In contrast to the peasants who were obliged to bathe in cold rivers with little to no privacy, Roman citizens were a privileged lot able to cleanse again and again in the sultry warm waters of the hot springs for which Roman baths are famous. To see for yourself the remnants of this remarkable culture, the next time you are in Great Britain, be certain to visit Bath, England, and see the original Roman warm spring baths, around which the upper crust English built impressive, Roman-style architecture during their own Palladian era.
Another culture that has profound influence on today's lifestyles is that of Zen-Japan. As you may know already, traditional Japanese residences rarely have included bathing facilities. However, fully believing that everyone deserves a clean body daily, the Japanese built public baths, which almost is a ritual unto itself even today. The Zen concept is that the sound, motion and constitution of flowing, living water brings emotional, spiritual and healing peace to an environment. Thereby, water has the power to cleanse the mind and refresh the soul. Best in a simple, spartan environment, the Zen bath embraces soothing textures and colors.
Best known of the universal bathing experiences is at the shore of the ocean or lake, where the sounds of running water or crashing waves seem to drown out all worldly cares and one can thoroughly lose him- or herself in the therapeutic effects of sea and shore. Today, most of us can and do find the time and resources to visit the beach at least once every few years, although only a few can make it a weekly or even annual routine unless we live there—even then, who has time to beach comb? Probably no one reading this article, we are busy, hard-working professionals.
But we have a great alternative, and that is to create the next best seaside escape by replicating the sights and sounds in the privacy, comfort and convenience of our own homes or the homes of our clients.
There is more than one up side to decorating with a seashore vacation theme: you don't have to drive distances, find parking, battle crowds, look at nearly-naked-but-not-so-beautiful bodies, be disgusted with the litter or be concerned for your safety both on the shore as well as in the water. At home we are free to create a fantasy getaway, and what better place than in the bathroom where the water can be the perfect temperature, and we can soak as long as we want without worrying about the tide going out.
DEFINING THE THEME
The first place to start, besides deciding the bathroom is the place, is to select a specific theme. Look for motifs, shapes, colors and textures that echo the elements found in that theme (or mix and match). Examples of specific themes are provided here. They include: On the Shore, On the Water, In and Under the Water and The Cruise.
THE BEACH HOUSE
Another theme to explore is one that stands alone: the beach house. Wherever it may be—it's not restricted to a regional theme—this look can be based on virtually any shore, but it's very definitely a vacation setting, which translates using the words "sturdy," "casual" and "low-upkeep."
• Surfaces include stone or faux stone, tile or brick floors, counter tops and fireplaces—all easily swept and impervious to sea salt in the breezes and sand from the shore. Tile in the showers and stainless steel in the sinks should be sturdy, strong varieties. Plastic accessories and utensils are easy to maintain.
In bedrooms, short, tightly tufted or woven carpets are easy to vacuum, or rely on rugs that can easily be shaken out. In bedrooms far from the entry, deep shag carpets or even flokatti (goat hair rugs) can be luxurious.
For wall coverings, painted surfaces, vinyl, thematic wallpaper, and permanent materials such as stone, tile and brick are appropriate, even faux surfaces if they are sturdy.
• Window treatments can include vinyl blinds that would be less harmed by humidity (mildew) and salt. These include roller shades, vinyl wood shutters and vertical and horizontal blinds. Real wood and metal blinds also are appropriate as are wood shutters (when in budget and appropriate).
Low maintenance polyester pleated and louvered shades and shadings would work well also. Casement fabrics that can add visual softness is often crucial for emotional well-being. Look for delightful top treatments that exhibit and enhance the chosen theme.
• Furnishings for today's beach houses, in addition to the styles listed above, are taking on a retro look, perhaps because many of the original beach houses were furnished between the 1940s and the 1970s. These styles include Scandinavian Modern (wood, functional and sleek) and International Modern (chrome, leather or similar sturdy fabric, steel, glass), including the unusual contemporary looks that are always arriving from Italy.
Splashes of bright colors seen in textiles add the contemporary dimension to this look. Include here the new colors of the latest generation of sassy colors seen in technological devices and appliances.
The contemporary casual look is more homey. It includes natural fibers, natural wood, wicker and rattan, often with a bit of inspiration from an ethnic tribal influence.
Weathered furnishings with an antique, survived-the-war or -flood look offer that touch of the old that often is appealing. The "antique" can be of Early America, Tibet, the South Seas Islands or Europe.
