Paper presented at the 7th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Torun 9th-12th
September 2005, within the workshop of ‘Sociology of Consumption’.
Bathroom practices today
By PhD student Maj-Britt Quitzau, National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark, Dept. of
Policy Analysis, mbq[a]dmu.dk.
PRELIMINARY DRAFT, PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE!
Recently, a wave of interest related to the bathroom has swept over some of the industrialised
countries. Actually, a similar wave swept over kitchens for a period, characterised by increased investments in renovation of kitchens, including a growing industrial extension in relation to e.g.
selection and suppliers, and by extensive covering of kitchens in the media. This has now shifted
towards bathrooms, since the same kinds of investments and extensive covering are seen in this
relation (Shove, 2003; Quitzau, 2004).
Studies in relation to bathrooms have mostly engaged in the issue of its development over time with
specific focus on its design and function (e.g. Wright, 1960; Kira, 1975; Muir, 1982; Lupton and Archived at http://orgprints.org/5822
Miller, 1992). Such studies mainly focus on how the bathroom, as we generally know it today, took
shape (becoming a room with toilets, baths/showers and sinks) and why it became embedded as an
institution both in relation to the home and society in general. Besides these, only few studies exist
that engage directly into specific aspects of the bathroom. An example of such a study is that of
Shove (2003), who looked at the changing characterisation of bathing practices through specific
time periods and across societal classes. Common for these studies is that they mainly engage in a
retrospective view in relation to the bathroom, and hence, studies that engage in more contemporary
issues in this regard, as the present wave of interest, are lacking.
The present study aims at understanding some of the dynamics of social change that are underlying
the present waves of interest related to the bathroom by taking a practice-oriented hold of ‘what is
going on’ with the way bathrooms are used and arranged today in a specific Danish context.
Through this approach, typical bathroom practices are laid out, hereby pointing out important
contemporary aspects of the way bathrooms are used and arranged. Following this, dynamics
connected to the shaping process of these practices are studied by analysing how practitioners and
producers of bathrooms form part of this shaping process and how this is related to the overall
development of the bathroom.
Bathroom practices: taking a practice-oriented hold of ‘what is going on’
The bathroom as such is a common designation that refers to a delimited space within the home,
corresponding to e.g. living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. This room is an assembling of certain
activities performed in the home often related to different activities connected to body care (e.g.
relieving oneself, bathing, grooming). Before the existence of this actual room in the home, the
different elements of the bathroom (principally the toilet, the bath/shower and the sink) were often
dispersed – if being existent at all. Examples of ‘forerunners’ to the bathroom are outhouses, public baths and wash stands (Lupton and Miller, 1992). The actual assembling of a specific set of fixed
elements – and related activities – within the bathroom were seen in e.g. America and England
around the end of the 1800s. This rise of the bathroom was led on by different pushes of
development, including, among others, technological foresight (plumbing), scientific and
ideological beliefs connected to hygiene (infiltration of regular hygienic practices) and an increased economic progress (affordability of a bathroom). Looking at the more recent developments in Danish bathrooms show that different ideas are reflected in the media about how to use and arrange a bathroom, e.g. taking a relaxing bath in a southern atmosphere or enjoying a shower encircled by luxurious materials (Bo Bedre). This suggests that bathrooms, today, have become a norm in industrialised countries, but in a sense that implies a continuous production and reproduction of this room through the performance of certain practices.
Namely practices, understood as a routinised type of behaviour that consists of several interconnected elements (Reckwitz, 2002), are put forward as a possible way to get a better understanding of some of the dynamics of social change that lie behind ordinary consumption. This type of study, where practices are used as analytical framework, is rising as a theoretical and empirical field that bridges between theories of consumption, practice and science of technology and society (see e.g. Warde (2005) and Shove (2003)). Analysing the routine production of practices offers a deeper knowledge of ‘what is going on’ in relation to e.g. consumption, than
studies that mainly analyse how things are acquired, appropriated and used, since consumers are then conceptualised as active and creative practitioners rather than users (Shove and Pantzar, 2005). Using practices as analytical framework involves somewhat of a de-construction of practices into their interconnected elements. For example, the practice of ‘Nordic walking’ (a form of speed walking with two sticks) is illustrated as a routine production that involves a continuous integration and interpretation of certain forms of competence, images and an array of equipment (Shove and Pantzar, 2005). In short, ‘doing walking’ involves a certain know-how about e.g. how to do it and
where to do what (sensitive to culture and situation), certain ideologies about why one is doing the walking (referring to for example the idea of walking for pleasure or for exercise) and certain material accessories (for example boots, paths, maps). Only through this kind of disintegration of such practices into, almost banal, observations about their constituting elements, one can fully examine the routine reproduction and make sense of underlying dynamics of social change.
