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Beauty bolthole

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There was a time when every woman wanted a deck for her home. Then it was an island bench and a stainless steel fridge. Next to be coveted were side-by-side bathroom sinks that looked like large mixing bowls but were less effectual. So it has been with my happy householder friends and associates, anyway. But what I have always wanted - and, happily, have got - is my very own bathroom. And it looks like once again I am on-trend before my time (I didn't sign up to Facebook before people got off it). Bathrooms have become one of the most sought after features in residential real estate. Private beauty space has been legitimised. And there's a very good reason for that.

Long gone are the days when a bathroom was a lean-to and the loo a hole out the back. In these relatively prosperous times when renovating is a hobby, gone too are the days when a family of five shared a bathroom with a mean sink, no storage space and a shower over the bath. Now ensuites are a mandatory part of design. In new houses these aren't cupboard-sized - they're big and well appointed. But who wants his and her sinks? My aspirational friends and family might, but I don't want to cleanse, tone, serum, moisturise, sunscreen (etc) next to my husband as he cleans his teeth and shaves. Side-by-side ablutions are neither cosy nor romantic. I don't want my husband anywhere near my bathroom. I want my own space.

And this is why one-to-one bathroom-bedroom ratios have become crucial in luxury properties. Women want their own space. With busy lives and busy families, plus work clients, friends and paid helpers hanging about, bathrooms have become a bastion of blessed solitude. They're usually the only place in the house where a woman can get some peace and quiet, some privacy and ''me'' time. Bedrooms are usually shared. Living rooms are communal and ''parent retreats'' or ''theatre rooms'' or ''family rooms'' or ''rumpus rooms'' are free-for-alls.

''This is the last private space in mansions... couples demand luxury and space to help them relax there,'' said a Los Angeles real estate agent in a recent article in The Sunday Times. It reported that in the western US, the number of homes with more than three bathrooms has jumped from 15 per cent in 1987 to 26 per cent in 2010, although the size of middle-class families has fallen. A house in Miami for sale at $US60m has 10 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms.

None of us lives in a house that size (I'm assuming) but more of us are living in houses with more bathrooms. I'm lucky to have three - one just for me (most of the time). I consider myself very lucky indeed and I love my bathroom - it has a radio, good water pressure, all my products, space to rest my book on the bench without it getting too splashed and a big tree outside the window. But I've been there done that with all sorts of bathroom configurations over the years - including the London share house scenario and the outside country bathroom with a single cold water tap scenario and the sharing with two close female relatives scenario. Which is worse? Ha!

What's your bathroom set-up and situation? How do you manage? Who do you share with? Do you agree that a bathroom can act as blessed private space? How important is bathroom time to you?