The beach house theme and furnishings that look natural (or really are) go hand-in-hand with environmentally friendly interior designs. Earthy textures, subtle colors, weathered or tightly geometric patterns, all combine to create a long-lived, stress reducing, earth-friendly vacation theme.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.
"Taking the waters" would be pure fun in this starfish-and-seahorse-themed interior featuring Parkview Designs' Marina Bay Collection available from Brewster Wallcovering Co. Bright colors lift the spirit with yellow the most optimistic. Blue enhances the sharp contrast and uses the colors of sun and water. WATER/BATHING DESIGN THEMES Once your theme is established, make a list of the things you would see in that setting. The following lists are to get you started in the brainstorming process and to think creatively outside the box.
On the Shore
Define the theme first. At the shore there are several choices of themes such as a tropical island, New England shore, beach and an evening-by-the-bonfire.
• Textures of the shore: Sand (flat, rolling dunes, sand castles), pebbles, rocky crags and ledges, sea grasses and other shore foliage.
• Beach furnishings: Low-slung beach chairs, beach mats, beach towels, umbrellas, clothes-changing tents, volleyball and other beach sports equipment and hammocks.
• Guiding lights: Lanterns, beach torches, candles and bonfires.
• Creatures of the shore: Seagulls, sandpipers, seashells, starfish and sand dollars, turtles, crabs and lobsters.
• New England/Eastern Seaboard architecture: Lighthouses, sea cottages, blinds, shades, shutters, cottage curtains, collections of colored glass bottles, dinnerware and accessories with a sea or fishing theme, front porches with weathered, comfortable furniture (especially rocking chairs and casual teak or painted wood chairs, wicker furniture and hanging porch swings), rag and braided rugs atop wooden (natural or painted) floors, glass lanterns with substantial candles or kerosene lanterns.
• South Seas architecture: Kontiki huts with grass thatched roofs, mat floors, tapa cloth, bamboo furniture, coconuts, pineapples, leis (Hawaiian or Polynesian theme).
• Architecture of the Carribean, Spain, Italy and the Southeastern United States: Stucco houses in pastel, sun-drenched colors with Spanish tile roofs, cool stone, tile or brick surfaces, exposed beams, interior stucco walls, contrasting colored shutters or wood trim, interior shutters or wood/metal blinds, vertical louvers, wrought iron, sliding screens, architectural overhangs, tropical foliage, windows or artwork framing vistas of sea and sky, water or shore, and rustic hand-make stained, natural oak, bleached or antiqued furniture.
On the Water
• Scenery: Sea and sky, billowy clouds, blustery sky, dramatic and colorful sunsets (use these as the color theme basis for the room).
• Seagulls, pelicans, albatross (in the air or floating on the water).
• Sailboats (alone or in clusters with colorful sails), kayaks (Native North American themes from the far north).
• Fishing boats (ocean), glass fishing bubbles, fishing nets, compass, helm, dock pilings, boardwalk, marina or dock.
• Small row boats (lake), oars, fishing poles (Note: use oars and fishing poles as drapery or valance rods), hand-held nets, fishing lures or flies, rubber boots, fisherman's vest, fisherman's hat.
• Steamer ships, either close up or on the horizon as part of an ocean landscape.
• Historical clipper or sailing vessels, Viking boats, cruise ships (see more ideas below).
• Safety items: Signal flags, floating bouy markers, life preservers, lifeboats.
• Identification: Ship names or numbers
In and Under the Water
• Surf boards, body boards, flippers, goggles, snorkels, diving gear, beach balls, water toys, floating tubes and air mattresses.
• Sea creatures: Dolphins, whales, fish (alone or in schools and in varieties from trout to tropical), sea turtles, sea lions, seals, walrus, octopus, squid, stingrays, anemones, coral, seahorses and seaweed.
• Fable/fictitious creatures: Mermaids and mermen, Tritan, sea nymphs, sea monsters.
Another closely related theme is the cruise—deemed by some to be the ultimate vacation/rejuvenating experience. Why not create a luxury cabin complete with the look of built-in, neatly made beds, furnishings and porthole windows? Paneled walls, luxury commercial carpeting, fine bed and bath linens.
And the best cruises stop at those isolated islands (as well as the ones where you can really shop!). Memories of a tropical vacation—seen in an item purchased, a collection of sea shells, framed photographs of you and someone dear to you on the beach or in the village—all make remembering a vacation, whether it is a day on a beach or a luxury cruise, well worth reliving.