Having the bathroom as starting point of the analysis require an extension of the analytical framework. Contrary to the practice of Nordic walking, the bathroom is not a delimited practice only involving one central activity, but rather a collection of different practices rooted in this specific room. In order to handle the bathroom as a complex of practices, a two-step process is carried out. First, a de-construction of the bathroom is carried out in order to identify and describe the different meaningful entities of practices rooted in the room. Here, the different constellations of equipment, competence and images are described in order to get a detailed hold of ‘what is going
on’. Second, a re-construction of the bathroom is then carried out in order to relate the former
findings to the wave of interest that is reflected in the present consumption patterns. Here, focus is especially concentrated on understanding the shaping process related to practices, where both practitioners and producers are contributing, and how this is part of constituting certain patterns of consumption.
Getting a grip of bathroom consumption and performance of bathroom practices
Different sources of empirical material are used in the context of this paper to cover different aspects of the subject. Literature studies in relation to the bathroom provide a broad background information about the general development of bathrooms as these studies typically describe bathrooms in a long-term historical perspective (until the middle of the 1900s). A review of the oldest Danish dwelling magazine, called ‘Live Better’ (or ‘Bo Bedre’ in Danish) provides
background information in relation to the more recent development of bathrooms. Here, articles and commercials from selected years since the beginning of the magazine in 1961 have been picked out and analysed in relation to general developments in discourses and themes and the analysis of this has been summarised in Quitzau (2004). In extension of this, a more recent study of articles,
commercials, exhibitions and shops in relation to bathrooms have also been covered. These sources especially reflect consumption and producer-oriented aspects of the bathroom and hereby they provide insights about the commercial side of bathrooms, e.g. the array of products and images in circulation. Lastly, a qualitative study based on six qualitative interviews with Danes about their bathrooms provides in-depth insight into the actual performance of bathroom practices in daily life. This study acts as the main source of empirical data, whereas the other sources are mainly used in order to back up or elaborate on certain aspects covered in the interviews.
The aim of the qualitative interviews is principally to get an understanding of ‘what goes on’ in the bathroom and to get some varying accounts of this. This material was gathered by selecting six families that had different bathrooms and bathroom practices. To do this, the selection was made among self-supporting families (having their own home) in different phases of their family life, e.g. expecting an addition to the family or having children at different ages. Hereafter, a selection was made that ensured variations in relation to socio-demographic parameters and in relation to how their bathrooms were. Practically, such a selection was carried out by questioning friends and colleagues about potential acquaintances that might fit into the target group followed up by a short telephonic talk with the desired informants preceding the actual interview. The outcome of this selection process was interviews with six families with different lifestyles and different bathroom stories, having different elements of variety in the way the bathroom is part of the daily rhythms. The analysis of the interviews has been carried out through different coding methods (Coffey and Atkinson, 1996) in relation to the transcribed material.
De-constructing the bathroom: Meaningful entities of performed bathroom practices
A wide range of practices is carried out in the bathroom, often more or less related to the room itself. These practices can be identified as entities of activities relating to a more or less specific symbolic or practical purpose, which is understood as a meaningful entity. Here, the main practices, which have their primal rooting within the bathroom, are identified and described in detail: going to the toilet, showering, taking care of the body and bathing. Also, a selection of typical secondary practices, which are more or less randomly anchored within the bathroom, are identified and shortly described: washing, nursing and cleaning. It is important to underline that the context in which to understand these practices is entirely Danish, meaning that some aspects of these practices might be completely different in other cultures.
The described practices mainly reflect the performed practices of the informants, meaning that the descriptions give insight into how the individual informant is actually interpreting more ideal-typical practices. This distinction between performance of practices and ideal-typical practices expounds the complex relation between the common features and variations that exist within practices. Here, ideal-typical practices represent the overarching description of a meaningful entity of activities, whereas practices as a performance represent the actual carrying out of the practice by the individual ‘bearer’ of the practice (Warde, 2005; Schatzki, 1996). Through the interviews, mainly practices as performance are represented as the informants explain how they behave, but also ideal-typical practices are represented more indirectly, as these flow more generally above the actual utterances of the informants and across the interviews.
