvation, not to mention the very good- looking actor – a sort of young James Mason (who ever looked better in a toga?) who just came by looking for a job as a bath attendant? ✦


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