The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB
Today’s home builders have a multitude of resources for learning about exciting new products that will appeal to buyers and help set their products apart from the competition. From electronic showrooms on the Internet to acres of exhibits at the NAHB International Builders’ Show, there are countless opportunities to examine and learn about the products that help provide Americans with an unparalleled standard of living.
But that wasn’t always the case. In the early 1900s, builders relied almost entirely on black and white print publications for product information, especially builders living outside of major population centers where most showrooms were located. One such publication was “Modern Bathrooms,” published by the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, the great grandfather of today’s American Standard company.
In 1912, the company introduced the first color version of its publication, “Modern Bathrooms,” noting that “in going a step further and actually showing color treatments, we believe that we have rendered the building public a very valuable service.”
A look inside the pages of “Modern Bathrooms,” courtesy of Archive.org, reveals that even by today’s standards, bathrooms almost a century ago were surprisingly modern.
Master bathrooms in the middle to upper price ranges today generally include a separate bathtub and shower, and the toilet is often located in an adjacent compartment.
The most elaborate sample bathroom in “Modern Bathrooms” included a separate bathtub and shower and showed the toilet in an adjacent compartment. In size, it rivaled the master baths in contemporary luxury homes, and it included two fixtures not typically found in today’s new homes: a foot bath and a sitz bath.
The total price for this elaborate bathroom was $479, and the manufacturer suggested that Design P 50 was appropriate for homes costing from $25,000 upwards. A detailed price breakdown indicates that the shower was the most expensive fixture in the bathroom at a total cost of almost $200. It was more than twice the cost of the next most expensive item, the $74 bathtub.
The cost estimate provided by the manufacturer apparently did not include the elaborate stained glass window or the oriental design carpet shown in the bathroom rendering.
Design P 85 was considerably less expensive at about $255. Rather than a separate shower and bathtub, the two were combined in a configuration similar to what’s found in many new homes today. The bathtub was not free-standing, and was set against the wall inside a tiled enclosure. The shower head, however, had not yet migrated to the end of the bathtub and was located on the long wall at the middle of the tub.
Although this design lacked the sitz bath found in the more elaborate bathroom, it included built-in drawers, a built-in medicine cabinet and a clothes chute to the laundry. It also included a foot bath, depicted by an illustration of a woman in dishabille daintily soaking her feet.
Implying that the sample bathrooms would appeal to women — and targeting women as decision makers — all but one of the illustrations in “Modern Bathrooms” included a vignette showing the lady of the house gazing into a mirror, having her hair done by a servant or using a foot bath. The sole exception showed a uniformed maid working in the bathroom.
Even the least expensive bathroom, Design P 95, is clearly to the liking of the woman shown in the illustration. At $102, this design featured “inexpensive equipment intended for small rooms and houses of moderate cost.” Although limited to a bathtub, sink and toilet, the design places the toilet in a convenient separate compartment that is accessible from both the hallway and the bathroom.
This type of bathroom, the publication stated, “is within the reach of every home builder and adds far more than its cost to the value of the home.”
Although all of the fixtures in the sample bathrooms were shown in a plain white finish, the catalog noted that, “while the first requisites of the bathroom are healthfulness and comfort, there is excellent opportunity for beauty and harmony in decorative effects.” Ranging in price from $10 to $30 per fixture, those “decorative effects” included a variety of borders in different styles. The designs included: fleur-de-lis, violet festoon, wild rose and ribbon, green scroll and spray, festoon and wreath, apple blossom, Etruscan and forget-me-not festoon.
“Modern Bathrooms” is available in several formats including an online book reader at Archive.org, the website of the Internet Archive. The non-profit Internet Archive was founded to build an Internet library offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.
The original of “Modern Bathrooms” is in the Cornell University Library. There are no known copyright restrictions in the United States on the use of the publication.
In “Option Selling for Profit: The Builder’s Guide to Generating Design Center Revenue and Profit,” authors Gina Gullo and Angela Rinaldi share their hands-on understanding of high-powered selling in the ever-expanding market of options for new homes.
By offering a range of options and upgrades, the design phase provides the best opportunity to make a lasting impression and ensure that buyers will favorably remember the entire buying experience.