Going to the toilet
Going to the toilet is an ideal-typical practice, which is normally bound to the bathroom (or a separate toilet room as in the case of Mette and Jan). This practice fundamentally imbues our everyday life and society, even though we seldom think very much about it. Just think about how frequently it is necessary for people to go to the toilet during the day (when having to urinate or relieve oneself) and how you find toilets almost everywhere you go (at home, at work, in shops or public toilets). Even though this practice is so central, it is also very implicit and this is reflected in
different euphemisms used as general toilet expressions, e.g. ‘taking a whiz’ or ‘going to check on
the scones’ (Horan, 1997). Below here, only toilet practices in relation to the home are considered.
Going to the toilet involves a sequence of activities involving
different types of equipment are used. First, it involves using a
water-flushing toilet, which is formed as a seat and functions as
a collector and remover of urine, faeces and toilet paper. In this
connection, toilet paper is used to wipe with (whereas rinsing
with a bidet was only mentioned in relation to one of the
informants’ childhood). Second, it involves using a sink to
clean the hands afterwards, including soap to disinfect and a
towel to dry with. Other accessories are also connected to the
toilet, such as a toilet brush and different cleaning products, in
order to remove spillage from the bowl and generally keep the
toilet tidy. The standardisation of equipment is striking, since
appropriateness is of main concern for the informants, since
they state their reluctance and discontent when encountering
diverging standards of equipment or their hygiene. For example,
several informants express distaste when having to use an earth Figure 1: Keld and Susanne's
toilet. closet or an improperly maintained toilet. This illustrates not
only the perceived importance of having the ‘right’ equipment,
but also how elements of hygiene are connected to the practice of going to the toilet, in the sense that the informants display know-how about what a properly maintained toilet is.
Several issues related to proper maintenance and use of the toilet are reflected in the interviews through the preoccupations of the informants. A first issue is that of proper maintenance of the toilet, which is reflected in the following account of Mette, who talks about the importance of cleaning the toilet regularly:
”(...). Also something in relation to cleaning the toilet bowl itself, I do that relatively often. I do it sometimes, because now I guess it’s needed, even though, also when you are receiving guests, I just think that the bowl has to be clean, both on the inside and outside. (...). I think it’s disgusting, like
that. If there are residues of a bit of urine or excrements left there. There isn’t, you know, right. It’s just that, I think it should be fairly sterile, but it’s nothing more than sometimes. Perhaps every
A key point in the above is the notion of ‘needing cleaning’, since this reflects both an awareness about the necessity to clean the toilet (hygienic standard) and a consideration of when it is actually necessary to perform this cleaning and what it involves of different accessories. Namely the idea of cleaning the toilet before receiving guests reflect this activity as common sense (of course you clean your toilet before having guests, otherwise, what would they think of you...). Cleaning is also something that occurs regularly and it involves removing spillage, but also smell (e.g. Katrine mentions this). A second issue is that of keeping a proper hygiene after having used the toilet, and this involves the common activity of washing the hands. Mette and Jan implicitly illustrate the hygienic concerns in this regard since they find the separation of their toilet and sink inappropriate (not being able to disinfect their hands immediately afterwards). Also in relation to bringing up her daughter, Betina mentions this issue of washing the hands after toilet use as important. A third issue is that of being exposed, while going to the toilet. As mentioned earlier, euphemisms are common know-how related to the practice of going to the toilet, and often the informants talk about e.g. urinating and relieving oneself without actually mentioning it directly (although they also do that). Even though this issue is common, different performances are seen, since Keld and Susanne are not very much preoccupied with exposure, while especially Vibeke is quite preoccupied with this. Keld
and Susanne, who have a teenage son living at home, never lock the door, when one of them use the toilet, and hence other family members can freely come in and use the bathroom for other purposes, while one of them is using the toilet. Vibeke takes a different perspective in this regard, since she especially underlines the importance of having quiet and peace while being on the toilet. For example, she notes that for some people too many disturbances might result in physical problems of relieving oneself or not finishing urinating. Even though informants perform differently in this regard, the common sense of privacy is obvious, especially, when Keld and Susanne emphasise that they do, naturally, lock the door when they have guests in the house.
