You see it on property shows all the time. Couples gasping on Million Dollar Listing when they’re ushered into another ridiculously overpriced property by a male broker in an ill-fitting suit or a woman dressed as if she’s heading out to a night club.
The potential buyers have admired the view from the terrace and seen the living room, the pool, the kitchen with the built-in coffee maker. But you can sense the tension as they head upstairs, waiting for that all-important reveal. The star attraction. The ensuite bathroom.
And, invariably, not just one, especially in Beverly Hills. ‘And every bedroom has an ensuite! All twelve of them!’ enthuses the presenter, awaiting the applause and adulation.
Look! The double basins! The huge mirror! The toilet a mere stone’s throw from your headboard! And there’s even a bidet!
How can you not wet yourself amid this Cornucopia of excitement?
But have you noticed something? Nobody cares anymore, and the increasing lack of enthusiasm amongst buyers is evidence that the ensuite is becoming a thing of the past. People have wised up to why they are s**tholes – both literally and metaphorically.
Seriously. Why did anyone ever think they were a good idea? Do you really want to sleep where you p**s? What are we? Cavemen?
Just because it has a posh French name doesn’t make it desirable. And here’s the thing … the French hate them. The first thing my friend from Paris did when she bought a house in the UK was build a wall between her bedroom and the ensuite.
She didn’t want to hear her husband urinate, and she certainly didn’t want the smell, should he choose to enjoy a more elaborate business.
The last time I had a house in the UK, I had a choice of three bedrooms. Two of them had ensuites. I chose the one that didn’t have one. Even though I live alone, if I wake in the night, I don’t want to struggle to get back to sleep with the aura of the night’s curry filling my nostrils.
The great ensuite exodus is upon us! To use another French phrase – they are no longer de rigeur.
In the Sixties, it was considered a luxury – and ye gods, if it contained an avocado-colored bathroom suite, you knew you’d really made it several rungs up the social scale! By the late Eighties, most new houses were built with the feature, and it became a unique selling point. ‘Look, a bathroom so huge, it has an ensuite bedroom!’ agents would cry, self-imploding with wonder that any genius could have invented such a gem.
But really, what’s the appeal?
Do you really live in fear of visiting guests seeing you in your bath robe? And how many people to have to come stay anyway? You don’t even like having guests!
How many more steps would it take to go to the family bathroom outside your bedroom door? Two? Three? It’s hardly a marathon. The only time those saved steps come in useful is if you need to throw up at very short notice. And even with an ensuite, it’s rare that you make it to the toilet basin anyway and still have to spend the next morning scraping up diced carrot off your bedroom carpet.
And, if you have a partner, there’s the racket they cause when they wake in the middle of the night to use said bathroom. Flipping the pages of a magazine, brushing the teeth they forgot to clean earlier, flushing the toilet…Jeez! It’s the lavatorial equivalent of Times Square in there.
And why are ensuites always so hideous? Developers try to make them look like glamorous extensions of the nice bedroom, but they are invariably stocked with hideous fake gold faucets, tiling you’ll spend a decade trying to de-grout, and black marble that wouldn’t look out of place in a cemetery.
Heck, you’re not going to be hosting a dinner party in there. Put the money into the part of the house you really will be doing the entertaining. Call a bathroom for what it is. A place to s**t in.
Design aside, there are practical elements that are consigning the ensuite to the scrap heap. In the 21st century, our priorities have changed. With inflation and rising fuel costs, more of us are staying in and returning to that good old-fashioned concept, eating at home. When we move house, we look for spaces that most fulfil our new, pared down lifestyle.
A decent kitchen. A comfortable living room that can accommodate a dozen guests. Even, if we’re lucky, a dining table around which we can socialize in comfort.
What we’re not looking for is an ensuite the size of a ballroom to engage in a post-prandial waltz.
A bedroom is for limited, but very nice, activities: sleep and sex, or, if you’re me, watching back-to-back episodes of Murder She Wrote before I put my head down. A bathroom is for extremely limited activities, none of them very pleasant. Nobody invented the wheel sitting on a bidet.
These two rooms do not belong next to each other. They really don’t. So don’t feel ashamed if you’re not drooling when realtors present you with a showerhead as if you’re receiving an Oscar.
Just tell them where they can shove their stupid ensuite. Or where they can flush it.