Floorboards, Water Closet, and Clawfoot Tub

I noticed every time I spent a lot of time in the bathtub, I would just get fantastic realizations about myself, and they were so valuable and liberating.       Leonard Orr

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.       Sylvia Plath


Simplicity is a house with unique features.  I have previously mentioned the two staircases.  Another is an almost indistinguishable detail, but ever so worthy of a mention. The floorboards travel different directions. In the original 1905 part of the house, the floorboards travel north and south.  With the addition in 1920, the result was a slight rise in the floor.  From this point on, floorboards travel east and west. Was this deliberate or to be cost effective or simply not well thought out? A question without an answer.  Whatever the reason, we happen to find this most endearing.  Just another delightful quirk found in this old house.


By far the most noticeable and novel feature of Simplicity is the bathroom on the main floor. This deep narrow space off the living room invites one into a different time.   While not original to the house, our remodelers installed a vintage clawfoot tub and a European style water closet.  So, what is the European water closet?  The tank is elevated high above the stool and one flushes by pulling on a hanging chain.  Our young grandchildren have found delight in this added task to the bathroom routine, often needing to stand on the toilet seat to reach the chain.  This results in lots of clamor amid lots of fun.


Adults are usually quiet about their time in our bathroom except if they come under the spell of the clawfoot tub.  Once this deep, long sloping tub finds your body, you are hooked. Mineral salts, candles, books, and music are within reach to transform a bath into a ritual.  Here is where thoughts can linger, ideas emerge, and every cell in the body takes a long exhale.  No need to rush.  Time elongates into dreams and far away thoughts until the water turns cold.


Our cast iron five footer with white enamel interior is called a slipper tub, a style designed for lounging.  Poking into the history behind clawfoot tubs it seems they stopped making them in the 1930’s. At that point built-in tubs became the popular update.  Simplicity’s vintage bathroom is a fun conversation piece when we have guests new to our home. If they stay the night, an evening soak before bedtime is frequently indulged.


This smooth white pearly basin was even asked to smile in its very own photo shoot.   Requested to be the cover for a music CD, the tub was filled with as many rose petals as could be gathered from the local florist. Imagine slipping into water filled with fragrant petals. How luscious would that be?


Not everyone is a bath person, but both Don and I happen to prefer a bath over a shower.  If it is a means to an end, to simply get clean, a shower works. A bath means to linger, to take time, and as the Roto-Rooter commercial says, ‘Away go troubles down the drain.’  A lovely detox to anytime of the day.  When we are stuck in a creative process or flummoxed by life, time in the tub sorts it out.  We emerge from those waters renewed and in a better place.


I am in total agreement with Sylvia Plath who seemed to have much to say about the bath. “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say, I’ll go take a hot bath. . . The water needs to be very hot, so hot you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water’s up to your neck. I never feel so much myself as when I’m in a hot bath.”  

Oh, Sylvia, my words exactly.

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