The images related to the practice of using the toilet are few and none of the informants speak about the purpose of the toilet and why they are using it. The reason for this is probably that the use of the toilet is mainly normative and related to the image of coping with necessities, meaning that it is a natural and necessary part of daily life that none of them really think about. On a more secondary level, some of the informants touch on an important gap in relation to the act of relieving oneself (urinating is not touched on). This account of Katrine illustrates this point well:
”I’ve never been one of those, who could take a magazine with me out there (on the toilet, red.).
I’ve got girlfriends who actually have a whole stack of those out there. ’Well, now I feel like taking a dump’, then it’s out there with the crosswords. I’ve never been able to do that. That, I just have to get it over with.”
This image of getting the toilet visit over with is opposed to the idea of using it as an occasion to get something done (e.g. when Keld reads on the toilet) and this illustrates different perceptions of how to use the toilet.
Showering is another ideal-typical practice taking place in the bathroom. In opposition to the toilet, this is a practice normally based within the home or in connection to places, where it would be natural to have it (e.g. sport centres or workplaces). Taking a shower is common today and in Denmark, this is more typical than taking a bath, since the bathtub has to some extent been wiped out in order to make more room in the bathroom. In this relation, I mainly consider the activity of regular showering, which is directly coupled to the shower function of the bathroom, whereas other, related, activities are treated in relation to the practice of taking care of the body.
The equipment related to showering both includes the shower as a
fixed installation and the array of accessories that are used in
connection to this practice. The shower is a fixed facility in the
bathroom that consists of a showerhead and a delimited area in the
bathroom that contains the water, e.g. walls or a glass shielding and
shower curtains. This facility takes different shapes and consists of
different materials, but all of the informants have some kind of shower
facility in their bathroom. Taking a shower involves getting wet all
over the body and applying different kinds of products to clean body
and hair and then using a towel afterwards to dry. In connection to the shower facility, the informants emphasise the importance of
Figure 2: The shower of cleanliness and spaciousness. Also, the hot water is emphasised as a Vibeke and Erik. central part of a good shower.
In relation to know-how, taking a shower is markedly different than going to the toilet, since proper maintenance and exposure are not as central in this respect. Rather, the reflected competence refers to normative aspects in relation to the duty to be tidy. Fundamentally, showering stands out as
common duty to perform, which is illustrated in this statement, where Katrine reflects about the difficulties of teaching her 8-year old son why a daily shower is important:
”At least, I couldn’t find any really, really good arguments, why it was so darn important with that
shower, if he had sat inside at the youth centre the whole day, and was actually as clean as the day before. Then, it’s a bit hard to find a really good reason, why it is that he’s got to stand and splash himself with water in the bathroom, right. (…). You couldn’t tell that he’s just taken a shower, on
neither his arms nor his body. So I don’t think, that that will make a difference as whether he takes a shower or not. I think that it’s simply about telling him that ’your Willie has to be clean, you’ve pied several times’. So, it’s those kinds of things that he becomes aware of. ’Oh yea, that might be true’, right. And also just, ’but Kevin (her son, red.), it’s as normal as having socks on in your shoes’. It’s as normal with a shower. It’s just something that you do. You take a shower each day.
You also take on a pair of underpants each day. So. It just has to be turned into a natural thing.”
This embedded common sense of taking a regular shower in order to have a clean body also involves knowledge about how to do it and when to do it. Taking a shower is required in connection to certain contexts, e.g. removing smell and sweat after physical activities like sport or working in the garden or tidying up the body after sleep or before going to work. For example, Henrik illustrates this contextual rooting of showering, since he would feel untidy if he went to work without a shower and a shave, but he has no troubles postponing his shower, when he is on a hike, since he then waits to his return. The performance of this practice differs with regard to the standard of the shower, since especially the frequency of showering differs. A good illustration of this is that Susanne showers daily, and she is not satisfied that her husband only showers a couple of times per week, but his argument is that it is unnecessary to shower daily. In another sense, there are also different interpretations about what is essentially necessary for one to have ‘showered’, since Mette and Jan sometimes replace their morning shower with a quick stand-up bath.
The idea of taking a shower relates to different images of this practice. For example, Henrik talks about both practical and symbolic significances of taking a shower:
”Usually, it’s (a morning shower, red.) to mark, I guess, the crossing from peace and quiet and
cosiness and nightwear and so on. To more, that there also is a world outside that awaits. And then, it’s some kind of good marking of, getting the sweat of the night washed away and be able to start afresh, I think. That’s what it means to me, really. I might be more symbolic than entirely hygienic in that sense. I don’t get that dirty during 24hs with my line of work (lawyer, red.).”
