I was in my twenties when I realized the power of the bathroom.
A little backstory: I had fallen in love with an older man, a surgeon who had been an engineering major in college before he had taken a dramatic left turn and decided to become a doctor. Many years later, houses consumed every second of his spare time. He had renovated some of the most beautiful houses (and faces) in Los Angeles. Just before he had met me he had set his sights on an old 1920s Spanish estate built by Alphonso Bell and the former home of producer Hal Roach.
La Rivera was the house’s name, and it was in La Rivera that I first met “the bathroom.”
The bathroom is symbolic, particularly in new relationships. It’s often the first place you begin to encroach on a new lover’s life through his space. You place your toothbrush in the drawer, discreetly, and then maybe some make-up. Soon you have a full drawer to yourself. And a towel, and a washcloth smudged with mascara that couldn’t quite come out in the wash.
In the grand house, the master bedroom had separate bathrooms for “him” and for “her.” Marble was ubiquitous in both. So were chrome Waterworks fixtures and white fluffy towels that were miraculously washed after every use and returned by the time I wanted to next bathe. In the woman’s bath an incredible original-to-the-house wall-sized mirror depicted a naked Eve over an old standalone oval tub so heavy they had to crane it in. In his bath sat an incredible steam shower of head-to-toe marble imported from a 1920s schoolhouse. There were so many gadgets it took forever to learn how to work, but once I did it gave a whole new definition to the word “water.”
Why did I fall so madly in love with the bath, you wonder? I still believe the bath is the sexiest, most innocent, barest, part of every house. The range of memories in those bathrooms ran from A to Z. I remember sitting on the cold marble vanity in a towel putting on make-up getting ready for parties big and small, formal and informal. I brushed my long wet hair in front of the mirror, splashing on a bit of perfume, and then presenting my boyfriend with the finished “product.” We loved swimming, and after a nighttime splash in the pool I would run freezing wet into the steam shower, feeling warm and beautiful and sexy. The bathtub was my respite after our rare fights. It was the place I could lock the door and be by myself – there was no key. Interestingly, I also recall that the bathroom was the room where I first noticed I was getting older. Bright afternoon sunlight revealed wrinkles that hadn’t been there before and I looked up at Eve, naked and frozen in time, and knew youth would soon start passing me by.
As do many relationships, this one also got old, after six years – long before we ran out of love – and I remember the sad April day I packed up my belongings. It was a noncommittal day; neither hot nor cold, neither breezy nor still, neither sunny nor overcast, neither spring nor winter.
I packed up my big walk-in closet by myself while my ex-boyfriend was working on, ironically, a new house – a modern this time. I boxed up the dresses and the purses, the jewels and the little mementos accumulated from our voyages around the world. Badges from the Pacquaio fights in Vegas we always went to, starfish from the Bahamas, hats from Aspen, sea rock from Mexico.
Finally, when I was sure there wasn’t dust of Alex anywhere, I walked into my bathroom one last time. I looked at Eve, even after all these years still coyly tempting. She had started older than me, but was now younger. I closed the door behind me. The bathroom was now empty save for my toothbrush that still rested in the top right drawer.
For additional photos of my favorite stone bathrooms, please look above in the carousal.
First Photo and Seventh Photo: Pacific Palisades' bathrooms designed by Brian Novack. Second Photo: Steven Meisel's Trousdale Estates' bathroom designed by Brad Dunning, courtesy of Architectural Digest. Ninth and Tenth Photos: Design by Kelly Wearstler.