Home Bathrooms

BEHIND closed doors

The outhouses of old were a much better idea than open-plan en-suite bathrooms, says Wicus Pretorius.


You know that feeling. First you break out in a light sweat – “Is it perhaps flu?” – but then that gurgle in the pit of your tummy has you doubting...

And when the aroma of your colleague’s egg mayo sandwich in the open-plan office unexpected­ly causes your knees to buckle, you know: the white telephone awaits. (Or whatever you call the unmentiona­ble loo.)

It can happen anywhere. On a plane or a bus, at work or at church... And worst of all (and a true test of any relationsh­ip): a romantic holiday in a hotel room with an open-plan en suite. The more stars it has, the fewer bricks. “Because lovers apparently don’t have secrets.” No! An emphatic no. The other day someone called it “plinkaplon­kaphobia” – the fear of needing ‘to go’ in a place with inadequate privacy. I couldn’t find the word on Google, so I felt quite pleased with myself. Wicus 1, Google 0.

Which is why, when it comes to en-suite bathrooms, I’m a strong advocate of a closed-door policy. To tell you the truth, I wonder if yesteryear’s loos weren’t actually the most brilliant idea: an outside toilet far from everyone, where you can preside on your throne to your heart’s content.

It was in the ’90s when I first came across an open-plan bathroom. In our house, the en suite – newly-built the previous decade – was still hidden behind cupboard doors. You know, that love child of a walk-in closet and a bathroom: the ‘en suite in a cupboard’.

But when a university pal’s parents built a new house in a fancy housing estate up on the hill, the Victorian bath was plonked in the middle of the bedroom, with the double bed on one side and the shower, vanity and toilet on the other. Like ducks in a row against a wall.

Not long after they’d moved in, I visited my friend to find the house once again under constructi­on. The main bedroom had been turned on its head.

“We’re enclosing the bathroom,” said the mother. “Our bedroom was always so musty from all the, um, steam.” She crinkled up her nose, a frown creasing her forehead. I guessed immediatel­y that it wasn’t exactly the steam that was the problem.

Because who on earth decided that an open-plan bathroom and, even worse, an open-plan loo was a good idea?

I repeat: a resounding no!

Once, on a ‘first holiday together’, I worked my way through all the clichés to sidestep the open-plan dilemma in our hotel room. “You go eat breakfast so long. I’ll be right there.”

Or: “I’m just going down to reception quickly; I want to check on something.”

Or: “Shall I go and find out when the tour operator will be available? Then we can discuss tomorrow’s day trip.” Or: “Are you going for a jog this morning? If so, when?”

It was a torment but, fortunatel­y, our stay in the hotel with its many stars and few bricks was short-lived.

I was grateful and relieved. We were both grateful and relieved. Fortunatel­y, it seems, open-plan bathrooms are less of a trend nowadays. In any case, there’s more than enough plinkaplon­ka on social media.

Some things should definitely remain behind closed doors.

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