Something to hold medicines and simple household remedies is of paramount importance in bathrooms, especially in those attached to guest-rooms, and still more especially when those guest-rooms belong to country cottages. Guests, taken ill during the night, may be reluctant to disturb a family. One of the cleverest of housekeepers and the most considerate of hostesses gave me a list of things which she keeps in hers, - camphor, Pond's extract, quinine, Jamaica ginger, mustard plasters, whiskey, brandy, camphorated vaseline, absorbent cotton, a new toothbrush, and a new spool of dentist's silk, a spirit-lamp, alcohol, and smelling salts. On the shelf above the washstand she has listerine, lait d'iris, a toilet powder, and a toilet water, both a tooth powder and tooth wash, besides some preparation for chapped hands. These might have been placed on a small table near by had there been space. Behind the bathroom door dressing-gowns of Turkish towelling are hung for the convenience of the bathers.
In any bathroom, certain essentials should never be neglected: A bath mat, to be laid before the tub when a bath is taken, which should then be hung out to dry; a small portable basin, - one of papier-mache is best. There should be sponge baskets too, and wire soap-dishes. When a room is large enough, a chair, or a seat of some kind, must be provided, and either hooks or a bench on which the clothes may be hung or laid. A table easily moved about is, when possible, desirable. This should hold the nail-files and the scissors and other essentials of the toilet, besides some extra soaps.
Even in the family bathroom there should invariably be a number of towels that have not been unfolded; and just as one's best table linen should be reserved for special entertaining, so there should be certain towels reserved for like occasions. These towels, it ought to go without saying, should never show a colored stripe. Once in the house of an important personage at our national capital, when a woman of newly made fortunes threw her house open to several hundred guests, there were in the ladies' dressing-room towels with red-striped borders, arranged with great care on a rack. "I knew she would betray herself somewhere" said a woman near me, pointing to the towels.
Among the very rich the towels reserved for these occasions have elaborate monograms - drawn work, or embroidery at the border - but all in white, the monogram being placed just above the end. These towels should only be used for the face or the hands. Bath towels are of the coarser, rougher kind, meant to stimulate the circulation by rubbing. Bird's-eye makes a delightful towel, either when simply hemmed and marked with a letter, or when finished with hemstitch and monogram. Glass rods and shelves are used for towels; when these are not possible, a simple rack is always in good taste. A bathroom is always marred by the presence of rumpled and carelessly tossed towels, the display of too many bottles, and exhibitions of underwear. Like a dining-room table, a bathroom should be put in spotless order after each occupant. The insistence upon so self-evident a fact might seem absurd but for the fact that many housekeepers, priding themselves upon the possession of good taste, permit a bathroom to become a receptacle for a motley collection of personal belongings and the baby's entire outfit.
When one lives in a cheaper country house where a bathroom with running water is an impossibility, one should provide oneself with tin tubs to be placed in the bedrooms at night for use in the morning. The custom is then to have a large piece of Turkish towelling laid on the floor, the tub to be placed upon it. Each guest should be asked if a hot or cold bath is desired. An extra can of cold water being left by the tub, the maid in the morning brings in a can of hot water and prepares the bath.
In Paris, and more recently adopted in this country, there is a copper or brass tank easily arranged in any bathroom for the heating of water by gas, the water being heated as it passes through the cylinder. This arrangement is desirable in those houses where the boiler in the kitchen is too small to supply the needs of the family. It is by no means an ugly object, rather interesting than otherwise, especially when it is kept brightly polished.
When one lives by the sea and wants to bathe out of doors unobserved, a charming fashion is to build a small tea-house with dressing-rooms, near the bathing pool or beach. The bathing-pool and teahouse should be screened and protected by bushes and shrubs, the path through them being hidden. In one instance a bathing-pool was built of cement. The water from the ocean being too cold for the ordinary individual, it was brought into the cement basin, where it had a chance to warm in the sun. A platform for diving was arranged. The tea-house which overlooked the pool was furnished with verandas and porches, hung with awnings, and made delightful with vines. Inside were all the appointments of the bathing pavilion of seaside resorts, so that it was possible for the hostess and her guests to bathe as the less favored must on a public beach, without the pastime being vulgarized by brass bands and cameras.