Here, the shower represents a preparation (work/the day) and recovering (night/sweat) and it both relates to practical and symbolic significance. The image of getting ready is central in relation to the shower, both in relation to the normative aspect of ‘being’ presentable, but also in a more practical sense in relation to getting fresh and wakening up (e.g. Keld and Susanne, Mette and Jan). With regard to recovery, the same distinction can also be made, since it both have a normative cling to it (remove sweat or dirt) and a more symbolic meaning, since it can be a way to mark a certain shift. Katrine, for example, explains how her daily evening shower is important to her, because it makes her relax after a hard day’s work, since she has the feeling that she gets rest in her body through the shower. In this connection it is important to distinct between the efficient shower and the extended shower. Both Mette and Jan perceive the shower as a duty to be performed efficiently and so they perform this in a certain way compared to Katrine, who distinct between the compulsory and enjoyable dimensions of the shower.
Taking care of the body
Taking care of the body is an example of an ideal-typical practice, which is less delimited than those of going to the toilet and showering, since it does not involve a specific set of fixtures and can
be divided into a number of sub-activities. Nevertheless, this is considered as a meaningful entity of activities in relation to the bathroom, since it relates to a bulk of activities rooted in the bathroom that all relate to the purpose of maintaining the body, e.g. brushing the teeth and tidy up. Each of these activities is tacitly interwoven with certain norms about how a body should present itself in 1specific situations, hereby referring to the overall idea of ‘managing’ the bodies. In this context,
specific difference between the two sexes can be seen, since males and females perform differently in this regard.
Due to the number of sub-activities, this practice involves a
number of varying types of equipment. In a symbolic sense, the
mirror is an important part of the equipment, since it reflects
how the individual is presented to the world. In a more practical
sense, the most essential pieces of equipment are those related
to the actual body care, e.g. shaver, make-up, brush, shampoo,
soap or nail clipper. Also certain fixtures are used in relation to
this practice, especially the shower and sink. In contrast to going
to the toilet and showering, the equipment here does not form a
recognisable shape, since several individual components are
used in different contexts.
Similar to showering, normative aspects in relation to the duty to be tidy are demonstrated as know-how by the informants, Figure 3: The sink, mirror and when they talk about different rituals connected to body several accessories in the maintenance. Many of these rituals are typically performed in bathroom of Keld and Susanne.
connection to the daily shower, since showering requires certain follow-up activities. Following from this, much of the know-how related to the contextual anchoring of showering also apply for taking care of the body more generally. Further considerations exist in this regard in relation to what is necessary in order to manage the body appropriately. Basic maintenance is a central element of this that covers activities like washing away sweat and smell, keeping a good dental hygiene, shaving face, legs and armpits, taking care of hair in the form of applying balm and colours, taking care of skin in the form of applying creme, removing wrinkles and callous skin and so. Through these performances existing norms and perceptions about what a body should look like, and hence what is expected from each individual in relation to the maintenance of the body is being reproduced. Outer presentation is another central element of this that covers activities like shaving the face, tidying the hair and applying make up. Through these performances, informants demonstrate knowledge about how they present themselves to others and here, mirroring is essential. This has more to do with the final touch, so to say, and reflects awareness about the importance of appearances and the coupling to different images of a person.
The images connected to the practice of taking care of the body can be divided into outer and inner considerations. The outer considerations refer to the preoccupation with body appearance and this is especially reflected with teenagers, since their ‘mirroring’-activities are more outspoken. For
example, Keld points out that teenagers have more ‘facade-renovation’, hereby referring to the fact
that they tend to use more time on smartening up and considering their appearances. A specific example of this is given by Katrine, who accounts of how her 8-year old son is absorbed into how his appearance is:
”But he (her son, red.) mirrors himself a lot, right. So now, the hair has to be tidy. We have to stand
a lot in the bathroom and look at how we look before we go out of the door. (...). And that’s also
1 This also refers to activities that are not rooted in the bathroom, e.g. trimming the body (fitness) or presenting the body in the right way (clothing), but these are not considered here.
fine. It’s funny to watch. He’s really into that. That everything has to sit right. He’s got short hair and uses wax. So I’ve got to stand and rub his hair with wax and then he does his hair by himself
The inner considerations has more to do with the presence of an image of wellbeing and taking good care of one’s body. This is outspoken, as some of the informants perceive taking care of the
body as a pleasure and as self-pampering. Especially Katrine talks about how she enjoys having her evenings to herself, where she can cut her nails and can take care of these things.
