Why powder rooms went up in my pecking order

Does your home have a powder room?


Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 7 Apr 2022, 7:24 PM

There are blogs and there are blogs, and then there are online features and more online features — that fall in the good housekeeping genre — on powder rooms. I, for one, have been a late appropriator of the term. I heard of ‘powder rooms’ first when there was a private dinner gathering at a starry hotel, and one sophisticated woman, smelling of J’adore and wearing red-soled shoes, excused herself from the table saying she needs to use the “powder room”. Back then, I knew of hotel restrooms and washrooms, even ‘ladies’ rooms’, but powder rooms were nascent in my comprehension; so, someone seated next to me explained they boasted basically the same fitments but nicknamed so because women used those facilities to “powder their noses”.

Much later, another friend informed me that the apartment he was renting had, among other rooms, a ‘powder room’. This time, since it was somebody’s house (and not a hotel or a public place), the term stood for something entirely different: it was a bathroom with basic accoutrements. The textbook definition is: “a toilet in a private house, especially one intended for use by guests; functionally, a powder room needs only a toilet, a sink, and minimal storage for hand towels”.

To be used by guests. That’s the moot point. Of course, the residents of the apartment can also use it — but that’s besides the point.

So, why do I care so much about powder rooms suddenly, and why have they become part of my real-estate vocabulary?

Simply because, sometime back I read the findings of a startling survey that revealed that whenever you had guests over and they said “I need to use your washroom/bathroom”, and then did use them, there’s a very, very high probability that they would be checking out everything in your private space while they tended to their needs. They will check out what soaps and shampoos you use, and then judge. They will take stock of how well-scrubbed the floors and walls, and then judge. They will soak in the thread count of your bath towel, and then judge some more. And so on.

Which is why when I started looking for a place to rent out, I decided it must have a powder room. I asked a broker who had promised he would fetch up in the lobby of a building that housed an apartment I was interested in, “Does it have a powder room?”

“A what room?”

“A powder room… like a second bathroom, not an en suite (that’s another term I’ve picked up, it’s way more polished than the desi way of putting it: “attached bathroom”), but one that’s close to the living area where assembled guests can troop in if need be.”

“Ohhhh, you mean, guest toilet? Yes, of course, it has a guest toilet.”


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