Talk de Toilette or “Parler Potty”
The first time you see the toilet separate from the bathroom in France, and in this case, on the other side of the apartment from the bathtub, you wonder, “what were they thinking?”
It’s not of the American habit to separate the toilet from the bath, except in the case of a “powder room” for guests or if your bathroom is so large that you have the luxury of walling it off so it can be apart from the main bathroom area. Otherwise, the average American bathroom has enough space for a tub/shower, vanity/sink and toilet. (Oh, those were the days, my friend!)
When I moved into this apartment in 1997, the bathroom had a tub/shower, vanity/sink and “bidet” in one room on the far end of the apartment. The bidet is rarely found in a U.S. bathroom — mostly in homes of people who are European or those who have traveled in Europe and think it’s ‘cool’ just for the sake of showing off that they’re ‘international.’ (We installed one ourselves in our home in Knoxville, just for that very reason.)
If you don’t know what this is, it resembles a toilet, but is designed for washing your intimate parts and is perfectly acceptable in a French bathroom. Some people have found very creative uses for it other than for hygiene, as Marlene did in her Life in Tuscany for a great place to chill the beer. Why not?
I don’t drink beer, so years ago I replaced the bidet with a washing machine — a much more practical idea! And the bathroom was renovated to perfection (except for the too small tub I’ve now learned to live with). Still, it didn’t take long after moving into the apartment to get used to having the toilet separate from the bath. In fact, this is brilliant thinking on the part of the French for a long list of reasons:
1. Obviously, one person can be bathing while the other is…
2. “Les odeurs” are confined to one small space without infiltrating the other space (bathing) where one might be employing ‘aroma therapy’…
3. Who wants to see the toilet, anyway?…especially when SOME people fail to lower the lids (you know who are, don’t you?).
4. Other reasons I am sure you can think of…
My petit coin (French for “loo,” “WC” or “toilet”) didn’t originally have a sink in it so patrons had to go to the kitchen next door or bathroom on the other side of the apartment to wash their hands. (Not fun.) When I renovated the apartment in 2009 a very small “lavabo” (sink) was added in the corner to alleviate the hand-washing issue which seriously improved Le Petit Coin.
The walls in Le Petit Coin are filled with fine art photography that I’ve always loved. For a long time there was a photo by Herb Ritts of a very muscular man — nude — posed behind an enormous bubble that my (then young) daughter would bring her friends to see — so there was always a crowd at the door of Le Petit Coin. When I sold that photo, it was replaced with another by Jan Saudek that isn’t as revealing, but is equally, if not more, appealing. It’s the kind of photo that could threaten my male guests and keep women and gay men coming back for more.
Since gazing on the photo is a constant pleasure, the door to Le Petit Coin is always open and if I have any control at all, the lid is always kept down. The neighbors on the other side of the street can (I believe) see in my window and all the way through to the toilet, especially at night when the lights are on. (I have always wondered what they thought of Le Petit Coin.)
The paint in the room started to peel off the walls so it was time for another ‘face lift.’ My contractor of many years was called in to repaint Le Petit Coin — a seemingly simple, quick and inexpensive job. He started last Monday and completed it over the weekend while I was gone to Nice. Monday night, home late, I discovered not just “Un Petit Coin,” but what is now what I would call “Un Grand Pièce!”
You see, it’s impossible to just ‘keep things simple.’ First, we discussed adding a back splash of tile around the sink. Then, we decided it would be nice to cover the exposed pipes. That led to the idea of a tiled low shelf and cupboard next to the toilet where certain women’s necessary accoutrements are kept out of sight and then that led to the idea of a shelf where books and scented sprays could be kept.
Before we knew it, a big project was underway that kept the toilet in total chaos the entire week and ended in a BIG BILL — I won’t tell you how much my “Petit Coin” cost to morph into a “Grand Pièce” — you’ll think I’m nuts. (Maybe you already do!)
Nonetheless, it’s BEAUTIFUL and I can tell you that every moment spent in there now is total pleasure. The book shelf is getting filled with some of my favorite little tomes and there is a perfect place for everything. The water no longer makes a mess of the wall behind the sink and while it may be small, it’s total eye candy.
So, you see, it’s not about space. It’s about happiness.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Don’t miss…murder mystery author Cara Black speaking tonight at the American Library and Tuesday at Parler Paris Après Midi! Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.