Bathing is an example of an ideal-typical activity, which is not as common as the other practices, since it is less widely distributed. This has to do with the fact that bathing is an activity connected to relaxation and this is performed in parallel with the other activities. Taking a bath is not a widely distributed practice in Denmark, but looking at magazines and marketing of new products suggest that this idea of using the bathroom for more recreational purposes, like that of relaxing in a bath, might be expanding (Quitzau, 2004).
The main equipment for bathing is the bathtub, since this
makes it possible to lie down in the hot water and relax.
Only Betina and Sofie have a bathtub in their bathroom,
since all of the other informants only have a shower. In
relation to the actual performance of bathing, they both use
certain accessories in order to accentuate a specific
atmosphere in the bathroom. Examples of such accessories
are candles, ‘a nice cup of something’ or bathing oils. Some
of the other informants use alternative ways of enjoying the pleasures of bathing. For example, Vibeke and Erik go to Figure 4: Betina's bathtub. public baths. Looking generally at products for relaxation also shows alternatives to the bathtub, such as steam
showers or outdoor spas (Quitzau, 2004).
Particularly for this practice, competence is not connected to any normative aspects about the appropriate way to bathe, but rather to knowledge about when bathing becomes handy and how this event is enjoyed most fully. Bathing is not performed as regularly as showering, since it often only takes place once a week or once a month and hence, it is not normative patterns that seem to adjust this practice, but rather systematic insight into when it is possible and desirable to perform it. For example, Sofie typically uses her bathtub after a stressful period or after physical overwork, since she knows that the hot and bubbling water will soften her wince muscles and make her relax. Her timing of the bath has something to do with organisation in relation to the rest of her schedule, but also to the feeling of the necessity of a bath. Another aspect is related to how this practice can be arranged in order to be enjoyed most fully. For example, Betina demonstrates how she makes her bath into a luxury thing by creating the right atmosphere for meditation:
”It’s certainly a luxury thing. In order to do it even more obvious, like that, or not more obvious,
make it darn cosy, by turning the lights off and lighting candles and pour up a good cup of something and pour something nice in the bathing water, and just get that kind of meditation time out there.”
The image of wellbeing is central in relation to bathing, since this activity is self-containing in the sense that its purpose is to give some relaxation time to the individual. Bathing represents an opportunity to relax and withdraw from the hectic daily life. For example, Betina gets some meditation time, while Sofie recover her strengths after having pushed herself too hard for a period.
Importantly, the bath is not perceived as suitable for cleaning, e.g. as a replacement of the shower, but mainly relates to alternative usage in connection to relaxation or bathing the children.
Secondary activities that do not have a general embedding in the bathroom are also performed. Both washing of clothes and nursing the children are activities that are sometimes based in the bathroom, while cleaning is more of an overall activity in the house that is also related to the bathroom.
Laundering is a practice that is sometimes rooted in the bathroom, since the washing machine and other equipment, like the tumble drier and clothesline, are gathered here. For example, Betina has gathered many of the activities connected to the washing of clothes in the bathroom, since the dirty laundry is collected, washed, tumble dried and then folded up here, so in that sense she actually has a complete workplace for handling the laundry in her bathroom. Often these activities tend to be self-contained in the sense that they do not overlap with other activities in the bathroom.
Nursing the children is also a practice that is sometimes rooted in the bathroom, since the changing table might be placed here. For example, Henrik and Sofie changes the diapers of their children and bathe their children in the bathroom. It is also common to perform this activity in other rooms in the home, and actually, Henrik and Sofie started out by having the changing table in their bedroom.
Cleaning is also a practice, which is related to the bathroom as this is emphasised as an important activity in the bathroom. This practice involves activities like cleaning the floors and the different kinds of equipment, like the toilet, the sink and the mixing fittings. Typically, some elements are cleaned more often than others. It is also common to clean the room before receiving guests. The activity of cleaning is pointed out as important in relation to the status of the bathroom, since Katrine (pers. comm.) point out the importance of having a clean bathroom to clean oneself in.
