The Five Purpose Bath

AD & C March 1935
The 1930s was a golden era of apartment building. Fitted kitchens and bathrooms started to become normal, alongside the hi-tech luxuries of central heating and electric sockets.
In March 1935, Architectural Design and Construction (AD’s forerunner) published a reference section on “Bathrooms fit to sing in”. The author mocks the new-fangled kitchen appliances and asks “where ... is the automatic body washer?” One hears the clipped accent of the nascent BBC’s Queen’s English echo from the page: “It would be quite simple – just a matter of rotating brushes, scurrying flannels, and self-lathering soap” instilling a vision of a body-washing machine akin to a carwash sitting in the corner of the bathroom.
The market became flooded with manufacturers offering sanitary ware of multiple uncoordinated sizes. The International Bath Association (I.B.A.) was set up and called for standardisation to address these pressing problems. It worked: “even such tremendous trifles as tap heads and shields have not been overlooked, for to-day, instead of a minutely printed ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ on a tap head troubling the shortsighted bather, coloured Bakelite quickly identifies the taps.”
Where a fitted bathroom wasn’t possible, space-saving gadgets were invented, culminating in Heath Robinson’s 1936 book “How to live in a flat”. One such gadget actually marketed by the I.B.A. in this issue of AD&C was the “five purpose bath”, which could be used “as a sitting bath for an adult or child, a wash basin for hand use or light laundry articles, a kitchen sink with draining board, a home laundry fully equipped with rubbing board and wringer, and a strong table for meals or kitchen use, ironing, pastry-making, etc.”
Since then, of course, mechanisation has taken control, our time has become more valuable than our space and we’re all spoiled by independent baths, dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and dining tables. All we need now is that automatic body washer...

AD & C March 1935 p.166
AD & C March 1935 p.167


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