A bathroom is a room for personal hygiene activities, generally containing a toilet, a sink (basin) and either a bathtub, a shower, or both. In some countries, the toilet is usually included in the bathroom, whereas other cultures consider this insanitary or impractical, and give that fixture a room of its own. The toilet may even be outside of the home in the case of pit latrines. It may also be a question of available space in the house whether the toilet is included in the bathroom or not.

The term for the place used to clean the body varies around the English-speaking world, as does the design of the room itself. A full bathroom is generally understood to contain a bath or shower (or both), a toilet, and a sink. An en suite bathroom or en suite shower room is attached to, and only accessible from, a bedroom. A family bathroom, in British estate agent terminology, is a full bathroom not attached to a bedroom, but with its door opening onto a corridor. A Jack and Jill bathroom (or connected bathroom) is situated between and usually shared by the occupants of two separate bedrooms. It may also have two wash basins. A wetroom is a waterproof room usually equipped with a shower; it is designed to eliminate moisture damage and is compatible with underfloor heating systems.

The design of a bathroom must account for the use of both hot and cold water, in significant quantities, for cleaning the body. The water is also used for moving solid and liquid human waste to a sewer or septic tank. Water may be splashed on the walls and floor, and hot humid air may cause condensation on cold surfaces. From a decorating point of view the bathroom presents a challenge. Ceiling, wall and floor materials and coverings should be impervious to water and readily and easily cleaned. The use of ceramic or glass, as well as smooth plastic materials, is common in bathrooms for their ease of cleaning. Such surfaces are often cold to the touch, however, and so water-resistant bath mats or even bathroom carpets may be used on the floor to make the room more comfortable. Alternatively, the floor may be heated, possibly by strategically placing resistive electric mats under floor tile or radiant hot water tubing close to the underside of the floor surface.

Bathroom lighting should be uniform, bright and must minimize glare. For all the activities like shaving, showering, grooming etc. one must ensure equitable lighting across the entire bathroom space. The mirror area should definitely have at least two sources of light at least 1 feet apart to eliminate any shadows on the face. Skin tones and hair color are highlighted with a tinge of yellow light. Ceiling and wall lights must be safe for use in a bathroom (electrical parts need to be splash proof) and therefore must carry appropriate certification such as IP44.

The Roman attitudes towards bathing are well documented; they built large thermal baths (thermae), marking not only an important social development, but also providing a public source of relaxation and rejuvenation. Here was a place where people could meet to discuss the matters of the day and enjoy entertainment. During this period there was a distinction between private and public baths, with many wealthy families having their own thermal baths in their houses. Despite this they still made use of the public baths, showing the value that they had as a public institution. The strength of the Roman Empire was telling in this respect; imports from throughout the world allowed the Roman citizens to enjoy ointments, incense, combs, and mirrors. The partially reconstructed ruins can still be seen today, for example at Thermae Bath Spa in Bath, England, then part of Roman Britain.

Not all ancient baths were in the style of the large pools that often come to mind when one imagines the Roman baths; the earliest surviving bathtub dates back to 1700 B.C, and hails from the Palace of Knossos in Crete. What is remarkable about this tub is not only the similarity with the baths of today, but also the way in which the plumbing works surrounding it differ so little from modern models. A more advanced prehistoric (15th century BC and before) system of baths and plumbing is to be found in the excavated town of Akrotiri, on the Aegean island of Santorini (Thera). There, alabaster tubs and other bath fittings were found, along with a sophisticated twin plumbing system to transport hot and cold water separately. This was probably because of easy access to geothermic hot springs on this volcanic island.

Throughout the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the use of public baths declined gradually in the west, and private spaces were favoured, thus laying the foundations for the bathroom, as it was to become, in the 20th century. However, increased urbanisation led to the creation of more baths and wash houses in Britain.



Home | Etymology of house | Elements of house | History of house | Middle Ages  | Industrial Revolution | 19th and 20th centuries |

| Construction | Identification and symbolism | Home construction | Building science | Mixed-use developmentAffordable housing | Real estate bubble |