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The Art of the Bath

We celebrate beautiful bathrooms big and small.

By John Roark

Speaking of rubber duckies, as one inevitably does when assembling an issue spotlighting baths, I found myself wondering about the provenance of the plucky poultry that has been part of popular culture for as long as I can remember. I have learned that they paddled their way into the hearts of bathers at the end of the 19th century when vulcanized rubber became widely used and were originally intended as an enticement for children who were aghast at the thought of being immersed in water. In 1970, Sesame Street’s beloved Ernie sang “Rubber Duckie (You’re the One),” firmly cementing the toy’s iconography for a new generation of the bathtub-bound. I was also surprised to find an actual treatise on the subject, published in 2006 in the Journal of American Culture, entitled, “Rubber Ducks and Their Significance in Contemporary American Culture,” by Lotte Larsen Meyer. Serious stuff for such a cute little fella whose domain is limited to what is often the smallest room in the house.

Originally intended as a place to cleanse the body and soul, the bathroom has come a long way, with origins dating as far back as 3000 B.C. Still a space for relaxation and rejuvenation, today’s baths are often lavished with detail and indulgence. From over-the-top steam-filled sanctuaries outfitted with amenities that rival any five-star resort spa to powder rooms with punches of personality, the bathroom is where many homeowners pull out all the stops when it comes to luxury. And the market is ready to make our lavatories lovely. Surfaces such as wood and concrete, which once would never have been considered appropriate, are now used in ways that surprise, enrich and dazzle. From lighting and hardware to plumbing, textiles and personal products, the bath is where it’s at.

We hope that what you see in this issue will inspire you when creating or reimagining your own bath or powder room. And whether your decor is minimalist, industrial, traditional, modern or anywhere in between, don’t overlook the crowning final touch. The rubber duckie is timeless, transcends styles and trends, and is always in good taste.


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