Re-constructing the bathroom
After having de-constructed the bathroom into different practices and their constitutive elements, it is now time to carry out somewhat of a re-construction in order to analyse the relationship between the practices and the room itself. This analytical exercise contributes to a deeper understanding of how the shaping process related to practices is part of constituting certain patterns of consumption in relation to the bathroom more generally. In this context, not only practitioners’ part in the shaping process will be considered, but also the part that producers play will be analysed.
The bathroom brought into play by both practitioners and producers
Around the 1970s in Bo Bedre, the existing bathrooms were put forward as the ‘stepchild of the dwelling’ or the ‘secondary room in the dwelling’, hereby emphasising the immediate need to face-
lift these rooms (Quitzau, 2004). The cure, so to speak, was put forward as being more individual and personal bathrooms, where images of tranquillity, wellbeing, luxury and convenience are often emphasised. An example of such an image is seen in the following commercial for an Invita bathroom from 2000 in Bo Bedre:
”The bathroom is a sanctuary, where it is permitted to lock everything else outside – wind down,
recharge the batteries and pamper oneself. Here, one can flirt with the classical style or swim away into sumptuous and sensuous curves. Live life! Let the dreams come true! Invita establishes the frame of a good life...”
This reflects a way of positioning the bathroom that is fundamentally different from that of the bathroom as a secondary room. Now, the image invites the consumer to look at the bathroom in a new light, illustrating how it can be used as a sanctuary and arranged in fascinating ways. This
brings the bathroom into play in new ways, compared to times where the bathroom represented the image of hygienic arrangements and functionality (e.g. Lupton and Miller, 1992; Quitzau, 2004).
Namely the idea of the bathroom as a fixed entity,
a room that is completed since its birth, is
something that is already questioned in the 1960s
in some of the first issues of Bo Bedre (Bo Bedre,
1965). Here, the bathroom is described as being
sterile, doll and white (see figure 5) and people
being afraid to decorate more extensively. This
suggests a uniform know-how connected to the
existing norms about hygiene and sterility,
whereas today, other dimensions are now present in people’s know-how in relation to ways to use Figure 5: How a typical Danish bathroom looked and arrange the bathroom. Rather, the present in the 1960s. (Bo Bedre).
study depicts the bathroom as an injunction that can take widely different shapes and this suggests
a more compound know-how, not only related to the normative aspects of decoration, but also to dimensions of e.g. wellbeing. The informants demonstrate an ability to bring the bathroom in play in new ways.
The active involvement or utilisation of the bathroom is central in relation to the increased interest in the bathroom, since more recreational purposes have made their way into the bathroom. Now, the bathroom stands out as an indefinable room that is not only moulded through common know-how about existing norms, but also through the integration of more value-laden and personal aspects about what a good bathroom is and how it might contribute in the daily life of the individual. This is both illustrated by the practice of bathing, where the bathtub represents a recreational element of the bathroom and where ideas of certain atmospheres are central, and in the extension of certain activities in order to enjoy them rather than just getting them over with. Through the performing of their bathroom practices, the informants demonstrate the ability to juggle with the possibilities of the bathroom, since they integrate the bathroom as a fellow player in the conditions of their daily life. One example is the way Katrine uses the shower to get rest into her body after an exhausting day of work and Sofie uses her bathtub in a similar way, since it makes it possible for her to recover after a hard day’s work. Another example is that of Betina, who demonstrated an eagerness to get a
bathtub into her new bathroom, so that she was able to get some meditation time once in a while. Producers play an essential part in this connection, since they keep marketing new possibilities of the bathroom in order to press on increasing sales. For example, the bathtub has been further developed into spas, which are now also found for several persons or for outdoor use. Similar developments are now happening in relation to showerheads and shower cabins, as rain showers, massage walls and steam cabins have been introduced to the market. Not only equipment is developed but also new ideas and images about how the bathroom can actively form part of daily life, e.g. featuring it as an intimate room, a fitness room and so on. Through these processes of marketing, the producers actively take part in the formation of the bathroom user. This means that the competence of users are elaborated through these marketing activities, since a certain aspect of information and guidance in relation to how to arrange and use the bathroom is delivered and taken in by the informants. Especially the media tends to highlight what to consider and what kinds of possibilities the user has and such pointers might influence what the user actually ends up considering. For example, Bo Bedre often brings articles about how to arrange the bathroom in a practical way, what to consider, when arranging the room and so on (Quitzau, 2004).
The bathroom is also brought into play through the way that the informants schedule and make sense of their practices. In the bathroom, many different activities need to be co-ordinated both